An unnamed man (Ludovic Bergaut) wakes in a mysterious environment, attired in nothing but a pair of boxer shorts and dangling from several inches above the concrete floor. He's suspended from the ceiling via a chained mask which has been sewn over his mouth.

Unable to crane his neck to survey his surroundings more clearly, the man becomes frantic when he hears voices from behind a veil preparing to drug him. He starts to struggle at the rope binding his wrists together and eventually wrestles them free.

Then, he undertakes the excruciating task of prising the mask from his face. Falling to the floor with pools of blood splashing down from his visage, the man is weak and disorientated. But he still manages to spot several other semi-naked people hanging from identical chains elsewhere in the otherwise barren white room.

Listening out for the voices of his unseen assailants as they make preparations for their quarries in a nearby room, the man sneaks through several corridors and doors before stumbling across a square room containing several more people with masks similar to his. These men and women are not chained, and are all imbued with an extremely aggressive disposition.

One of the ghouls (Ghalem Chenneh) is particularly irate and immediately picks a fight with the man. Headbutting and fisticuffs ensue for a while, until the noise attracts the attention of their captors and in run two chefs (Boun-Mi Vilayvanh and Phaysane Xaysena). The man cowers in a corner while the chefs dole out their rough brand of discipline on the aggressor: a severe beating with electrically charged batons.

From there, the man continues to make his way through the sterile building in a bid to escape, eventually finding his way to the kitchen of an Asian restaurant.

Meanwhile, the man's unnamed wife (Christine Bruneau) sits worried at their home. She rings his employer, a restaurant review magazine, and advises that she has not seen her husband since he was assigned to visit a local Asian restaurant a few days earlier.

Finding herself no further forward, the wife then decides to visit the restaurant for herself and continue the search for her husband ...

This was a new one on me. A short film shot by Frenchman Gregory Sacre in 2007, SPECIALITE DU CHEF is a less than half an hour in length with minimal script and an emphasis instead on atmosphere.

Taken as a fresh spin on the zombie genre, it's an interesting look at the undead as victims. If indeed that's what it's meant to be saying (see below regarding the extras, and my inability to pick up much from them). As a straight abduction premise, it's thinner - but still works up to a twist that, while predictable, managed to put a smile on my face regardless.

Up until that point, CHEF was formidably bleak. From the opening moment when the camera pulls back from a close-up of the man's eye to reveal his painful predicament, to the brutal fight against Chenneh and the savage punishment dished out by the chefs, Sacre goes all-out to disturb the viewer.

It works, sort of. It's a little too arty and detached for its own good, frequently dragging you away from any immediacy by way of juddering camera gimmickry and jump-edits. But when the camera rests and we're allowed to focus purely on the action, it really does connect. A little less flashiness is required in future efforts, methinks.

Gory without relying on too much in the way of FX (due to a lack of budget, I'd assume) but boasting decent enough production values despite the limited interior location, SPECIALITE DU CHEF is a taut and engaging first effort from Sacre that nevertheless feels more like an industry calling card than the jackboot to the knackers it maybe could've been.

Even so, it improved upon a second viewing and comes mildly recommended.

SPECIALITE DU CHEF is the maiden release for Gallic distributors Oh My Gore! It's a nice little effort in terms of statement of intent: an interesting European production, given a highly respectable set.

The film is presented uncut in a nice 16x9 enhanced widescreen transfer. Clean, sharp images and good colour schemes impressed me, as I didn't expect a low budget short on a tiny label to come up trumps in the transfer department. But the film looks very nice indeed.

French audio is provided in 2.0 and is a good, evenly balanced proposition throughout. There isn't a great deal of dialogue in the film so it's not of major concern anyway, but the audio is a fine offering.

Optional subtitles are provided in English, Spanish, German and French (in the latter case, to take into account that not all French people speak Lao like the chefs do). The English subtitles were easy to read and free from noticeable errors.

A nice animated main menu page leads into a static scene-selection menu which allows access to SPECIALITE DU CHEF via 10 chapters. Which, for a 26-minute short, is pretty generous.

There is a nice selection of extras to complement the main feature. Unfortunately, none of them are English friendly.

First off, there's a commentary track from Sacre. It's a shame that there are no subtitles for this as an elaboration on the film's themes would've interested me. But it's debatable how much could've been gleamed from a 26-minute commentary track anyway.

Next up is a 66-minute Making Of documentary. This looks to be a fantastic insight into the whole process of low budget genre filmmaking. It's full of intriguing behind-the-scenes footage, soundbites to camera and what appear to be rather candid cast and crew interviews. Also containing a film festival Q&A session and what appears to be a healthy amount of information on the film's production design, I really wish that at least this had been graced with English subtitles (but totally understand that it's an expense we can't expect France-based Oh My Gore! to stretch to).

Three short trailers round off the extra material, again in French with no subtitles.

The packaging is nice. The DVD5 PAL disc is region 2 encoded and comes housed in an attractive digipack with a couple of grisly stills offered to whet any gorehound's appetite.

SPECIALITE DU CHEF may not be perfect and it may well be a shame that nothing other than the film on the disc is subtitled (understandable, as mentioned above), but it's definitely going to be of interest for those with a keen nose for unearthing new talent from European shores.

Sacre is one to watch in future, as are Oh My Gore! They've produced a very nice DVD here, but if you want it you'll have to be quick as they've only printed a strictly limited run of 1000 copies.

For more information, visit the official site here.

Review by Stu Willis

Released by Oh My Gore!
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review