If you go down to the woods in the wrong sort of film, you can be sure of something familiar to anyone who’s seen Deliverance, Straw Dogs and other such tales of rustic ructions. Fabrice Du Welz’s over-egged feature debut has Laurent Lucas as Marc Stevens, a club singer whose van breaks down in Belgium’s backwoods. He’s shown to an inn run by Bartel (Jackie Berroyer), a convivial-seeming widower who is a little too excited by Marc’s arrival.
Soon, we’re witness to the usual ordeal of brutality, bestiality, bad haircuts and inbred locals dancing weirdly, all of it too predictable to make much impact. Characters are as underdeveloped as the spooky rural setting, which becomes a mere stage for the standard-issue psychotics. As a result, Calvaire ends up stranded in the thicket somewhere between shock tactics and try-too-hard homage.