The first time I sat down to watch a French horror movie, it was a film called Switchblade Romance (which would later get the name change High Tension for American Audiences), and it fucking floored me. It was, in a word, relentless. The movie pretty much gut-punched you in the first ten minutes, and never allowed you the chance to catch your breath again. While I have some definite issues with the ending of that movie (as most rational people do), there is no arguing that it opened the door for horror fans to sit up and take notice of the French. And that is just what the best horror fans did. I, being one of them.
High Tension kick-started my love affair with French extreme film. A genre that truly knows no limits or boundaries. A genre that not only pushes the envelope, but rapes and murders it and then pees on its corpse. You may think I am exaggerating, but honestly, no one does horror like the French. No one. South Korean may come close with its deep examinations of revenge, but NO ONE can touch the cinematic depravity of the French. Okay, well maybe the Serbs, but let’s not go there right now.
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So with Halloween fast approaching, and me covering almost every other horror subject ever with the wonderful Matt Donato in our weekly column, The Last Stand, I wanted to tackle a sub-genre of horror that most don’t, and that is what brings us here.
French extreme cinema. Movies that are more like experiences. Movies that you don’t just watch, but movies that go that extra mile and seem to assault their viewers. Relentless films that make you film like you need a shower and nap by the time they are done with you. That is the other thing. These movies don’t just “end.” They finish when they are done with you, tossing you aside like a rag doll. The best part is, for this list I will focus on some of the lesser known, extreme French films. God knows I have talked Martyrs to death at this point.
I must warn you before you delve any deeper into this list: if sex, violence, rape, death, incest, bestiality, gore and general nastiness upsets you, you may want to go read something else, far away from here.
For the rest of you, put on a rain coat. Shit is about to get messy.