Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Do you speak French?

I have mentioned before the 'horroretc' podcast ( ) and how much I love it. Well, this week's podcast was all about French horror - so I moved up a few movies already on my Netflix list (and collected my thoughts on one I had already seen) so I could correlate with a few titles Tony and Ted discussed on their brilliant weekly show. Hope that's ok, guys!
First up, "Inside" :


Talk about suffering.
No, seriously - actually talk about suffering.
Ok - this is one of the most disturbing, graphic, unsettling films I have seen in like, many many moons. It starts out slow and reels you into its house of horrors.

'Inside' ("À l'intérieur", in French) is a story about an ill-fated pregnant woman not only dealing with her husband's death and impending childbirth- but a stark-raving mad lunatic who has seen reason to - for lack of a better phrase - steal her child right out of her womb.

A strange concept, to be sure - and I certainly wouldn't recommend this to..... let's see.... anyone at all who isn't a true fan of grisly, revoltingly realistic horror. If you liked Hostel, absolutely pick this up. If your idea of horror is more like The Sixth Sense or maybe even Halloween on your bravest evening - steer clear of this, for sure.
That said - I have to admit, I liked "Inside" alot.

When our little gore-fest starts, Sarah (Alysson Paradis, coincidentally Johnny Depp's future sister-in-law) and her hubby are in a car accident in which he gets the worse end of the deal.
He dies. She was the driver, and has struck another car. She's pregnant, but apparently the baby is alright.

Fast forward a few months - she's now 9 months and ready to pop. Her doctor and her are planning her admission to the hospital for early the next morning (which happens to be Christmas - why on earth would you have a planned birth on Christmas day?). Anyway, She makes plans with her boss so he can drive her to the hospital in the morning and then retreats to her country home to relax and contemplate the impending big event. Depression seems obvious, since her child is fatherless and she is alone.

She hears a knock at the door. When she asks who is there, a woman replies that her car has broken down and she needs to use the phone. Sarah asks her to leave, saying her husband is asleep and she should ask someone else in the neighborhood for help.

At this point, things go all wrong. The woman, it seems, knows Sarah's husband is dead. How does she know that? Sarah has called the cops and they soon arrive but find no sign of the mysterious intruder. They assure her she must have left and say they will keep a patrol car in the area on watch. They leave.

The next chilling scene shows a close up of Sarah on her couch. The camera pans out and you see the outline of the stranger directly behind Sarah. Great atmosphere and camera work. The angles are great and you have a huge sense of impending doom.
Here's where the real gore starts. I cannot elaborate without truly giving everything away, but suffice it to say, it is a bloody mess. Some say there is a 'twist' ending. I prefer to think of it as a reasonable (?) explanation.

And like 'The Orphanage', this movie is subtitled. It's a french movie, folks. And after seeing 'Them' (aka 'Ils') and 'High Tension' ('Haute Tension'), I have come to believe that the French truly know what they are doing as far as making horror is concerned.
Check this one out if you dare. The first twenty minutes or so are pretty untroubled, while the story is being set up. But once it gets moving, it really rolls.

*Just a tidbit: Here in western Pennsylvania, a few years ago - not far from where I live, an obviously disturbed woman kidnapped a neighbor of hers, took her out to the woods, and proceeded to attempt to perform her own style of C-section. She slit the 8 month pregnant woman open - after beating her severely - and tried, unsuccessfully, to steal the child. She fled the scene, leaving the pregnant wounded woman there to die. A passerby (hero) called the police and the victim was flown to a nearby hospital where her baby was delivered safely. The perpetrator was arrested and jailed. She was known to say she just wanted to pass the baby off as her own.
See, this shit really does happen!

Them (a.k.a. Ils)Them (a.k.a. Ils)
Now on to "Ils" (aka 'Them') :

Similar in theme, Ils is a movie about a couple who are terrorized in their home by mysterious hooded strangers.

To start out, in rural Romania, a mother and her daughter are driving down a dark country road and they wreck their van into a utility pole. The mother (apparently knowing something about mechanics!) gets out of the van and lifts the hood, soon telling her daughter to try the engine. The daughter tries a few times to no avail. The girl calls to her mother, who does not respond. The bratty teenager angrily gets out of the van and comes around the open car hood to find her mother has disappeared. She calls out to her over and over, looking into the dark woods that surround the car. Soon she hears strange noises so she jumps back into the van and proceeds to be harrassed by unseen figures until the camera pans out and you see someone in the car attacking the daughter, with an obviously poor outcome.

Next we see our couple, Clementine and Lucas, settling down at their remotely located country home for a cozy weekend. Previously, on the way to the house, Clementine passes a tow truck towing a wrecked van away.

The evening arrives and after dinner Clem and Lucas are hanging out, watching some bad tv. Lucas hears a stray dog outside barking up a storm so he goes out and gives it a few morsels and dispatches it for the night. They decide to head off to bed.

During the night Clem awakens, disturbed by some odd noises outside. She wakes Lucas, and after looking outside and noticing their car has been moved, they get an uneasy feeling.
Telling more would be a spoiler, so let me just say this is a home invasion to put in the record books.
The film isn't really anything mindboggling or different, but the way the story is delivered in tight montages of action is appealing. There is very little gore factor to speak of, which separates it from "Inside" quite a bit. But they are both stories of intruders in the house, and if there is anything scarier than that, I don't know what. To feel so ill at ease in your own home is a frightening thing. The first time you get an actual glimpse of the hooded interlopers who have barged into the couple's lives, it will give you a slight shock, and no doubt fill you with dread of things to come.
There is a twist ending in this movie as well, though I have to admit I thought the final 20 minutes or so were a bit blase - they seemed borrowed from so many other films I have already seen. However, when you finally see the home invaders it is quite a heavy handed realization.
One of the final scenes with Clem in it is memorable.
Both movies work well at making tense moments nearly unbearable, but I have to admit I think 'Ils' is a bit better at setting up the fear factor than 'Inside'... Both are frightening, but in different ways.

I would suggest seeing both. I saw them within one day of each other and this makes a nice contrast.

High Tension UnratedHigh Tension Unrated
Ahhh.... High Tension - what an interesting movie to say the least.

Also known as Haute Tension in France, this gory thriller had me going pretty good.
There are so many discussions about this movie's ending that you could probably fill an entire book of debunking myths and falsities.

When I first heard about this movie, I couldn't wait to see it. I had to wait awhile even after I had bought it, as my hubby just isn't crazy about subtitles or dubbing.
Finally, he was away for a fishing weekend and the DVD player was all mine.

Yes, I watch these kind of movies by myself all the time. And I even listen to the movie score for Psycho while showering, I'm that weird.

Anyway, I loved the beginning.

Marie (Cécile De France) has come to her friend Alex's secluded house in the country to study for final exams.

It isn't long before they are all headed to bed, with Marie getting the attic guest room.
Soon after all is quiet and everyone is settled in, a mysterious stranger knocks on the door and when Alex's father answers the door, everything takes a horrible turn.

Marie hears a ruckus and wanders down the stairs, only to see a horrific, gory sight.
From then one, the middle part of the film is just body after body piling up. I hate to spoil things, but it is just a bloody mess.
The same exact comment could be made for the final act in this extremely tense and satisfying (up to this point) movie. The ending just left me completely taken aback.
Aghast at the sheer silliness of what this film turns into, I still have to recommend it because of the first two-thirds of the film. It is just plain scary. High Tension is the perfect title.

But that ending..... Oh my. Nothing can stop the animosity I felt towards the writers, producers, and the great director, Alexandre Aja, after this debacle.
But hey, French horror has made a name for itself. They really can get under your skin.

1 comment:

Kaijinu said...

got to love the French and their extremities.