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Horror Cinema’s New Frontier

Posted on July 20, 2009 by Jason Thorson

In recent years America’s horror cinema has been much like its cuisine: bland interpretations of foreign delights and mass produced fast food, serving the same burger over and over again.  The watered down and over-produced plethora of Americanized Japanese ghost movies has actually managed to render the originals as unwatchable clichés, while last year’s Quarantine was an inferior redo of the Spanish chiller, [REC].  And to add insult to injury these movies were essentially released simultaneously (thankfully, [REC] is now available on DVD). 

Any of you who may have read my past blathering know how I feel about remakes.   I truly consider the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre akin to a re-imagining of Casa Blanca starring Ashton Kutcher and Megan Fox.  But let me ask these questions anyway: Is it really necessary to remake A Nightmare on Elm St?  Or Child’s Play?  Or Hellraiser?  The list of remakes slated for the next year and a half is enough to make any self-respecting horror fan look elsewhere to get satiated.  The aforementioned movies lack nutrients and I don’t know about you, but I’m starving. 

The first place I suggest looking is France.  The land of both fries and fine dining is currently churning out brutal movies like they invented them (could it be?).  Over the last few years, French horror cinema has leapt to the forefront of the genre, offering several movies that are legitimately terrifying and downright difficult to get through – true horror.  The following movies are reminders of what this genre should aspire to:

Frontiers (Frontiere(s)) (2007)  This movie starts out in familiar territory:  Unsuspecting youngsters stumble into the clutches of a clan of backwoods psychopathic cannibals.  If you allow yourself to get past the overused concept, you’ll find that this movie gleefully drives over the cliff and plunges you into hell in a serious way.

 Inside (A L’Interieur) (2007)  Four months after Sarah loses her husband in an accident, she sits at home alone in the dead of winter awaiting a ride from her mother to the hospital where doctors will induce labor.  When a strange woman unexpectedly knocks on the door a sickening struggle ensues for Sarah’s unborn child.  This is one complex and disturbing little movie.  Leave the popcorn in the kitchen. 

Martyrs (2008)  This film is technically French Canadian, but it’s so deranged that it has to be included here.  On the surface, Martyrs is about violent retribution for child sex abuse, but it’s much, much more than that.  It descends into a psychological underworld where the lines that separate reality from the rest are blurred to say the least.  This movie became instantly infamous at Cannes last year as it caused several people to leave their seats in the theatre and it has been the topic of many an essay ever since, disturbing even the most hardened horror hounds.  And luckily, or perhaps unluckily, it’s available on DVD, unrated.

Jason Thorson – July 2009

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3 Responses to “Horror Cinema’s New Frontier”

  1. Billy Mays' Beard says:

    Hostel will forever be the most disturbing bad-ass horror movie of al time… PERIOD! Hot chicks and gore, what more do you need? All this underlying, artsy fartsy, make me think, bullshit needs to be left out of the horror genre. I’m just waiting for Ben Affleck to make his horror debut .. the horror genre will be re-written … awe hell yeah, Affleck 3:16 brother!

  2. ihecubus says:

    I could not agree more with Thorson. The once great American horror genre has become sadly anemic. I’m not just talking film here I’m also talking about print. In what reality did I ever consider that Steven King would be a columnist for Entertainment Weekly magazine?!? Was I in a car accident and am now living in a fevered coma reality?

    The last American horror filmed that I truly enjoyed was “Drag me to hell.” Other than that I have been getting my fix almost 100% outside the US. “Let the right one in” was 500 times better than “Twilight” could ever hope to be. “Dead Snow” though not truly horror was great fun and gore. (How can you go wrong with Nazi Zombies?) “Ponty Pool” was fresh and new and oddly compelling.

    I’m positive US horror will make a comeback. I just do not know when.

  3. Jason says:

    I agree. I liked Drag me to Hell a great deal. But it took a pro from a bygone era armed with an original story to please me. Honestly, I think the public is the culpable variable in the equation. American horror will improve once these worthless and poorly made remakes stop being lucrative. That will happen as soon as people stop paying to see them. In the meantime foreign horror and indie horror is where it’s at.

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