Review: Caged (2010)

Things go badly for three aid workers after they're kidnapped in Yugoslavia...

Caged, directed by Yann Gozlan, is the latest and possibly least effective in a long line of slightly xenophobic films featuring scary, often nameless, Eastern European types who, so captivated by the metropolitan sexiness of the attractive young French/English/Americans riding through their particular part of the forest, kidnap them and hold them hostage. Films in this genre range from the fantastic (The Ordeal, Deliverance) to the absolutely awful (Hostel, Hostel II), and Caged manages to place itself comfortably between the two – never being so bad that you actively root for the torturers, but never being so good that you want the main characters to escape.

Set in Soviet Yugoslavia, Caged tells the story of three sexy French types – Carole (Zoé Félix), Mathias (Eric Salvin) and Samir (Arié Elmaleh) who, while working as aid workers in the backwoods, are kidnapped by a mysterious, but extremely violent, masked gang. The gang, who hold the group hostage in a dank, home-made prison, are accompanied by a mysterious doctor who cleans the wounds of the kidnapped group, with the intention of keeping them alive. It’s soon revealed what the gang intend on doing to the hostages and they soon begin to plan their escape.

The problem with Gozlan’s film is that it’s very difficult to care about the three main characters. The story of the most interesting character, the quietly intense family man Mathias, is never expanded on – instead we get a half-baked back story featuring Carole and a dog that may or may not have killed her childhood friend, seemingly thrown in just to try and increase the relation with the end of the film, where dogs make a re-appearance. The film tries hard to be scary, and the director really seems to want to be associated with the loose New French Extreme horror movement – leading exponents being Gaspar Noé and Claire Denis – but the film always shies away from being too violent or too sadistic. The scenes of the animalistic Yugoslav thugs – who are treated by the film-maker with such disdain that they aren’t even given names, communicate only in grunts, dog-like barks, and unsubtitled “Foreign” – with Carole are quite unpleasant to watch but ultimately the film comes off as quite cartoonish in it’s depiction of kidnapping.

As we start to chug towards the climax, Gozlan seems to realise that the film is basically tedious rubbish and attempts to ramp up the suspense and the drama, throwing a hallucination, a dream sequence, and even a child (whom, before she appears, is not mentioned or hinted at in any way at all) into the ending, hoping that somehow the viewer will be fooled into thinking that this is a good film. Sadly, it isn’t. If the film had given the captors names and reasons, or expanded a little on the back stories of our protagonists, or even thrown in a little bit of humour, this film would undoubtedly have been much more effective. The only thing that saves the film from absolute tedium is some interesting cinematography at the end, in the scenes at the cornfield. Aside from those few short moments of interest, Caged is ultimately a middling, MOR horror film, that could easily have been so much better.

Best performance: Eric Savin as Mathias. He deserves better than this film.
Best scene: The ludicrous fight scene in the kitchen between Carole and an unnamed woman.
Best line ‘Let’s just take this shortcut – we’ll be back on the main road in ten minutes’.
Watch this if you liked: Hostel, The Ordeal, Deliverance.
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