Tag Archives: French horror movies

Nightmares in a Damaged Subgenre


by Daniel Baldwin

Martha (Eline Schumacher) and Felix (Benjamin Ramon) are the children of the legendary uncaught serial killer The Butcher of Mons. Each of these siblings contends with their family legacy in different ways. Martha works as a janitor amongst coworkers who treat her with contempt. Meanwhile, Felix has taken up his deceased patriarch’s monstrous profession: kidnapping, torturing, killing, and dismembering women.

Their home life is not great. Neither talks to the other much, with Felix insisting on living in near total seclusion from his sister, despite residing in the same home. Both have frequent hallucinations tailored to their individual fractured psyches as they live out their own private hells. That is, until things go south at Martha’s job. A violent encounter forces Martha and Felix together, sending them down an even more vicious and crazed path.

If any of that sounds cliched, it’s because it very much is. What we have here in Megalomaniac is a film homaging both violent ‘70s exploitation and ‘00s New French Extremity cinema. The latter in particular. The fingerprints of modern classics such MartyrsFrontier(s), and High Tension are on full display here, as well as doses of older influences like Lustig’s Maniac and Scavolini’s Nightmares. Brutal, broken killers take out their rage on unsuspecting women. We’ve seen it countless times before and we have seen it done better.

From a filmmaking standpoint, the craft on display here is sound. There are some striking images to be found, particularly during the film’s more hallucinatory sequences. Unfortunately, the tone and color palette are both so grim and dour that any enticement within those images is immediately sapped away. What we are left with is yet another in a long line of torture & kill flicks. If there’s any solace to be had here, it is in Eline Schumacher’s performance in the first two acts. While the writing for her character ultimately becomes a lump of cliches in the final stretch, Schumacher gives a nuanced take on the degradation of a tortured psyche for the first two thirds of the film.

If this is a subgenre that you’re fond of, you might find some engagement within. All others would be better off seeking out one of the other films I mentioned above. This is a fans-only affair.

Day 21: Martyrs

Martyrs (2008)

This is one you may need to prepare yourself for. Equal parts orphanage ghost story, suburban revenge fantasy, and medical experimentation horror flick, the whole of Martyrs is a brutal tale that is hard to watch, hard to turn away from, and worth the effort.

On the surface we follow Lucie’s (Mylene Jampanoi) descent into madness after escaping, as a child, from an abandoned warehouse where she’d been tortured by unknown hands.

Mining the heartbreaking loneliness of abandoned, damaged children, the film follows the profound relationship between Lucie and the only friend she will ever have, an undeterrably loving Anna (Morjana Alaoui).

Constantly subverting expectations, including those immediately felt for Anna’s love, writer/director Pascal Laugier makes a series of sharp turns, but he throws unforgettable images at you periodically, and your affection for the leads keeps you breathlessly engaged.

The third act offers the most abrupt change of course as well as tone, and the proceedings are tough to stomach, but well conceived and equally skillfully executed. It holds some gruesome imagery, and though the climax may not be pleasing, it certainly doesn’t disappoint.

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