Three French doctors traveling through the Balkans wind up captured, “Caged” and much, much worse in Yann Gozlan’s tautly helmed horror debut. Though there’s nothing new these days in using human beings as drill fodder, pic keeps most of the gore offscreen and maintains a relatively nail-biting atmosphere, boosted by solid thesping from Zoe Felix (“Welcome to the Sticks”) and claustrophobic widescreen lensing from Vincent Mathias (“State Affairs”). But with a derivative premise and not nearly as much bloodletting as auds expect, “Caged” was unleashed to minimal B.O. returns in Gaul, with offshore prospects limited to the DVD bin.
On their way home from a humanitarian mission somewhere in the Balkans (which, along with other former Soviet territories, have become the official backwoods for any horror movie set in Europe), physicians Carole (Felix), Mathias (Eric Savin) and Samir (Arie Elmaleh) take a turn off the main road and find themselves ambushed by a clan of paramilitaries. Though they initially hope to be held for ransom, it soon becomes clear their captors deal in human organ trafficking, and that the trio is next up on deck for a gruesome game of “Operation.”
Limiting the action almost solely to Carole’s p.o.v., Gozlan and co-scribe Guillaume Lemans (“Anything for Her”) keep a relatively suspenseful pace by revealing information only as their protag discovers it, giving the plot enough extra mileage until a lengthy final chase kicks in. Although things head pretty much where you’d expect them to, Gozlan’s intense direction and convincing use of interior spaces and rural landscapes makes the majority of the pic, if not highly original, then mostly watchable and thankfully less gory than the norm.
Pic’s strong visual framework is abetted by Nicolas Bouvet’s (“Ashes and Blood”) intricate sound editing, which proves particularly effective in the closing reels as the action heads out into the open.
Beyond Felix’s convincing turn as the rather simplistically drawn Carole, secondary perfs get the job done without much fanfare. Balkan baddies seem to have been cast purely for their creepy physiognomies and ability to consume endless amounts of liquor.