HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: AMONG THE LIVING (2014)

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AMONG THE LIVING (Aux yeux des vivants) (2014)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

French horror finds three troublesome youths Victor, Tom and Dan (Théo Fernandez, Zacharie Chasseriaud and Damien Ferdel) playing hooky from school and sneaking onto an abandoned movie lot. There they find a woman bound and gagged in an abandoned car who is sequestered away before they can decide what to do. The police don’t believe them due to their reputations, but the man responsible, deranged war veteran Issac (Francis Renaud) isn’t taking any chances and sends his deformed son Klarence (Fabien Jegoudez) to kill the three boys and their families. 

Flick is written and directed by Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo, the duo the brought us Inside, Livide and the recent Leatherface. It combines a youth coming of age story with a Texas Chainsaw Massacre slant as these deranged individuals plan to kidnap women to expand their family…which is introduced to us in the gruesome opening…and murder any witnesses. There is some vicious and brutal violence and some very disturbing moments and the makers aren’t afraid to do more than just put the three boys in harm’s way. The deranged Issac is a war veteran whose been effected by chemical warfare and thus it has led to Klarence being born deformed and being a bit unhinged himself. That being said, this really isn’t anything new. Changing the location from an abandoned slaughter house to an abandoned movie studio isn’t much of a change and innocents being stalked and murdered by deranged and deformed individuals has been a horror standard for decades. It’s effectively done and thus is still disturbing and the cast all play their parts well. It’s an effective thriller even though it combines story elements that have been told time and time again.

In conclusion this is a brutal thriller, though nothing innovative or new. It uses a combination of popular movie tropes and adds some very graphic violence and isn’t afraid to unleash that violence on any of the cast members. It’s easy to see why the duo was chosen for the prequel Leatherface, though that was nothing new as well. An effective if not derivative thriller.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) naughty lads who should have played somewhere else.

 

 

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: LIVIDE (2011)

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LIVIDE (2011)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

French horror tells the story of a young woman named Lucie (Chloé Coulloud) who is studying to be a home care nurse. On her first day, she learns that one of her future patients, a comatose old woman named Mrs. Jessel (Marie-Claude Pietragalla), is rumored to have some kind of hidden treasure in her creepy old house. Lucie tells her boyfriend William (Félix Moati), who sees possible riches as a way out of their small coastal fishing village. They break into the house one night, along with their friend Ben (Jérémy Kapone), but soon find themselves locked in and that the house and it’s occupant have a nightmarish secret.

Flick is written and directed by Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo, the French duo who brought us the bonkers chiller Inside and the recent Leatherface. It starts out as a sort of haunted house thriller, but then evolves into something else as we find out what really inhabits the Jessel home. There are some very spooky visuals as the duo use the creepy old house setting very well. There is also some of their trademarked graphic violence and the film has an unsettling atmosphere, especially once our three protagonists get inside the house. The flick is held back by a narrative that doesn’t always make sense, but does weave in some dark fairy tale elements, especially in the last act. The film also has moments that evoke Guillermo del Toro’s Cronos and even if we are scratching our heads a bit by the time the credits roll, there was enough to chill and entertain and maybe gross us out a little bit.

The cast are good with lead Chloé Coulloud making a strong heroine in student nurse turned reluctant thief, Lucie. She seems like a sweet girl and has issues of her own that motivate her and even affect her actions when she meets the occupants of the old house. Félix Moati is fine as her fisherman boyfriend, who dreams of a better life. He’s not an outright bad guy, just someone who is willing to cross lines to get out of his small town. Jérémy Kapone is also solid as Ben, a friend of the couple and another reluctant participant in the events. He is more likable than William. Marie-Claude Pietragalla is suitably creepy as Mrs. Jessel in both flashbacks to her days as a cruel dance instructor and to the old woman she is now. Rounding out is Catherine Jacob who is the home care specialist with a secret who is training Lucie and Chloé Marcq as Jessel’s daughter, who we are told is long gone and is seen in flashbacks when we start to get some backstory.

After the shocking Inside, Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo followed it up with a spooky flick that has some chilling moments, but also suffers from being a bit too ambiguous at times. It may leave us with a quite a few questions once it’s all over, but has enough chills and unsettling sequences to entertain us well enough. Not as memorable as Inside, but shows the French duo have some interesting ideas, some unique twists on familiar tropes and a solid visual style to accompany the chills and gore.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 rusty scissors.

 

 

 

 

WARNING!: the Livide trailer gives away some substantial spoilers!

 

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BARE BONES: RAW (2017)

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RAW (2017)

French horror has vegetarian Justine (Garance Marillier) following her big sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf) to veterinary school. Once there, “rookie” Justine is forced to eat raw rabbit kidney by Alexia during part of a bloody initiation. After having what appears to be an allergic reaction, Justine starts to have an intense craving for meat…raw meat…and not just from animals.

Julia Ducournau directs this very disturbing and stylish thriller from her own script. The film appears to be a metaphor for growing up and the loss of innocence as virginal Justine craves “the flesh”, especially of her handsome gay roommate Adrien (Rabah Naït Oufella). Once she gets it and is exposed to the party lifestyle of grad school, her hunger grows in more ways than one. There are some very unsettling scenes during the course of the film and some gruesome ones that will make you cringe as Ducournau takes us on Justine’s journey from virginal vegetarian to potential cannibal, under the guidance of her older sister. And be warned, some of these scenes will stick with you for a while. It is all portrayed very well by lead Garance Marillier and the rest of the cast and we do get a chilling explanation before the credits role. A very unnerving and well made French horror from Julia Ducournau. Highly recommended for those who like stuff offbeat and very disturbing.

-MonsterZero NJ

three and one half stars rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE PACK aka LA MEUTE (2010)

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THE PACK aka LA MEUTE (2010)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

French horror The Pack (La Meute) proves that even in France, picking up a hitchhiker in a backwoods area can only lead to trouble. Young, pretty Charlotte (Émilie Dequenne of Brotherhood of the Wolf) is driving through a very rural area of the French countryside when she picks up hitchhiker, Max (Benjamin Biolay), to give herself some company after being accosted by a group of sleazy bikers. While she’s asleep, Max stops at a secluded truck stop run by a woman named La Spack (Yolande Moreau). It’s a strange little place and after another encounter with the biker gang, Max disappears. Charlotte goes looking for him and finds that not only is the young hitchhiker La Spack’s son, but she’s been set-up to be their prisoner…and what the duo have in store for her is beyond her wildest nightmares. The Pack needs to be fed and Charlotte might be their next meal.

Written and directed by Franck Richard, The Pack is a gruesome, disturbing and sometimes very effective, if not familiar, little horror. It’s got a cool visual style, some well-orchestrated gore and effectively creepy title creatures. Sure, we have seen these elements before and the basic story of a traveler getting involved in some backwoods horror is quite common, but Richard does present it fairly well. Our creatures are not directly explained, nor is La Spack’s need to feed them, though it is implied that something strange occurred in a mine where her sons were killed….or were they transformed into something unearthly? It’s not spelled out and that may frustrate some, but there is enough there for one to come to their own conclusions and at the very least, feeding them keeps them away from her and her son. There is also a sub-plot about a retired cop (Philippe Nahon) poking his nose around La Spack’s truck stop in relation to the missing Charlotte, but we all know how story threads like that get wound up. This is not a great or original flick, nor is it really scary or overly suspenseful, but it does work on a basic level and the atmosphere is aided by an effective score by Chris Spencer and Ari Benjamin Meyers and there is some moody cinematography by Laurent Barès. Not everything works…like the biker gang showing up conveniently three times, or that no one has noticed the disappearances in the area…or the monsters, for that matter…but it is an entertaining flick from the French horror renaissance of the first decade of the 2000s.

The cast are serviceable. Émilie Dequenne makes for a strong-willed and defiant heroine. Her tattooed, leather jacket wearing Charlotte is a far cry from the proper noble woman she played in Brotherhood of the Wolf. She’s a fighter and an asskicker here and there are hints that she is running away from an old life/relationship and trying to start anew. Moreau is effective as the sort of cross between Leatherface and the Sawyer family patriarch from Chainsaw Massacre. Her motives aren’t 100% clear as to her killing innocents to feed The Pack, but there is something a bit maternal about it and we wonder if her sons weren’t killed, but the deaths are a cover-up for some sort of transformation from miner to monster. That being the case, one wonders why it was covered up, yet nothing done about the monster population in the area. Back to the cast, Biolay is fine as the soft spoken Max, who takes a liking to he and his mom’s latest victim and Nahon makes for a good ex-cop who can’t let old habits drop. A decent cast.

The Pack isn’t a great movie from a country that has made some surprisingly good horrors during the last decade or so. The story elements are very familiar and there are certain plot ambiguities concerning our title creatures. Are they monsters unleashed from the bowls of the earth, or men transformed by something they unearthed? Who knows? It is an effective little flick, though and definitely passes the bloody time for a lazy horror filled Saturday night on the couch.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 Pack members.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: BABY BLOOD (1990)

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BABY BLOOD (1990)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

This blood-drenched French horror is one of those flicks that, when it’s over, you just stare at the ending credits, only occasionally blinking, trying to decide what the hell you just saw…and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Oddball flick tells the story of a parasite-like creature that has been around from the beginning of time, waiting for a chance to find a human female host and be born into a more substantial form. We know this because the creature narrates the opening scene telling us as much. It finds it’s away through an animal host to voluptuous but abused circus performer Bianca (Emmanuelle Escourrou) and climbs inside her to gestate. The creature needs human blood to grow, however and takes control of the young woman, sending her out into the world…well, France…to find and slaughter victims for their blood…and a slaughtering the reluctant Bianca does go.

Directed by Alain Robak and co-written by he and Serge Cukier, this is a loopy horror that is delightfully over-the-top with it’s gore and quite generous with nudity from the buxom Miss Escourrou. The film can be disturbingly gruesome one moment, as Bianca is beheading a victim brutally and amusingly goofy the next, as she has outright discussions/arguments with her parasitic guest…who, obviously, talks. It’s actually kinda entertaining in it’s audacity to be presenting all this very seriously as we witness a young woman turned into a savage murderess while having intense discussions with the larva-like creature that has taken over her body. It’s like a disturbing Odd Couple with Manic level gore scenes. Robak is so confident with his creation that he even has the audacity to have a poster for Blood Baby 2 appear in one of the scenes as if you could possibly follow something like this up with a sequel…which actually did happen 18 years later, so what do I know. This is definitely midnight movie material and what makes it as unnerving as it is unintentionally funny, is that the gore is really well-rendered and some of the kills are downright brutal. The last act is worth the watch alone for it’s blood-soaked birth in the back of an ambulance and the newly born creature’s attack on a bus filled with horny soccer players…yup, you read that right. It’s quite a hoot.

Basically, this is a one woman show and Emmanuelle Escourrou is quite the trooper in terms of what she is asked to perform. Bianca…as she is referred to in the subtitles, though the credits list her as “Yanka”…gets drenched in blood quite often, and sometimes while wearing little or no clothes. Escourrou handles the carnage…and prolonged nudity…quite well, just as she plays her conversations with the parasitic tenant in her womb with equal seriousness. The actress makes an impression considering just how ridiculous it all is and how seriously she takes her part.

I had a fun time with this bizarre French horror. From it’s creature talking from the womb, to the frequent scenes that erupt into blood baths, this is an entertaining midnight movie that has the balls to take itself very seriously. It’s a ‘so bad it’s good’ fun time and definitely a treat for those who like gore films, foreign horror and cult classics. Worth a look for those who like a little lunacy with their entrails. Spawned a sequel almost 20 years later titled Lady Blood that returned Emmanuelle Escourrou to her role.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 Biancas…or Yankas depending on subtitles or credits.

baby blood rating

 

 

 

 

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