Martyrs

All posts tagged Martyrs

Book Review: Films of the New French Extremity: Visceral Horror and National Identity

Published September 19, 2016 by rmpixie

Films of the New French Extremity: Visceral Horror and National Identity McFarland & Company Inc., 2016

 Films of the New French Extremity:  Visceral Horror and National Identity by Alexandra West ( McFarland & Company Inc., 2016)

Scholars and journalists Alexandra West and Andrea Subissati, hosts of the Faculty of Horror podcast, focus on in-depth analysis of the horror genre with a feminist approach that would sway the staunchest naysayer.  With their knowledge and background, it’s no surprise that West has recently written a book entitled Films of the New French Extremity: Visceral Horror and National Identity and after getting to meet the author herself, I had to buy a copy. Once I flipped past the first page I was hooked.

Films of the New French Extremity: Visceral Horror and National Identity came from a lecture West presented in 2014 for The Black Museum, a series put on by Subissati and Toronto-based writer and editor Paul Corupe where seasoned speakers and professionals in the horror genre present on various topics “from film theory to genre studies”.  It was here that her academic but extremely accessible book was born, and West successfully tracks the transition “from art-house films to full-fledged horror films” that came out of France from the early 90’s to the mid 2000’s.

The genre of New French Extremity is something that for a long time only a few could stomach or relate to. It is brutal, bloody and in your face, but West eases the reader in by giving you a solid base of French history and politics, along with the violence it spawned, in order to help you understand the environment these directors were coming from and the genesis of their films. In essence, French society tended to put a shiny veneer over the ills and wrongs of their actions, turning a blind eye to it all. These films attempt to peel back the shiny exterior of a country celebrated for its culture to show the societal warts that got bigger over centuries. While some of the filmmakers may have different approaches to their subject matter, be it murderous country folk, abused women, self-destructive characters or relentless serial killers, West brings them together to map their contributions to pushing societal, sexual and political boundaries, showing how their films soon became cinematic earmarks as well as social commentaries in the history of horror cinema and what is now considered a critical part of the genre.

Most horror critics and writers like myself have seen many of the films West writes about. I saw them because they were a) French and b) horror or taboo; things I love unconditionally, with Martyrs and High Tension sitting in prime positions on my shelves. They were terrifying films yet I was drawn to them. I couldn’t make connections other than they were all French and showed a darker side to the country I romanticized so much; dots on the same page without the lines to connect them. West is able to create threads of similarities with such coherence and logic, that any French extreme enthusiast feels a sense of almost relief as her analysis pinpoints characters, motivations and plotlines to make sense of the chaos you witness on-screen. All the chapters are riveting, but for those of you who search for some meaning from Martyrs as much as I have, West’s dissection and interpretation of the film comes very near to perfection.

Films of the New French Extremity: Visceral Horror and National Identity will resonate with those who love French Extreme cinema and those who have visited (and fallen in love with) France like myself; becoming lured by the romantic façade of an aloof yet beautiful country, only to scratch the surface revealing the grimy reality underneath.  Steeped in the history and culture of France, West’s book makes these admittedly horrifying films accessible and convey an understanding much like one would study a terrifying beast for meaning. It is truly a must read for any and all horror fans and academics out there looking for a comprehensive guide to the beginnings of French Extreme cinema.

This Wednesday September 21st, The Black Museum will hold a book launch for Films of the New French Extremity: Visceral Horror and National Identity in Toronto where West will do a reading. Check out the details here. Come out to support great Canadian talent!

 

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Horror on National Canadian Film Day

Published April 29, 2015 by rmpixie

Today is National Canadian Film Day, where we celebrate Canadian film and the talented people who create them.  Known for our legendary politeness, the letter “u” in some of our words, and hockey (not true for me, although I’d rather go to a hockey game than a basketball game any day-gasp!!), we are also pretty handy with a moving picture camera.

Some of those moving pictures involve gallons of blood and gore.  Canadian horror has a strong foothold in Movieland, with a lot of them becoming classics, and I am proud to say that there are way too many to include here, so I will focus on a few of my favourites (see, there’s that pesky “u”).

 

One of my favourite directors is David Cronenberg.  He has the best recipe for weirdness and mood, and coupled with his talent and incredible style, creates horror that will make you cringe and marvel at the grotesque beauty he shows you.  It’s hard to choose, but the film that creeps me out every time is Dead Ringers.  This twisted story of twin gynecologists Elliot and Beverly Mantle and their deception of a troubled woman makes me shiver.  The bizarre instruments twin Beverly creates are a nightmare for any woman that’s been laid out and vulnerable in a doctor’s stirrups.

 

 

 

 

Plain and simple, Martyrs will scar you forever.  This revenge film with a twist leaves you reeling as you watch Lucie and Anna struggle for the truth, and when they do, it leads to gruesome and deadly results.

 

 

 

 

Silent Retreat has been on the Canadian horror radar since it’s premiere at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival in 2013.  One of the more unique films out there, it follows Janey as she is forced to stay at a retreat for wayward girls that becomes truly sinister.

 

 

Director Tricia Lee is hard at work on her next feature, One Drop, expected to be released in late 2016.  It is another female driven horror, where a single mother wakes up to find herself pregnant, surrounded by dead bodies and “something not-quite-human” in the basement of a medical facility.  Check out the indigogo campaign to contribute to what sounds like another unique and thrilling Canadian horror story.

 

 

 

Of Unknown Origin is straight up cheesy horror, but Peter Weller does a great job trying to kick a giant rat’s ass.  Definitely a late night treasure.

 

 

 

 

Of course, I have to mention the Soska Twins.  Jen and Sylvia have become horror darlings because they create gory films like Dead Hooker in a Trunk that become fan favourites, and mine is probably American Mary.  Stylish and dark, this revenge flick follows a medical student who provides back room body modification for extra money.  After a horrible violation, she creates her own unique way of punishing those that cross her.

 

 

 

 

For pure weirdness and the special effects, check out Thanatomorphose.  It is body horror at its best (or worst, you’ll have to decide), and it is truly a must see, but don’t eat dinner while watching.

 

 

 

Check out Ejecta for a cool alien/conspiracy/found footage movie.  Written by Canadian author Tony Burgess, who also wrote and (acted in) Hellmouth, Septic Man, and Pontypool, it is dark, jarring and has some really mean aliens.

 

 

 

 

Just recently I went to a screening of Late Night Double Feature.  For a low-budget film, it is full of fun and schlock and most importantly, homegrown!

 

 

 

Lastly, a new film in production called The Void looks pretty amazing.  The creators Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie are striving for great practical effects, and the trailer is really eerie with all kinds of gory goodness!  Check out their indiegogo campaign for more info and a chance to contribute.

 

 

 

Let me know what some of your favourite Canadian horror films are!

 

 

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