Film: Caged ***
Release date: 4th April 2011
Running time: 80 mins
Director: Yann Gozlan
Starring: Zoé Felix, Eric Savin, Arié Elmaleh, Ivan Franek, Igor Skreblin
Reviewer: Adam Wing
France has provided World Cinema with some of the greatest modern horror movies of the past ten years, including the likes of Them (2006), Switchblade Romance (2003), Martyrs (2008), Inside (2007) and The Ordeal (2004). Even when they aren’t quite hitting their stride, French horror movies are a whole lot more enjoyable than their American counterparts. Caged is the directorial debut of Yann Gozlan, and while it may not hit the same dizzy heights as these superior siblings, there’s much to enjoy from this French mash-up of Hostel and Severance.
Carole (Zoë Felix) is a young nurse with a humanitarian aid group that has reached the end of its mission. Before you can say, “I have a bad feeling about this”, Carole and her colleagues are kidnapped by mysterious strangers that keep them caged, captive and barely breathing in a sinister steel setting. It’s not long before the three friends discover what the kidnappers have in store for them, and if you’ve been paying close attention to modern horror movies of late, it wont be long before you realise it too.
If you can ignore the lack of originality from this latest French offering you’re in for an enjoyable ride. Back-story is provided by a harrowing flashback, after which we are given a chance to get to know the three main characters, as the air of inevitability looms overhead. Much of the second act is spent behind bars, as Carole and her friends wait to discover what’s in store for them, whilst failing to escape at regular and random intervals. The lack of subtitles for the kidnappers is a neat touch, putting us in the same precarious situation as the helpless humanitarians.
You’ll have to ignore the unintentional pun, but there’s very little ‘fleshing out’ to be found in Caged, because Gozlan refuses to waste time on character development and depth. The opening flashback is only included to provide heroine Carole with dire circumstance later on - which is all very formulaic from a certain standpoint - but you can’t fault the handling of the set pieces. Gozlan knows how to deliver suspense, and his use of editing, sound and vision is exemplary. His stylish direction is helped along by a stunning lead performance from Zoë Felix. Vulnerable and sexy, it’s a humanistic turn in an inhumane world, and Caged is all the more engrossing for it.
The second act hints at an amazing twist, however, the ‘big reveal’ is anything but original and Gozlan’s debut runs the risk of losing its spark. Thankfully, Caged breaks free from its chains in the final act, delivering an effective, shocking and highly enjoyable night in. It’s not particularly original, but the pace is frantic and the tension relentless, aided by a gripping lead performance and taut execution. A handful of suspenseful set pieces provide a fitting finale to a worthwhile, if not unforgettable, night in.
In a world besieged by carbon copies and poor imitations, it’s refreshing to see an unoriginal movie that still works. Caged doesn’t exactly raise the bar, but it lifts it high enough to provide an efficient escape from all things Hollywood.