Raw


Viewed – 02 October 2017  Online-rental

I think it can’t be argued by anyone familiar with French horror cinema, that they certainly challenge boundaries and cross lines on what is acceptable or even tolerable in a horror movie.  The infamous Martyrs proved that and now we come to this latest, French-Belgian offering that quite literally goes for the jugular.

RAW

Justine (Garance Marillier), a gifted female student starts her first week at Veterinary school where she finds herself involved in a brutal hazing ritual.  Whilst getting covered in Horse blood and generally abused by the seniors, despite being a devout  vegetarian, Justine is pushed into consuming raw meat.  However the experience unlocks a new found craving and it’s not long before Justine finds herself developing a hunger for human flesh.

Part coming-of-age movie, part sexual awakening with a twist … this gritty, somewhat tongue-in-cheek drama is equally distasteful and weirdly fascinating.  The movie jumps from development to development a little too quickly for me, with Justine’s cannibalistic cravings coming as a bit of a leap.  However with at times artfully stylish and unflinching direction from first timer Julia Ducournau – I couldn’t look away.  Even during some of the sicker sequences, with a stomach churning finger-eating like it’s KFC scene almost reaching my limit.  It never gets as gory as suggested though, but is gradually disturbing in it’s rather ‘matter of fact’ approach to something unthinkable.

Certainly not for a wide audience and well, left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth (no pun intended) … but as an example of daring, provocative movie making, this still proved effective.

Verdict:  3 /5

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High Tension


Viewed – 12 November 2013  Blu-ray

Director’s Cut

Amongst horror fans, this one movie has quite a reputation.  Firstly it spawned the surge of extreme horror coming out of France, that unleashed such cult favourites as À l’intérieur (Inside) and the infamous Martyrs.  It also kick started the career of director Alexandre Aja (Piranha 3D, The Hills Have Eyes).  This tells the tale of best friends Marie (Cécile De France) and Alex (Maïwenn) who travel to the countryside residence of Alex’s parents to stay for a holiday.  However, amongst the idyllic surroundings, there lurks a serial killer, who drives a rusty old van and is waiting for the right moment to strike.

high tension

This atmospheric and nerve-shredding slasher movie is France’s answer to all those American genre movies that copycat Friday The 13th and Halloween – albeit with a brutal unflinching intensity that’s not easy to recover from.  In America this was initially cut by several minutes to avoid the dreaded NC-17 certificate, but this unrated ‘directors cut’ restores all the blood and violence that the director intended.  Rejoice gore-hounds, their is much to get your hands dirty with here – graphic throat slitting, beheadings, stabbings and even a chainsaw!!  But I digress – above all else this movie is primarily about tension.  Violence is spaced out, infrequent, but when it comes – it packs a punch … made all the more effective by intense build-ups.  It’s clear why the movie’s title is High Tension (Haute Tension) when translated, as apposed to the less ideal Switchblade Romance as it’s known in the UK. 

Now let’s get to why this movie has also divided critics.  There is a twist, that is much talked about and is basically why this isn’t perfect … and for me ruins the overall effect.  All I can say to Alexandre Aja is … why?  My only explanation is that when this movie was released in 2003, there were many a movie that had a twist – it was the in thing, but the movie worked well enough without one.  It’s a real shame because this is brilliantly shot, with a superb use of sound and music (especially Muse’s New Born) that regardless of such a fault – still manages to be a cut above similar horrors.  After repeated viewings, I can’t forgive what direction Aja chose to take, which means it’s far from a masterpiece, but oh boy … will you remember it!

The Blu-ray from Lionsgate features the movie in eye-catching HD and although the muted colour pallet and the mostly night time setting prevent this from being a showpiece title – the movie is in great condition, and the 7.1 DTS French Soundtrack is superb and really effective.  Some controversy has been labelled at the dubbed French voices, but I found it barely noticeable.  There is also an English dubbed soundtrack (best avoided) if you just can’t do subtitles (shame on you!).  Add to this several featurettes exploring the making of, as well as an English language commentary by the director and producer (well worth a listen) and scene specific commentary also – that for fans this is an essential purchase.  Everyone else I recommend this if you’re after a really tense and brutal slasher that doesn’t hold back … but perhaps leave your brain on pause.

Verdict:

(the movie):  3.5 /5

(the Blu-ray):  4 /5

A Monster In Paris


Viewed – 01 September 2012  Blu-ray

I’ve not been that aware of animated movies originating from France.  Although I had heard some good stuff about them, this is my first dip in the French animation waters – and I must say I have come away pleasantly surprised.  Set in Paris in 1910, a trio of characters; a love-lorn theatre projectionist, a weeling-dealing inventor and a feisty cabaret singer are flung together when an accident at a laboratory transforms a flea into a giant monster.  However, when the cabaret singer discovers there’s more to the creature than people believe, a friendship blossoms.

Directed by Bibo Bergeron (Shark Tale), this is a bizarre story to say the least, but is done with panache and quite beautiful animation, showing off a european art style that sets it apart from the likes of Pixar.  The main protagonists are well written and interesting, and the monster bares more than a passing resemblance to The Phantom Of The Opera, which I’m guessing was a big influence.  For an animated movie there are a few musical numbers that really got my foot tapping, and with French model / singer Vanessa Paradis (Depp’s ex) supplying her voice to the cabaret singer – this was a fun, if undemanding experience.

Granted, the villain is utterly contrived, the story takes a bit of time to get going and it all seems to end about three times … but the action, comedy, music and visuals all came together well, which makes this one to check out regardless.

Verdict:  3 /5

Livid


Viewed – 17 August 2012  Blu-ray

When French directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury unleashed the brutal, intense ‘Inside’ on unsuspecting horror junkies back in 2007, a new breed of extreme, bold film makers had arrived, leaving this viewer exhausted and more than a little scarred.  So any following venture by this bold directing duo was going to be a must see – although what we have finally got, is a very different piece of work than you might have expected.

Lucie (Chloe Coulloud) is a young care worker who following a visit to an old house where an elderly woman lies in a coma, discovers that this woman used to be a famed dance instructor, and is very wealthy, with rumors of a hidden treasure.  That night Lucie decides to break into the house with her boyfriend and another man, with hopes of finding the treasure – only to discover that something evil is waiting for them.

Borrowing it seems from classic Dario Argento movie Suspiria, we have re-animated ballerinas, an evil vampire, a spooky house and lots of creepy music.  Bustillo & Maury’s movie is not short of ideas, and the first half certainly pulled me in with its freaky imagery and nail-biting atmosphere.  Yet the movie it becomes, despite potential, is a sort of mish-mash of styles, part haunted house, part vampire fest, part art house movie – and its a bizarre mix that never really gels.  Shame, as when things get going it is scary and disturbing (a dead ballerina on a podium music box … shudder), but along with unconvincing performances and a tone that shifts uncomfortably from realism to dream-like fantasy, this is a movie that doesn’t know what it wants to be.  On a technical basis, its a grand step up from Inside, which was often amateurish in its camera work and music … but with this material, and its scatter shot approach, the directors would be advised to work harder on their writing next time around.  Disappointing.

Verdict:  2.5 /5