Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Female Villains in Horror: La Femme

The French sure know how to make a horror movie.

À l'intérieur is better known as Inside on this side of the pond, but in any country it is a brutal, unrelenting casade of horror. If you are not affected in some way by this movie, then I'm sorry, but there is truly something wrong with you.

Beatrice Dalle is absolutely chilling in the role of La Femme. She haunted my thoughts long after the final scene.
So why is she so terrifying?

Let's review the plot. Pregnant Sara (Alysson Paradis) is in a car accident in which her husband is killed. When the time comes to have her baby, she is spending the night before (which happens to be Christmas eve) getting ready to be admitted for her baby's birth the following day. Her mood is dour, to say the least.

When she gets a knock at the door late that evening she finds a woman who can only be described as tenebrous there, asking for help and use of her telephone. Perhaps feeling something just isn't right, Sara tells her that her husband is sleeping and she doesn't want to disturb him. Her dressed-all-in-black visitor then surprises her by saying she knows Sara's husband is dead. She demands to be let inside, and is rejected.

RIGHT HERE is your first clue - the woman's statement should have been the first indicator that things are questionable with this woman. Not only does "La Femme" know a bit too much information, but she's just downright creepy from the get-go. Thankfully, Sara is not your average dumb ass in a horror movie. She first tries to capture the woman on film through the windows (she is a photographer) and then calls the cops to tell them she is being harassed.
Naturally by the time the cops arrive La Femme is gone. And by gone I mean hidden. But the policemen say they will hang around the house a bit - try to ease her fear.

The best parts of this film are not the blatant bloody gore it has in droves, it is the subtle moments of tension, like when you see La Femme standing outside looking in. I felt a bit sick in my stomach watching this - the suspense mounts slowly but where other films fail to really deliver, this one will have you biting your nails to the quick. And once the brutality starts, it's no holds barred.

Rather quickly, Sara realizes the woman has been stalking her (after seeing her in some earlier photos she's taken) she comes to understand the woman has some sort of vendetta against her. She phones her boss and asks him to enlarge some of her earlier photos that were taken so she can compare them and look for the woman.

Uneasy, but feeling relatively safe knowing the cops are nearby, she heads to bed - only to be attacked by La Femme in her bed. The crazy nut job pokes her navel with a pair of scissors, making it apparent that she is after her baby.

Sara is able to fight her off enough to make it to the bathroom, locking herself inside.
La Femme is not deterred by this in the slightest, and does everything in her power to attempt entry.

Sara's employer, and then her mother come to the house. Naturally this does not end well. First Sara tragically kills her own mother, thinking her to be La Femme. Can you say arterial spray?
Then the mystery woman kills Sara's boss, and wastes no time trying to get back to the business at hand.
The police arrive yet again but can't handle things any better either, and are also dead within minutes of gaining entry to the house. One of them is shot in the head so graphically it's almost unreal.
La Femme will stop at nothing to get Sara's child. And in a mini-twist of sorts, we find out why.

The brutality of this film just goes to show how far beyond us the French are in their horror.
No, gore does not a movie make, but the simple plotting and maniacal violence shown here combine to provoke such a visceral reaction from the audience that clearly cannot be denied.

La Femme is a relentless, savage psychopath with only one goal in life --

--Performing a backyard C-section on our helpless Sara.
No. Matter. What.
It really lends new meaning to the words 'home invasion'...

No one I can think of in the world of female villains can quite measure up to her as far as deranged, violent female killers who will stop at nothing. Their eye is forever on the prize, and no matter how much blood has to spill, they are ready and willing to get the job done.

Buy it here.

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Ella said...

Sounds like an interesting relentless villain, I'll have to give it a look. Do you know the movie is subtitled or dubbed?

On another note, just finished watching "The Woman in Black" on youtube, it's all there, enjoy. :)

Shaun Anderson [The Celluloid Highway] said...

A truly menacing and disturbing performance from Dalle anchors the film in the first half. The film is genuinely creepy and tense for 35 minutes. Unfortunately the film degenerates into what can only be described as farce in the second half. A quiet suburban home ends up awash with blood, with something like half a dozen corpses rotting inside it. I found myself unable to take it seriously. Nevertheless Dalle is a truly terrifying psycho.

Will Errickson said...

Cool post. The French do indeed know how to make a horror movie. Inside is my favorite of the recent bunch.