The Chalet, also known by its French title, Le Chalet, is a suspense and horror Netflix mini-series about a group of friends gathering at a chalet in the quaint village of Valmoline to celebrate an upcoming wedding, only for strange mishaps to take place as, one by one, some of them are killed off. The mystery of whodunnit appears to be resolved in the first scene in the first episode, where a man named Sébastien is being interrogated by a psychiatrist about the acts he committed at the chalet; however, is this actually a case of an innocent man being blamed for things he didn’t do or a cold-blooded murderer who is lying through his teeth? The flashbacks tell two stories: One is of a group of friends, which Sébastien is part of, who are all gathering at the chalet prior to a wedding and the build-up to a string of odd occurrences as they are seemingly hunted down by who they believe is a serial killer; and the second paints a picture of a family of four who moved into the chalet twenty-years ago before mysteriously leaving out of the blue one day.
The visual of the title sequence and the vocals of the theme song have a haunting and almost playful quality about them (in a spine-tingling way). Of course, it helps that the person singing the tune is a child. Now that’s extra creepy. The trailer for The Chalet reminds me of The Cabin in the Woods, a film that has a similar premise of a group of people going to a remote location for vacation and getting trapped there as they are killed off.
Without giving major spoilers, I suppose I can say that what happened twenty years ago in Valmoline is the catalyst for what happens twenty years later. By the time the truth was revealed, I felt duped (in a good way) because some facts were hidden in plain sight except I didn’t know to look at it from that angle or to question the validity of some of the stuff that the characters were saying. Knowing what I know now about the series’ story, it was well-played for certain characters to almost fade into the background with how unassuming or bland they seemed. My only comment about this is, well, you know how people say you should watch out for the quiet ones? You definitely should in this series, at least.
Because The Chalet has such a large cast and a lot of subplots happening at once, it did feel overwhelming at times to keep up with everything. I was actually pretty confused at first by the format of the out-of-order flashbacks, which keep jumping from twenty years ago at the chalet, twenty years later at the chalet, and then to present day with Sébastien and the psychiatrist. There was also no on-screen differentiation of the time periods that some shows might do, where it’ll say something like “Six months later” for one scene and then “Six months earlier” for another scene, so it’s up to the viewer to pay attention to the given context and dialogue. Being that Sébastien is the first character to be introduced on-screen, I unconsciously associated him as the main protagonist/hero of the series. And, in a way, he is at first because he gets to tell his perspective on what he experienced, but some of his interpretations make him an unreliable narrator. There is what he believes happened, and there is what really happened.
Now for the characters… Oh boy. Be prepared to be utterly lost because a ton of people are introduced in the first episode. I couldn’t keep up with the names (at first) so I made up corny nicknames for them in my head. It was interesting to have initial impressions of the characters before I got to know them better. Sébastien’s girlfriend Maude comes across as a stereotypical hot girl, but she becomes more of a three-dimensional character as more of her sweet personality is seen, such as when she becomes friends with Alice’s boyfriend Fabio, which, thankfully, does not veer into the overused trope of a girl-guy friendship turning sexual for plot/drama reasons. Insert an eye-roll from me!
The casting choices for adolescent Alice and adult Alice are remarkable, and I could see a plausible real-life age progression between the two Alices. Alice has a kind of unassuming quiet confidence about herself that I like. Alice’s childhood best friend Manu is very consistent throughout the series as the “good guy” archetype, and he gives off that vibe right from the get-go. I’m not sure if I am disappointed or not. I was almost expecting him, like some of the people around him, to have deep dark secrets in relation to the plot. Adolescent Sébastien has sandy-blonde hair, but it is a jarring contrast to how shorn his hair is as an adult, which made me feel unsettled every time I saw him on-screen. I wonder if that was a deliberate thing that the actor had to do for his character as a subtle hint to the true extent of his personality.
Pacing-wise, some parts of certain episodes did feel like filler to me, partially if they involved characters who were introduced but had very little time on-screen. This was forgivable as a minor infraction since the series was only 6 episodes in total. Thierry and Laurent are entirely forgettable as Sébastien’s childhood lackeys, and they didn’t do much for me either when I saw them as adults. They were like minor side characters I wasn’t invested in, and they were only important after I grasped the full reason as to why they and everyone else was targeted by the killer. Besides the main mystery of the killer’s identity, I enjoyed the other mini enigmas that were unraveled as the story unfolded. Such as, why does Alice dislike Sébastien so much? Why does Manu’s girlfriend Adèle seem mentally unstable?
I loved the setting of this series. Valmoline really does seem like the type of sleepy and rustic getaway I would visit to flee from most of civilization. I felt envious seeing the characters take solitary walks with such stillness around them. My feelings matched something a character says to one of the Valmoline residents, “Many people would envy you for this life. The mountains, clear air, a beautiful village.” As the tension of the plot started to amp up, my mood towards that isolation shifted as well, during which I began to dread seeing a character walking alone even in daylight. My heart would pound in anticipation as I kept expecting something bad to happen.
Visually, I appreciated the simple style of the characters’ clothes. It reminded me of clothes I might wear too if I were in their situation, and in that sense, this made the characters feel like real, relatable people to me. The flashiest clothes probably came from Maude, but they attracted enough of my attention without distracting me from her actual character. My two favorite type of scene was the non-verbal kind where the emphasis was on the music, which set the tone of what the character’s expression was conveying. The dialogue was enjoyable to follow along with to get the context of people’s feelings. I liked seeing their reactions change and shift, and I liked trying to work out in my own mind why they responded that way.
At the surface level, the series is about life and death, but it’s also a fascinating look into the depths of people’s motives and the extent people will go to obtain, reclaim, or do away with what they want. Take the character of Jean-Louis, the patriarch of the Rodier family, who appears in the twenty-years-ago flashbacks. He’s unfaithful to his wife, and then, to my chagrin, he becomes even more of a b*stard when he is shown to give zero actual f*cks about his mistress, Muriel, and only uses her for his own selfishness. That was one moment in the series that honestly shocked me because I never thought I could ever feel sympathy for a supposed homewrecker. And Muriel… oh, what a complex character. I gave her the benefit of the doubt when Jean-Louis not-so-subtly starts giving her attention and showing interest in her. I hoped she would do the right thing and not indulge him since she knew he was married, but she goes for him anyway. She has an almost child-like quality in how strongly she feels love and pursues love without hesitation, which was almost admirable. But just as easily as she could love, she went “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” pretty quickly, only to regress out of that just as fast because of her own miserable regret. I like that there were multiple ways to interpret a person’s actions. To me, Muriel was reckless with her emotions and decisions, but someone else might view her in a different perspective.
The last thing I want to comment on is the depictions of violence. Obviously, since it’s a genre that involves horror and suspense, it was not a question that it would be there, but it depends on what you as the viewer is comfortable seeing. I was all right with watching most of it, though two scenes, in particular, were disturbing and a bit graphic (for me, at least). The first scene had a character whose death was staged as a suicide by another character, but the way it was done was quite twisted and made me think of 13 Reasons Why. I can’t elaborate without spoiling 13 Reasons Why, though those who watched that series may have an inkling of what I mean. The second scene I found hard to watch in a kind of “I just got slapped out of nowhere” way was an implication of rape, but the fact it was indirectly hinted (in the next scene after this one) that it did happen is what made me feel sick to my gut.
Overall, I would recommend this series and rate it as 4 out of 5 stars. The reason I knocked off a star is because of the ending, which was too neatly tied up as a “let’s walk off into the sunset with a clean slate” type of moment as to conclude the flashbacks after so much death, including both the intended and unintended casualties of the killer’s bloodlust. With the fate Sébastien meets in the actual present-day ending, I really can’t decide if he deserved what he gets or not. However, my judgments about what I found good or bad about the series don’t mean they’ll be the same for everyone else who watches it, too. If you like a show with a mystery that unravels piece by piece, go for it and see if you like it.