The French New Wave of Blood


It would be extremely hard for anyone to make any kind of argument against America inventing the slasher genre.  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (74), Friday the 13th (80), Halloween (78), and A Nightmare on Elm Street (84) blazed the trail for a new kind of low budget cinema that still hasn't shown any signs of stopping, slowing down, or being put to rest.  These films were the pioneers of slasher movies that often showcased small budgets, gory special effects, and some solid nudity to appease every male 18-30 within sight.  After countless imitators, coat tail riders, and uncreative people, the slasher genre rarely comes up with a new idea or concept and rather chooses to run the same formulas over and over again with different cardboard characters and different boring killers.  After Scream (96) hit the market and its 50 or so knock offs (Urban Legend, I Know What you Did Last Summer…) made the genre pretty dull again, there was a small down turn in excessive violence in movies (The Massacre at Columbine didn't help either).  Then out of nowhere in 2003, a little horror film called High Tension took everyone's pants, ripped them off, and threw them out the window of the moving van. Spoilers for High Tension and Inside ahead!

I'm calling the official term "The French New Wave of Blood".  You could see that and the idea that new blood (as in directors) are hitting the scene and showing audiences exactly what they can do. You could also look at the term by noticing the new influx of seriously f**ked up French horror movies hitting the shores of North America.  It's up to you.  Either way, the best and the most heavy hitting slasher movies in the last few years have all come from France (or with French directors)  including Frontier(s), Inside, High Tension, and Martyrs.  While there are still a handful of good horror movies coming from North America, France is right now the undisputed King of the Slasher, and probably of all horror movies.

During the study of film theory and analysis, it is imperative to look at a film as it pertains to the time that it was made.  The example that everyone always looks at first is the movie Godzilla.  When a creature gets some kind of mutating radiation poisoning, it turns into a giant and destroys the city.  That example alone is full of symbolism.  Science destroying humanity, the idea that tampering with nature is wrong and dangerous, and of course the nuclear bomb and the destruction it can cause.  When analyzing the French New Wave of Blood, I'm not exactly sure why political and sociological events have been taking place in the minds of French citizens.  I don't live in France, I have never been to France, and I don't know anyone from France so I'm not going to sit here and pretend that by reading a few articles on that I know what it's like to be a French citizen right now.   However it won't stop me from making some broad generalizations and comparisons.

Big Spoiler coming, last chance to turn away

Inside (dir: Alexandre Bustillo, Julien Maury) in and of itself was one of the most brutal and unrelenting films I have ever seen.  At the core, Inside is a revenge movie.  A woman (known in the script as La femme) has a miscarriage when our pregnant protagonist Sarah causes a car crash between their vehicles.  The doctors and everyone else told Sarah that there were no survivors (including Sarah's husband) and that her baby should be fine.  La femme's baby on the other hand wasn't so lucky.  So by the time la femme comes back and haunts, tortures, rips open her baby tummy, Sarah still has no idea what she had done to this person.  What Sarah actually did was injure and ruin the life of a complete stranger (this is how la femme sees it, blaming Sarah for the crash.  It is unclear in the film whose fault it is, but it is made to look like an accident).  So by taking a step back and looking at the situation, we have la femme, someone who hates Sarah with all of the fire in the world, but Sarah for most of the film has no idea what she has done to this person.  This is clearly a metaphor for the atrocities performed by French Colonialism.  

This exact theme was covered and satirized more effectively in Michael Haneke's Cache (remember, the director of my #1 horror movie of 2008? Funny Games?) but the fact remains that the similarities between Sarah and La femme make for a striking and albeit, "hidden" metaphor to the act of colonialism.  Mix that interesting metaphor with a barrage of extreme violence via retribution and an overabundance of gore and you have yourself one of the most disturbing films of the last 10 years.  But before Inside was made, there was only High Tension

In High Tension (dir: Alexandre Aja) our main character Marie is on a break from college at her friend Alexia's farmhouse when some yellow jumpsuit wearing thug comes out of nowhere and starts laying waste to people.  A lot of death and mutilation occur to everyone.  The Fight Club ending unfolds and we find out that Marie was the killer the whole time.  I'm no doctor, but that seems like another case of people seeing their actions unfolding, but completely neglecting (or unaware of) their participation in the events.  Now class, do we see a pattern evolving?

What makes these two films great was the fact that they are not just shocking horror film, but all around good films of any genre.  There are strong and complex characters, interesting and engaging plot lines, and violence used to supplement the main story, not run it.  The filmmakers in North America are way behind on this one.   What do we have to go against these films?  My Bloody Valentine? Hostel? Saw?  While those films are entertaining, they don't hold half as much weight as the recent French horror imports and will probably be forgotten in the near future.  But at least for now, we have the extreme violence coming out of France to tide us over till an original and engaging idea is born again.

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