Delicious Dish

Raw

by Hope Madden

Much has been made of barf bags and fainting during screenings of writer/director Julia Ducournau’s feature debut, Raw.

A festival favorite, the film has been plagued by rumors of aggressive audience nausea, let’s say, as well as ambulance calls. Several theaters recently have offered vomit bags with ticket purchases.

Don’t let that cloud your expectations. Raw is no Hostel, no Human Centipede.

What you’ll find instead of in-your-face viscera and nihilistic corporeal abuse is a thoughtful coming of age tale.

And meat.

Justine (Garance Marillier, impressive) is off to join her older sister (Ella Rumpf) at veterinary school – the very same school where their parents met. Justine may be a bit sheltered, a bit prudish to settle in immediately, but surely with her sister’s help, she’ll be fine.

The film often felt to me like a cross between Trouble Every Day and Anatomy. The latter, a German film from 2000, follows a prudish med student dealing with carnage and peer pressure. In the former, France’s Claire Denis directs a troubling parable combining sexual desire and cannibalism.

Ducournau has her cagey way with the same themes that populate any coming-of-age story – pressure to conform, peer pressure generally, societal order and sexual hysteria. Here all take on a sly, macabre humor that’s both refreshing and unsettling.

A vegetarian from a meat-free family, Justine objects to the freshman hazing ritual of eating a piece of raw meat. But once she submits to peer pressure and tastes that taboo, her appetite is awakened and it will take more and more dangerous, self-destructive acts to indulge her blood lust.

In a very obvious way, Raw is a metaphor for what can and often does happen to a sheltered girl when she leaves home for college. But as Ducournau looks at those excesses committed on the cusp of adulthood, she creates opportunities to explore and comment on so many upsetting realities, and does so with absolute fidelity to her core metaphor.

She immediately joins the ranks of Jennifer Kent (Babadook) and Ana Lily Amirpour (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night) – all recent, first time horror filmmakers whose premier features predict boundless talent.

Verdict-4-0-Stars

Hitchhiker’s Guide to France

Road Games

by Hope Madden

Writer/director Abner Pastoll takes his cues from existing genre efforts, but the tale he weaves with Road Games is more than fresh and intriguing enough to stand on its own.

The film opens with unnervingly effective sound editing, as we witness the disposal of a body, pulled from a car trunk on its way in pieces to the overgrown countryside. Cut to Jack (Andrew Simpson) standing roadside, his thumb proudly announcing his purpose. He stands directly in front of a roadway sign warning in French: Danger! Do not pick up hitchhikers.

We’ll soon realize that Jack doesn’t speak French.

Pastoll continually uses this type of clever shorthand to utilize language barriers and heighten Jack’s helplessness – a state Jack himself is blissfully unaware of.

Unsurprisingly, Jack’s having no luck on the road, but soon he comes to the aid of a young woman – a fellow traveler – whose ride has become belligerent. Veronique (Josephine de la Baum) and Jack make the most of the time they have to kill on the sun dappled countryside until a kindly if odd man offers both a ride to his home for the night, with the promise of a lift to the ferry in the morning. Weird things get weirder in a film with an equal volume of red herrings and road kill.

Pastoll develops atmospheric dread reminiscent of that 1970 doomed road trip through the French countryside, And Soon the Darkness. In both films, there’s plenty you don’t know, language barriers heighten tensions, and pastoral isolation amplifies the danger.

But Pastoll inverses the narrative. And Soon the Darkness asked you to participate in the unraveling of a mystery. In Road Games, you can’t quite figure out what the mystery is.

The film has its share of problems. It too often feels contrived, it relies a bit heavily on stock genre images for shock value, and its slow pace sometimes feels leaden rather than languid. But in the end, the film succeeds due to Pastoll’s slyly layered writing combined with committed, idiosyncratic performances – especially from genre favorite Barbara Crampton and French character actor Federic Pierrot, as the couple who puts up the travelers for the night.

<Verdict-3-0-Stars

Fright Club Live: Inside

Inside (2007)

Holy shit. Inside is not for the squeamish.

Beatrice Dalle’s insidious performance is hard to shake. Fearless, predatory, pitiless and able to take an enormous amount of abuse, her nameless character stalks a very, very pregnant Sarah (Alysson Paradis). Sarah lost her husband in a car crash some months back, and now, on the eve of Christmas, she sits, enormous, uncomfortable, and melancholy about the whole business. She’s grown cynical and despondent, more depressed than excited about giving birth in the morning.

Alexandre Bustillo’s film seeks to change her mind, make her want that baby. Because Dalle’s lurking menace certainly wants it. Her black clad silhouette is in the back yard, smoking and stalking – and she has seriously bad plans in mind.

Bustillo and directing partner Julien Maury swing the film from intelligent white collar angst to goretastic bloodfest with ease. The sadistic humor Dalle brings to the performance adds chills, and Paradis’s realistic, handicapping size makes her vulnerability palpable.

The film goes wildly out of control, and by the third act, things are irredeemably out of hand. And yet, this is a brilliant effort, a study in tension wherein one woman will do whatever it takes, with whatever utensils are available, to get at the baby still firmly inside another woman’s body.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOk5tiAkEdA

Fright Club: Best in French Horror

French horror films are not for the squeamish. In particular, the French languge output in the first decade of this century boasted some of the most extreme and well-crafted horror available anywhere. Films like Sheitan, Trouble Every Day, Frontiers, High Tension and many others mark an era that may never be bettered. In celebration of this week’s live Fright Club, we walk through some of the best in best French language horror films.

Inside (2007)

Holy shit. Sarah lost her husband in a car crash some months back, and now, on the eve of Christmas, she sits, enormous, uncomfortable, and melancholy about the whole business. Were this an American film, the tale may end shortly after Sarah’s Christmas Eve  peril makes the expectant mom realize just how much she loves, wants, and seeks to protect her unborn baby. But French horror films are different. This is study in tension wherein one woman (the incomparable Beatrice Dalle) will do whatever it takes, with whatever utensils are available, to get at the baby still firmly inside another woman’s body.

Them (Ils) (2006)

Brisk, effective and terrifying, Them is among the most impressive horror flicks to rely on the savagery of adolescent boredom as its central conceit. Writers/directors/Frenchmen David Moreau and Xavier Palud offer a lean, unapologetic, tightly conceived thriller that never lets up. Creepy noises, hooded figures, sadistic children and the chaos that entails – Them sets up a fresh and mean cat and mouse game that pulls you in immediately and leaves you unsettled.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9Djvi1-k0s

Irreversible (2002)

Gaspar Noe is perhaps the most notorious French filmmaker working in the genre, and Irreversible is his most notorious effort. Filmed in reverse chronological order and featuring two famously brutal sequences, Noe succeeds in both punishing his viewers and reminding them of life’s simple beauty. There’s no denying the intelligence of the script, the aptitude of the director, or the absolute brilliance of Monica Bellucci in an incredibly demanding role.

Martyrs (2008)

This import plays like three separate films: orphanage ghost story, suburban revenge fantasy, and medical experimentation horror. The first 2 fit together better than the last, but the whole is a brutal tale that is hard to watch, hard to turn away from, and worth the effort.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jbct9qWBSME

Calvaire (The Ordeal) (2004)

A paranoid fantasy about the link between progress and emasculation, The Ordeal sees a timid singer stuck in the wilds of Belgium after his van breaks down. With the darkest imaginable humor, the film looks like what might have happened had David Lynch directed Deliverence in French. As Marc (a pitch perfect Laurent Lucas) awaits aid, he begins to recognize the hell he’s stumbled into. Unfortunately for Marc, salvation’s even worse. The whole film boasts an uneasy, “What next?” quality. It also provides a European image of a terror that’s plagued American filmmakers for generations: the more we embrace progress, the further we get from that primal hunter/gatherer who knew how to survive. This film is a profoundly uncomfortable, deeply disturbing, unsettlingly humorous freakshow that must be seen to be believed.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgB9JTdrXhg

FC 02-Best in French Horror Films

Join us the 4th Saturday of every month for Fright Club Live, as we unspool a horror gem at Drexel Theater. Join the club!

August Fright Club: An Ohio Premier!

Join us Friday, August 22nd for the next installment of Fright Club – now at 9:00 pm! The earlier start time should allow us to discuss the film after the screening. Prizes and fun before start time, too!

This month we proudly present the Ohio premier of Calvaire (The Ordeal), a bizarre and terrifying trip into madness!

Join us!

Your Scary-Movie-a-Day Guide to October. Day 16: Inside

Inside (2007)

Holy shit. Inside is not for the squeamish.

Beatrice Dalle’s insidious performance is hard to shake. Fearless, predatory, pitiless and able to take an enormous amount of abuse, her nameless character stalks a very, very pregnant Sarah (Alysson Paradis). Sarah lost her husband in a car crash some months back, and now, on the eve of Christmas, she sits, enormous, uncomfortable, and melancholy about the whole business. She’s grown cynical and despondent, more depressed than excited about giving birth in the morning.

Alexandre Bustillo’s film seeks to change her mind, make her want that baby. Because Dalle’s lurking menace certainly wants it. Her black clad silhouette is in the back yard, smoking and stalking – and she has seriously bad plans in mind.

Bustillo and directing partner Julien Maury swing the film from intelligent white collar angst to goretastic bloodfest with ease. The sadistic humor Dalle brings to the performance adds chills, and Paradis’s realistic, handicapping size makes her vulnerability palpable.

The film goes wildly out of control, and by the third act, things are irredeemably out of hand. And yet, this is a 2/3 brilliant effort, a study in tension wherein one woman will do whatever it takes, with whatever utensils are available, to get at the baby still firmly inside another woman’s body.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOk5tiAkEdA