Trying to lose some beer-belly at the moment so there is no beer to accompany this blog.
If there were to be an alcoholic beverage of any kind, you should just throw a couple of glasses of kir at yourself so you’re red and dripping. Because today we’re going to talk about a couple of French Extremism films. Well, one is French Extremist, one I would argue is the bastard (though not bastardized in myyyy opinion) American child of French Extremism.
Oh man, I did these movies way way too close together. Also I just went down this really intense wikipedia rabbit hole. “Hm, what did the Marquis de Sade actually write about?” and “Hm, what’s the Grand Guignol?” and “Hey, what did the director of Maniac used to do for a…go-go dancer, huh?”
huhwazzat??–it’s the least grotesque photo from this movie I could find, that’s what.
There are times in my journey as a horror fan where I look deep inside myself and say, “why the hell am I watching this?”
It happened with Michael Haneke’s Funny Games, and it happened again with Martyrs. Only this time I wasn’t angry, I was just drained by all the nihilism and misery. The first half of the film, though full of what-the-fuckitude, was fairly action-packed and engaging. The second half, though it was no non-sequiter and properly answered questions that the first half set up, was really hard to plod through. Those questions in no particular order: who is this young girl stumbling through an abandoned industrial yard? Who abused her and why did they do it? Who is that naked ghost girl that keeps beating her head against a wall? Do we get to see someone get completely flayed in this movie?
Well the first and second to last question are answered succinctly. “This young girl” is Lucie, and she’s found her abusers and brought along a shotgun. The naked ghost girl is–haha, I’m not going to tell you that–you’ll have to torture yourself by watching it or read the Wikipedia page. Or just watch the first part of the movie up until Anna is captured by the same group who abused Lucie. The group who once abused Lucie and are now torturing her friend, Anna is essentially aiming to see the great beyond through the eyes of a “true martyr”, or someone who endures incredible suffering before experiencing an ecstatic connection with the divine. Oh, and if you haven’t figured it out yet, the answer to the last question is “yes”.
In the end I stuck with it for the same reason I stuck with Funny Games. Since I was already roped in, I didn’t want to show weakness by backing out. I mean, my dog was sitting right there watching me. Am I supposed to cower in front of my dog?
No way, Jose (Jose, what are you doing in my front yard again??).
Maniac (2013..or 2012…whatever)
ERMERGERRD!! MERR MANIKERRRNS!!! (sorry…couldn’t help myself)
Maybe I’m too easy to please, or maybe I’m too easy to scare–or maybe even both. Maybe I am not loyal enough to the original, but I really really enjoyed this movie. Until I was walking from my car into the house at 5:40am after dropping my husband off at the bus stop, that is. The absurd amount of gore is totally in keeping with French Extremism. It’s written and produced by Alexandre Aja–you know that guy–and directed by the former French go-go dancer Franck Khalfoun. The visual gore is coupled quite well with the auditory gore and obscenity. The combination of violent sounds and Elijah Wood’s heavy breathing = no arrabiata sauce for a month.
Short summary: you are trapped in crazy Frank’s head and body as he staggers about Los Angeles stalking and killing women, then bringing their scalps back to his mannikin-filled lair. And if you haven’t already heard the entire film is shot from somewhere in the middle of Elijah Wood’s forehead, or over his shoulder. Or something like that. Talk about male gaze, amirite?? Nyuk nyuk nyuk. Anyway, it’s pretty straight forward. Frank’s is also obviously an ill-fated killing spree, because as a prisoner of Frank’s head we also get to see his hallucinations (an entire restaurant of people staring at him reproachfully–who doesn’t that idea freak out?). And these are not the kind of hallucinations that someone lives with for years. Not without a lot of medication and therapy, and most likely a padded room.
I enjoyed the ride quite a lot. Anything that makes me squirm that much without mucking around in deep, nihilistic mud for too long is the kind of film I’d recommend.
That’s all, folks.
There are more French Extremist films that I have seen. Haute Tension has been argued over quite enough though, I think. And yes, I’ve seen L’interieur as well. I just am not even going there today. I’ve already made my own scalp tingly from talking about flaying and mannikin wigs.