So you’ve returned for the final half of this overview of Extreme French Cinema. Approach with caution, it’s a hard journey but ultimately, it’s one worth taking! These are films that’ll stay with you for a while, eating away at your conscience in both good and bad ways – in the way that only a truly fantastic film can. Let’s continue…
L’Interieur (Aka Inside) – the second hit on this list for the wonderful Beatrice Dalle (who was the inspiration for Brody Dalle’s name of The Distillers, for any punk music fans out there!) and once again she is seen here playing a very unstable woman – the name of her character in this film is simply ‘woman’! This film introduces us to a young pregnant woman who survives a car crash which kills her boyfriend/husband, this leaves her all alone in the house four months later. Not good when there’s a crazy lady who’s intent on stealing her baby – from inside her stomach, that is! Oh yes, it’s another bloody one here, with the weapon of choice being a pair of scissors and there’s also a good scene where one of the women gets their face all burnt using the old aerosol and cigarette trick. If you’re a fan of violence then definitely check this one out, and it’s also nice to see the antagonist as female for once, as this is rarely used effectively (anyone else remember the classic Mrs Voorhees?).
Frontiere(s) – now this movie didn’t skimp on the blood, that’s for sure! Described by many as the French ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’, it doesn’t take long to see why – the film follows the story of four young people who check into a motel in a secluded area of France, who end up getting killed off one by one in true slasher style. There’s the familiar sight of people being hung by hooks and the ‘final girl’ being forced to have dinner with her captors (a bunch of cannibals). The ‘family’ who runs the motel is very reminiscent of Leatherface’s family, but with a Nazi backdrop instead (it’s just so easy to use the Nazis as antagonists in horror films, isn’t it?). The jerky camera work can get a little tiring at times, with images flitting so fast before one’s eyes, but it all works to create an intense watch.
Eden Log – my way of describing this rather odd film would be Resident Evil-meets-The Descent. A man wakes up inside a cave and has no idea who or where he is, and over the course of the movie it becomes apparent that it’s the setting of a big government corporation responsible for providing power for the city. This film uses a remarkable blend of science fiction, action and a dash of horror (for good measure) to follow ‘Tolbiac’ in his quest for knowledge, and though I feel it takes a little while to get properly immersed into the film, once it starts kicking off one can’t help but get sucked in to the madness. Just the sets used in this film is enough reason to give it a watch, despite being mostly very dimly lit, there is an impressive science fiction type feel to the whole thing which is very well done considering the modest budget (the film being shot entirely with handheld cameras!).
Martyrs – this is one of the French (-Canadian) horror films which has managed to crossover into a more ‘mainstream’ audience. It is one of those horrifying type of movies which stay with you for a while after watching it – even whilst you’re watching it, you feel that you shouldn’t be, but you can’t help it! Martyrs is a film about a kind of cult which are interested in knowing what ‘the other side’ is like, and set about gaining this knowledge through creating ‘martyrs’ (which, to me and you, basically means endlessly torturing people). I’m slightly apprehensive to hear that an American remake is on the cards for this film and that the words ‘Twilight producer’ have been mentioned in the same sentence, but I shall of course reserve judgement until I have actually seen it. Director Pascal Laugier also made Saint Ange, which is another French horror film worth having a look at.
Vinyan – an odd little film to say the least. A whole bunch of countries were involved in the making of this one and the beautiful (yet eerie) scenery comes to us courtesy of Bangkok,Thailand. The tragic story told in this film is a young white couple who lost their son in a tsunami but are still convinced that he is alive so they set out to try and find him. I think the marketing for this film was a tad misleading, being described as ‘a truly terrifying horror experience’ on the DVD cover. I did actually enjoy this film because it had a good atmosphere of pure desperation and frustration, however, it definitely cannot be deemed a horror movie – and unfortunately this lead to a lot of unhappy buyers. Looking past this though, this film is dark in a way that a lot of ‘horror’ films aren’t, because it captures the raw anguish and pain that occurs when a family loses their child. This is a tragically difficult thing for families to go through (and many do), and this film captures those emotions excellently.
Mutants – a dose of zombie madness here, this time with the backdrop of a virus which, when bitten, means that people have an excruciating few days to dwell on their plight before they join the ‘zombie’ population. This seems to be a much crueller situation than in the similar ‘zombie virus’ film, Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later, and offers the peculiar complication about the potential for a possible ‘cure’ or whether just giving up hope is the best option. In some ways, this is a conundrum also explored in The Ruins with some ‘killer’ vines which slowly manage to get inside people. This film captures the viewer’s attention right from the get-go as we quickly learn that in this apocalypse-type landscape, it’s every man for himself. Whilst this film doesn’t necessarily offer anything new to the zombie genre, it still manages to have some moments of genuine tension and fright, with, of course, a nice healthy dose of blood and gunfire to keep us entertained too.
Enter the Void – the second Gaspar Noe film in this list, and he’s once again pulled something remarkable out of the proverbial bag. This film explores life after death and has a desperate loneliness about it which somehow manages to infect the viewer too. This is probably due to the fact that the first section is shot in first person as we are taken on a hallucinatory drug trip, till the character dies pretty early on, and we are just his ‘soul’ flitting about the place, observing his friends/family reactions coupled with flashbacks from his past. Gaspar Noe describes this film as a ‘psychedelic melodrama’ and was conceived by him many years before he actually got around to making it. Shot inTokyo and the language spoken throughout the film is English, some may question whether I can justify calling this a French film, but Gaspar Noe is a pretty established French director. Despite the film being a whopping 163 minutes (exceedingly long for someone with a short attention span like me!), it is very much worth the watch – it’s one that’ll you’ll never forget, I guarantee.
Vertige (Aka High Lane) – a fairly standard horror movie here, with a kind of Wrong Turn feel to it, with a dash of A Lonely Place To Die thrown in too, The first half of this film is dedicated to the actual fears that can occur during rock-climbing itself – slipping and ropes breaking and the like. It is not until the second half that the film takes a more ‘horror’ turn with the inclusion of a mountain-dwelling being using the bunch of characters as target practice, hunting them like animals. There’s nothing especially original or spectacular about the film but it does work as a perfectly decent movie. The ending is not all happy and laughing either, choosing instead to follow the trend of the ‘baddies’ actually managing to get away with their ‘crimes’ – but hey, there’s always got to be the possibility of a sequel.
La Horde – this high adrenalin zombie film is just as good (or even better) than its American counterparts. There’s nonstop action throughout which leaves the viewer feeling gripped from beginning to end. There’s plenty of blood around in this film (as is a staple for every zombie film, really!) and lots of yelling and general mayhem. Many keen zombie fans will be interested to know that The Horde turns its back on George Romero’s classic ‘slow-moving’ zombies, instead opting for fast running, badass zombies – which worked very well, I thought. I like the fact that there’s tension between the gangsters and cops throughout, which adds a nice, extra twist to the film. Maybe it’s better described as an action film as opposed to a horror, but still a damn entertaining movie to watch.
Dans Ton Sommeil (Aka In Their Sleep) – I’ll be honest here, the only reason that I watched this movie is because it has Anne Parillaud in it (as in the one and only, Nikita) and she has certainly grown up from that! Her performance was good as the grief-stricken woman living alone in this rather dismal tale. The story is a fairly standard one involving a mad guy with a knife killing people ‘in their sleep’ which is nothing new, but it does play out with a bit of mystery – there are a few twists and turns along the way. It’s not as violent as the likes of earlier French films such as Martyrs, Inside or Frontiere(s), but there is definitely an eerie atmosphere throughout which works well to unsettle the audience. This film isn’t for everyone but it’s a decent enough journey to warrant at least one watch!
La Meute (Aka The Pack) – pretty familiar story and rather predictable at times, but if you just want a bit of fun then this is definitely the horror film for you (technically described as Franco-Belgian, but close enough!). Here we have Phillippe Nahon (you might remember as the killer from High Tension) wearing a T-shirt saying ‘I Fuck on the First Date’, as well as someone literally sticking their arm through a person’s chest in order to open the locked door. There’s even a moment near the beginning where they manage to squeeze a joke out of raping, torturing and killing a cat! Even though the mutant, zombie-like creatures don’t get nearly enough screen time, there’s still a lot of grim violence and nastiness to quench the viewer’s appetite. I enjoyed this film despite the rather bizarre ending that was ‘tacked on’, there was a good scene towards the end when they barricade themselves in a house which reminded me a lot of Night of the Living Dead, or even similarities can be drawn with From Dusk Till Dawn at times.
Captifs (Aka Caged) – there was a Hostel-type vibe with this one, coupled with a similar concept to a film called Train (the idea of using a black market organ selling business as the backdrop for the horror film). So the storyline might not be an original one, but I thought that this film was well done. There was a big build up to the climax without resorting to the need to be overzealous with the gore aspect. I particularly liked the end scenes which involved a kind of ‘hide and seek’ in a corn field with one of the ‘baddies’ – I thought that this worked very effectively in creating tension. The cinematography for this film was good, and I thought that the added ‘history’ to the main character (played by Zoe Felix) was a good choice to just have an extra element in play. Despite the claims that this was based on a true story, in actual fact the roles were reversed in real life (as in, the Serbians were the victims).
Well, do you think you have the stomach to take all of them on? My words of wisdom to all of those brave souls out there who are ready to take on the challenge is, beware, you’re in for a rocky ride!