14 Phenomenal French Horror Films

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SHOCK flips a list of 14 phenomenal French fright flicks!

Mixing the bloody with beautiful, the abstract with the amorous, the lush with the lurid, French genre filmmakers have long been twisting death-obsessed cinema to their own ends, ever since Georges Melies first found monsters on the moon.

In the wake of the soon-to-be-released American remake of Pascal Laugier’s jarring theological horror shocker MARTYRS, SHOCK dials back the clock to look at 14 works of first class film d’horreur…

Vive La France!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BIKYF07Y4kA

UN CHIEN ANDALOU (1929)

Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali’s notorious surrealist manifesto short might not be considered horror by some but, well… they’re wrong. Sixteen minutes of freeform, shocking imagery, this classic and influential slice of madness is perhaps most famous for the unforgettable opening sequence of a razor blade bisecting a girl’s goo-filled eyeball. Brilliant. I think.

LA BELLE ET LA BETTE (1946)

Jean Cocteau’s impressionist take on the classic fairy tale may be the first feature length French monster movie. Strange, surreal, beautiful and frightening, this eerie romantic tragedy is driven by a ferocious turn by Jean Marais as the bloodthirsty, hirsute and broken hearted cursed brute in a film that continues to amaze and inspire.

 

LES DIABOLIQUE (1955)

Henri Georges Clouzot’s immortal tale of husband killing pseudo-supernatural suspense has stood the test of time and still has the power to knock you on your lily white ass. Hitchcock had tried to get the rights for the Narcejac/Boileau novel on which this was based but missed the boat. He would later use their story D’ENTRE LES MORTS as the basis for VERTIGO.

LES YEUX SON VISAGE (EYES WITHOUT A FACE) (1960)

What can be said about this chilling, brilliant film that already hasn’t been said ten times over? Director Georges Franju paints a disturbing portrait of paternal love and surgical horror pumped full of sickening (then) shocking gore and a lyricism rarely equaled in any movie. And yes, its title DID inspire the Billy Idol tune.

MAIS NE NOUS DELIVREZ PAS DU MAL (DON’T DELIVER US FROM EVIL) (1971)

A film that rarely gets the respect it so richly deserves, Joel Seria’s scorching, psycho-sexual descent into schoolgirl perversion is the exploitation film by way of the art house. Telling the story of two Satan worshipping pubescent girls who use their blossoming sexuality to torment those around them, this brilliantly sordid picture was inspired by the same true crime tale that formed the basis for Peter Jackson’s HEAVENLY CREATURES.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmhIMbdecEU

LE LOCATAIRE (THE TENANT) (1976)

Roman Polanski’s third installment in his unofficial ‘apartment trilogy’ (preceded by 1965’s REPULSION and 1968’s ROSEMARY’S BABY respectively) is arguably his best film. A nebbish (Polanski, casting himself) moves into a deceased woman’s apartment building and almost immediately loses his mind. Or does he? Nothing is ever clearly defined in this psychological horror classic and that’s what makes it so freakishly great.

POSSESSION (1981)

The French blood in Andrzej Zulawski’s deranged macabre, psychosexual melodrama bleeds from this mad movie’s ears…and blows from mesmerizing lead actress Isabelle Adjani’s orifices in oddly erotic torrents. Sam Neil is the cuckold hubby who goes insane when his unstable wife openly embarks on an affair with a secret lover; everyone else around the doomed pair go insane as well, including the world itself. Oh, and wifey’s fuck-buddy just happens to be a pulsating, tentacled Carlo Rambaldi monster who needs blood to survive. There’s much of Clive Barker’s “The Hellbound Heart”and its cinematic equivalent, HELLRAISER in this masterpiece. If you haven’t seen it you should probably change that misfortune stat.

LA MORTE VIVANTE (LIVING DEAD GIRL) (1982)

Jean Rollin is the king of the French horror/vampire/porn exploitation film and LA MORTE VIVANTE is his masterpiece. In a plot that pre-dates RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, a spilled drum of toxic waste leaks into the coffin of beautiful corpse Francois Blanchard, reviving her and giving her an insatiable lust for blood (and lesbian lovemaking). A slow, dreamy, almost overwhelmingly sad tale of death, sex and love…in that order.

BABY BLOOD (1990)

The oddly attractive Emmanuelle Escourrou stars as woman who gets raped by an ancient beastie and becomes the spawning ground for its talkative, bloodthirsty seed (voiced, in the English dub by an unaccredited Gary Oldman!). Alain Robak’s deeply weird, quintessentially French cult movie (originally released in the US in a cut form as THE EVIL WITHIN) was sequelized as LADY BLOOD with inferior results.

LE PACTE DES LOUPS (BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF) (2001)

Like Doyle’s HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES on crack, Christophe (SILENT HILL) Gans’ blissfully trashy pastiche of horror, mystery, period romance and action adventure is considered by many to be a classic. Lush, erotic and full of manic, tone shifting energy LE PACTE DES LOUPS is, if nothing else, a chance to see iconic actress Monica Bellucci at her pouty lipped loveliest.

HAUTE TENSION (HIGH TENSION) (2003)

Outside of a forehead smacking final reel plot twist that threatens to undo all the glory that came before it, director Alexander Aja’s sneering, stylish, unrelenting feral white knuckle chase thriller is as much a blood spattered slasher movie as it is touching love story.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9Djvi1-k0s

ILS (THEM) (2006)

You’ve heard about, read about now for heavens sake, if you haven’t seen it, see it: 77 minutes of lip biting terror with very little set up and no let up, directors Xavier Palud and David Moreau’s master class in suspense (the duo are also responsible for the middling American remake of THE EYE) is under no circumstances to be watched alone.

FRONTIER(S) (2007)

We love this outrageous French take on American survivalist horror very, very much. A several law evading Parisian youths bunk down for the night at a remote country farm, mutants, maniacs, mass murderers and Third Reich refugees come out to play. Brilliantly demented stuff from director Xavier Gens and absolutely not for the squeamish.

A L’INTERIUER (INSIDE) (2007)

One of the last truly great modern French horror films to date, this female-centric home invasion shocker offers a showcase study in insanity by reportedly equally wacky actress Beatrice Dalle, whose efforts to break into the home of a pregnant young woman and literally cut out her unborn child are as vile as they are valiant. A rollercoaster ride through the center of fetal hell.

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Weekend: Oct. 17, 2019, Oct. 20, 2019

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