A new wave of French horror movies has swept the nation, causing an international uproar with its ultra-violent content, graphic scenarios, and unequalled images of carnage, mutilation, torture, and death. Known colloquially as "splatter films," and "torture porn," even seasoned horror flick enthusiasts and the strongest of heart have been shocked by the new twist which has been put on this genre of film.
Of course, the sole intent of all horror films is to frighten, panic, and stir our hidden fears. They are typically set in dark shadows, spooky mansions, and abandoned buildings, with eerie, haunting, foreboding, and tension-building music in the background. Most recently, horror film main characters have been werewolves and vampires, however traditionally they have been monsters, evil spirits, devils, ghosts, and other demonic or human supernatural beings. However according to critics, modern-day French horror movies are pushing the envelope, reinventing the meaning of 'terrifying' and arguably crossing a red line into the unacceptable.
Ironically, more than a century ago, it was a movie by French filmmaker George Melies called Le Manoir du Diable (1896) (The Devil's Castle) which was coined the first ever horror movie and which is said to have inspired later vampire movies. If you feel your heart can take it and you're in the mood for a new type of scary movie, here are the names and details of some of the best-known French horror movies to date.
Martyrs (2008): First released at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, this hardcore horror flick by Pascal Laugier tells of a young woman (played by actress Mylene Jampanoi) who seeks revenge against her brutal childhood tormentors. She is joined by a friend (played by actress Morjana Alaoui) who joins her in her brutal quest. The film is unforgiving in its graphic portrayal of violence and disturbing scenes and is not recommended for squeamish viewers.
Haute Tension (2003) (High Tension): Directed by Alexandro Aja, this ultra-graphic splatter film's tagline says it all: "Hearts will bleed." One of the first of its kind in this new genre of French horror movies, audiences have been shocked by the non-tempered violence in this tale of two college mates and best friends Marie and Alex (played by Cecile De France and Maiwenn) who travel to an isolated country home to study for exams. Soon after their arrival, a deranged serial killer rings the doorbell, abducts the two girls – and the rest, as they say, is history. Known in the UK as Switchblade Romance, the film is highly disturbing, and its endless series of murders and chase scenes will keep you breathless throughout. Prepare to see characters dismembered, hear bones cracking and splintering, watch as victims are axed to death, and more. While the film has received credit for its creative and innovative 'twist' ending, critics say its ultra-violent nature is too much for public audiences.
If you think French horror movies are going to have you waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat from nightmares, you might want to check out some of the more classic horror movies, such as Psycho, Peeping Tom, The Exorcist, Jaws, Scream, and Halloween.