21st Century French Horror: Je t'aime
As a film lover and being completely and honestly fluent in French, it was only natural that I gravitated toward their film making (and philosophy). While I have a lot of time for all genres of cinema, except musicals of course- which are only one step above pantomime in the artistic hierarchy- and below pornography, my genre of choice is horror. For me, over the last twenty years, the French have made some exceptional, brilliant, macabre horror, grounded in reality yet madder than a syphilitic monarch rolling naked in jam. Which ironically is the sub-genre of porn I like.
I'm no cinephile historian. This will not be, and does not claim to be, a run down of the mould breaking, genre altering, pioneering cinematic achievements from our French friends. I'm also not claiming this list is definitive; I don't know everything, I haven't seen every French horror film of even the last twenty years. There's a gap between 2010 – 2016 which is bugging me. I must have been drunk. So please, please leave suggestions for me to watch and let me know your thoughts. But please, please be aware that I am very insecure and may get defensive and rude. Hey, I'll try and be nice though, you fucking know-it-all.
Particularly since Trouble Every Day introduced a very banal wickedness, a human element to their horror*, the French have run with a very existential and misanthropic approach to the genre, whilst over time adopting and adapting some more traditionally Hollywood elements (not always to good effect, it must be noted). Gore. Gristle, blood and misery abound in France's basement. Nihilism, despair and the nightmarish losing battle against death are ever present, though in varying styles.
The French sense of humour shines through, too; particularly the incredibly dark and odd humour of The Ordeal is one which I enjoy. The Pack and Frontier(s) have an anarchic sense of irony in their depravity, and there is a Gallic nonchalance potent in their other horror films. Please enjoy this little list of my favourite French fright films since 2000.
I have given each film a score out of ten on the Francometer, which I just made up, measuring the pungency and pervasiveness of each film's French core. Ten being the most aggressively Gallic, and thus best, score. Although all of these films are worth your time, some are less French than others.
Bedsit Cinema received no money from Philippe Nahon or his agent for this list...
Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001)
While a good film, Brotherhood of the Wolf is a bit Hollywood and not very scary. A mild 2/10 on the Francometer.
Trouble Every Day (2001)
It isn't my favourite on this list by some stretch, but you can't argue that it's all very French. A sexy, disgusting, 8/10.
Switchblade Romance (2003)
A fetid, savoury 8/10 with added respect for being the only French film to feature Muse, ever. Muse don't sell outside of Devon you know.
The Ordeal (2004)
One of my favourites on the list, The Ordeal is a running-away-from-the-cheeseboard, ripe 9/10
It's a good film, just not uniquely French. An easy on the pallet 3/10.
A sickening, mouldy 9/10 which sticks in the nose and on the clothes. You'll love it.
Frontier(s) has so many storylines when I was trying to think exactly how to describe it I decided to settle on: neo-nazi, mutant, hostage horror. It is off the wall, bloody, and excellent fun.
A very respectable, patriotic 7/10.
Revenge, torture, unbearable suffering, this scores highly for the pungent existentialism and nihilism which ooze from its rind and grab you by the throat. 10/10 on the Francometer.
The Horde (2009)
However, like cheese from a can, this has the USA stamped all over it. 1/10
Much like The Horde, Mutants is a zombie-style horror with a little more Gaul about it. A pregnant woman and her partner hide in an abandoned building, trying to remain sane and safe as the terrifying, infected outside world closes in on them.
Well worth a watch, and a respectably robust French flavour. 4/10
The Pack (2010)
A full bodied, 6/10, with added Nahon.
The French do not give a shit about what the rest of the world thinks: and I love that. Raw is the perfect embodiment of their nonchalance (see, I told you I was fluent). A Francometer score so hard it's erotic and repulsive all at once. 10/10
*Irreversible is not, in my opinion, a horror film. Although it presents a horrific situation.