French Extremities: Prepare To Be Scared

Every now and again, something new enters the market in an established industry that does something different. It has just enough of a unique feel, selling point, or edge to give it an advantage over those around it. The French-Canadian drama horror movie Martyrs, released in 2008 and directed by Pascal Laugier, does just that. A film with an edge so horrific, so unique, it seems different from your standard horror movie, in much the same way as other industry pioneers.

These French filmmakers are auteurs in their own right and have been able to develop these films in large part due to their independence from the kind of big investors that fund their Hollywood counterparts. New ways of funding films could be very important for the future of the industry and up and coming film Braid has been crowdfunded using the online currency Ethereum. This is similar to Bitcoin, which is already in use as an online currency and is even used in some established industries. For instance, recent newcomer Bitcasino use Bitcoin as the currency of choice for their online casino rather than standard currencies. Funding movies, which is notoriously hard, with a new form of e-money could be worth exploring so that new independent genres can continue to develop in the future.

Martyrs is one of a number of films that uses a form of New French Extremity, a description coined by Artforum critic James Quandt for a group of transgressive films by French directors at the turn of the 21st century. This new type of horror is unique in the fact that, unlike other modern movies of this genre, it removes all humanity from the beneath the horror and has a crossover of bestial violence and troubling psychosis.

When it was first shown at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008 it, like many of the earlier French Extremity titles, caused some controversy with people reportedly walking out, vomiting or breaking into tears due the horror and graphic nature of some of the scenes. But sitting through what the film has to offer is part of the horror it produces, its raison d'être, if you like.

Another two New French Extremity movies to look out for that will give you a better overall feel for the genre are as follows:

High Tension – (2003) directed by Alexandre Aja is a gore fest that sees the main characters Alex and Marie go to stay at Alex’s parents’ house, where they are attacked by a mystery killer. The killer uses some extreme methods to end their victim’s lives. The film, like others in this genre, has elements of psychosis and a complete lack of humanity that is hard viewing, even for the most avid horror fan.

Ils – (2006) directed by David Moreau and Xavier Palud is another New French Extremity movie that produces moments of tension, fear, and blood-curdling gore. Using themes of home invasion a couple, Clementine and Lucus find their idyllic country lifestyle turned in to a nightmare as a group of hooded figures terrorize throughout the night. The surprising twists this film offers make it a must see but it is, again, not for the light-hearted.

These films do not use jump scares or other more traditional methods of the genre to strike fear into the audience but instead combines realism with an element of the supernatural that are almost unbearable to watch. You are left with a sense that this could happen to anyone which is a prevalent part of the fear factor.

These are not films that will allow passive viewing from the audiences but will have them questioning the very nature of humanity and, if you can stand them, are well worth spending your time to watch. Just don’t expect to be able to walk away unaffected, you have been warned.