Is Caged (Captifs) another French extreme horror worth savouring?
We are scared of getting involved these days. It’s not just a case of good and bad Samaritans filled with doubt as we walk on by an immediate emergency, it’s also the fear of being drawn into misery and becoming responsible for consequences we never even considered when kindness or virtue overcame our wariness. Whether it’s the mire of Libya, the fiscal drains of the needy in austerity Britain, or the over-matched fight we could break up on the street – we are becoming certain that it’s best to look after our own safety above all else.
Modern media has been about little else other than exploiting this fear of involvement in recent times. The Saw films have hammered home how much better it is to be the voyeur than the victim, Eli Roth’s Hostel flicks have told us how scary foreign adventures are, and we are grateful for the comfort of our sofas, our central heating and our alarms when another threat to our security is portrayed on screen. By relentlessly telling us that other people can’t be trusted, TV, cinema and newspapers have kept us in their vice-like grip, disinclined to know better or different.
Some of the better recent films have looked this conservatism square in the eye and asked whether fear should keep us rooted to our well appointed spots or make us active and deeply critical of what we see. In particular, horror films from Europe like REC, Inside and Martyrs have questioned whether fear should make us stupid and accepting of the official versions of events. Yann Gozlan’s real life inspired Captifs has some ambition in the respect of making horrors real but unfortunately not enough to register much more than a few jumps within a rather apolitical vehicle.We follow three Francophone do-gooders as they return from the Former Yugoslavia where they have been offering medical aid to the unfortunates there. They are established as good people who have done their bit and now need a little respite from the evils of the world. Foremost in their number is Carole, whom we learn is haunted by a childhood memory of a rabid dog. Lost and asking for directions, back-roads lead to a hijack and an imprisonment of our good people by bad people who regard their prisoners as biological resources.
I can’t think of a more morally ambiguous setting than the location of this film and it is a definite disappointment that any exploration of this factor is forsaken for a simple tale of good people who must survive bad ones. Furthermore, Caged is also rather calculated in its horror so that the evil acts of these bad people are not as extreme as the setting might suggest is possible. For instance, the pouting gorgeous Carole is pawed by her guards but only enough to suggest dominance, and the medical elements of the hell she is in are little more than flashing images and a bit of the red stuff. Worse still, there is no creativity or red bloodedness about the action which eventually occurs – it is predictable, unoriginal and lacking insight or real impact.The more I considered what is a short running time, the more I saw the borrowings of the film. The subterranean prison, Martyrs, the dogs as archetypes of fear, Ian McEwan’s Black Dogs, and the bestial human threat from any number of Xenophobic works. Caged is acted well, with strong cinematography and a functional appropriate score, but it is simply uninspiring, a tad generic and bereft of anything to say. The three do-gooders have no real character, the back story of Carole is rather fumbled and the intensity necessary for the story is never achieved due to the calculation and lack of tension throughout.
It does seem that the new wave of French horror films like Inside, Martyrs and Haute Tension is over. Yann Gozlan’s attempt to walk in those film’s footsteps is far from successful and the use of the political and moral contexts simply never more than callous exploitation. All Caged tells us is that some people are very bad indeed and that good people need to avoid them for their own welfare – it really is that dumb.
This is a modest package from Optimum with the relatively short film given a good transfer with a decent bit-rate. Detail is pretty good, with a surprising amount visible in and out of light and the contrast managed very well, both underground in darkness and in the summer sun. Edges do not look boosted, technical filtering is not excessive and the limited colour range is faithful. The image is presented at the original aspect ratio and would probably look rather stunning on HD if it was available on that format on these shores.Two strong audio tracks are included in the original French with very decent recording rates and the option of removable excellent English subtitles. I watched the film using the 5.1 mix which has plenty of dimension in the rears and sides with a fair bit of rumble coming from the sub-woofer. Effects are occasionally available across the sound-stage, but really this option is more about atmosphere than a convincing 3D effect.
The only extra is a trailer in French with English subs.
Caged is rather obvious and unable to use its shocks to say anything interesting. It has been given a bare-bones disc with a strong transfer and will not outlast its welcome as a rental for a viewer with modest expectations.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
Continue the conversation over on The Digital Fix Forum