When you think of french films, horror doesn't come to mind at first. You probably think of some trite expressionist film you read about or some romantic Gerard Depardieu film that some girl at work keeps telling you about because you told her you were into movies, but the french have definitely brought their bloody baguettes to the table. Early french directors like Georges Franju, Henri-Georges Clouzot and Jacques Tourneur lead the way for many of today's young french horror directors in what is called New French Extremity. Films like Eyes without a Face and Les Diabolique are really no different in the stories that are being told with exception that the director is not shackled to the same movie codes as in the past.
Here are 5 frightening french films:
5. Irreversable (2002) - Similar to Momento, the film is shown in reverse order and leads us through the results of a women, who is brutally raped and beaten in a underground tunnel in Paris and the extremities of her boyfriend and ex-husband go to in finding the rapist and exacting their revenge. This is such a crazy film, it's hard to explain. The film isn't really gory per say but the scenes where they catch the rapist and the rape itself are so brutal that it is difficult to watch. Disturbing, would probably be the best way to describe it. Director Gaspar Noe does a nice job using the reverse movie trick as well. Good flick, hard to watch.
4. Les Diaboliques (1955) - Christine Delassalle and Nicole Horner have a few things in common; they are both teachers, the work at the same school andn they both have an abusive relationship with Mr. Michel Delassalle. Unlike most wife/mistress relationships, Christine and Nicole seem to get along and plan to murder Michel. They drown him in a bathtub and then throw his body into the dirty pool outside the school but when the pool is drained for cleaning, the body has disappeared, tabernac! Director Henri-Georges Clouzot grabbed the screen rights for this play from master of horror Alfred Hitchcock and inspired the film Psycho. The film is a classic tale of suspense and has some supernatural overtones near the end. It has a message at the end of the film not to tell the twist, so I won't but it is one Clouzot's best!
3. Switchblade Romance (aka High Tension) (2003) - Alexia and Marie are college girls on their way to Alexia's parents house off in the country for the weekend. They arrive have dinner and go off to bed. Shortly after this, there is a knock on the door, so, Alexia's father answers the door and it's a man, who slits there who slits the father's throat and crushes his head. Alexia and Marie hide and try escape the killer as he rampages through the rest of the family. Can these girls escape the killer? I like this movie but I really hate the ending. The whole film is this incredible roller coaster ride of terror and tension with some of the best special effects in the business, done by Giannetto De Rossi. There is blood everywhere and incredible kill scenes. However, director Alexandre Aja really does drop the ball at the end and leaves you scratching your head. Definitely worth checking out but you've been warned!
2. Inside (2007) - Four months after a car crash, which kills her husband, Sarah is ready to have her baby. While at a park, she asks her friend and employer, Jean-Pierre to pick her up in the morning to drive her to the hospital; he agrees and drops her off at home. That evening she answers a knock at the door and the there is a strange woman, who wants to come in and she knows a lot about Sarah. Sarah refuses to let her in and calls the police. The police come over and tells Sarah not to worry because the woman has gone but they will check in on her again later in their shift. The police leave and Sarah goes to bed. That night, while Sarah is sleeping, the mysterious woman creeps into her bedroom and stabs Sarah in the belly! Sarah wakes up fights her off, runs to the bathroom and begins her hellish nightmare of trying to keep her and her baby alive. The film starts slow but once woman starts her attack, the film is relentless in its savagery. Even though Sarah, isn't very engaging to the audience, the idea that a pregnant woman is being attack is a terrific angle. There are some pretty cool special FX scenes throughout the film and the body count is surprisingly large. Definite must see!
1. Martyrs (2008) - Young Lucie escapes her captors and is placed into a home for girls, where she examined and study. Her only friend, Anna is asked by the doctors to help her open up. 15 years later, Lucie believes she has found her tormentors and goes to exact her revenge, Anna tries to stop her but is too late. Even when Lucie has killed the ones, she believes made her suffer, its revealed that this is only the beginning and that there is a bigger picture to all this torment for her and Anna. This is a really interesting Canadian film and isn't your usual torture revenge fare. Mylene Jampanoi is so compelling as Lucie in this and sells every scene with the viciousness that one would expect for these circumstances. Morjana Alaoui is just as excellent as her confused and willing confident, Anna. Hard film to watch, especially near the end; cudos to the FX people for their stunning work.
These films show a hard reality of violence that we will (hopefully), only experience through this medium and gain a better understanding of the human spirit or lack there of. After watching these films you may want to rethink your trip to Paris or at least stay away from the tunnels.