JULY 1 — Even if one is a hardcore horror fan, the sheer number of English language horror flicks being produced every year, especially now that we’re living in the age of VOD, makes it very easy to forget that some of the best horror and genre cinema in the last few years have come from foreign countries in languages other than English.
Just take last year for example, which saw Turkish film Baskin easily beat out most of the competition to emerge as one of the best, if not the best, horror film of 2016.
Look further afield and we can find modern classics like the [REC] films, Martyrs, Inside, Troll Hunter, Dead Snow and Rumah Dara catching the eye of horror fans from all across the globe, despite being subtitled films.
This year looks to be no different too, because even if Get Out has clearly staked a strong claim to be the year’s standout horror film so far, it has a legit challenger in the form of a foreign language horror flick that I’ve been reading about since last year, when it made its festival bow at Cannes, but has only now been available to be seen commercially by the public.
So, foreign language or not, if horror’s your game, you need to check these beauties out now!
The hype surrounding this debut film by Julia Ducournau since its debut at the 2016 Cannes International Critics’ Week has been quite deafening, so much so that one begins to suspect whether a horror flick can be that good.
Even with that scepticism in mind, I was never less than enraptured and impressed when I finally got the chance to see the film last week.
An unlikely blend of Ginger Snaps and In My Skin, filtered through the cold, hard aesthetics of David Cronenberg, Ducournau’s veterinary school-set cannibal movie defies all the odds to make such an emotionally satisfying and highly involving viewing experience.
It tells the story of an innocent and barely legal wunderkind medical student (who also happens to be strictly vegetarian) joining her older sister to study at an unnamed French university and being subject to all sorts of appalling hazing rituals, which culminates in her being forced to eat raw rabbit kidneys as part of it.
Thus begins a coming of age tale in which the innocent virgin discovers an appetite for meat (which of course will include that of her own species as well) and her struggles to come to terms with it.
Ducournau’s confidence in finding symbols and metaphors to link cannibalism, the end of adolescence and a young woman’s sexual awakening is simply phenomenal, and the movie is all the richer for it.
Not only is it a big contender to snag the year’s ‘best horror movie’ title, Raw is also surely in the running for one of the year’s best pictures, period.
Talking about debut films, and debut films by women to boot, this debut film from Agnieszka Smoczynska is so singular, so loony and so unlike most other films out there that even the mere act of witnessing the whole film (without necessarily understanding what the hell’s going on) is in itself satisfying enough.
A tale of two beautiful mermaid sisters (one named Silver, the other Gold) who managed to convince a trio of musicians to let them join their entourage and perform onstage, The Lure is a musical, a romance and a horror flick all rolled into one with plenty of elements from Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid playing peek-a-boo with the audience as Smoczynska boldly weaves in a little bit of fable and folklore into the mix as well.
And did I mention that the mermaid sisters are cannibals as well?
The result, while a bit hard to digest at times due to the wild variations in tone that such a mish-mash of genres and influences might suggest, is never boring and are always a delight to behold.
Beautiful and grim, often both at the same time, the movie even manages to pull off its fairytale-like ending with genuine conviction and emotion.
It’s a one-of-a-kind watch that needs to be seen to be believed.
What We Become
While Raw and The Lure had the benefit of receiving buzz from their festival screenings at Cannes and Sundance respectively, this debut feature from Bo Mikkelsen played at all the usual major genre festivals like Fantastic Fest and Sitges last year, which means that the buzz surrounding it is practically non-existent except among the most diligent of genre fans.
While extremely well made, which is quite impressive when you consider the fact that it’s a feature film debut, Mikkelsen’s tale of a family under duress after being forced by the military to stay inside their own house due to a mysterious virus that’s been spreading around the neighbourhood has more than a whiff of familiarity to it.
In fact, it has the exact same premise as Viral, which also came out last year (though I’m pretty sure it’s just a coincidence as it’s a fairly standard and typical premise in low-budget apocalyptic horror movies) so it’s this feeling of déjà vu that really holds the film back, despite the well-sketched characters and the very solid acting that accompanies them.
If you can get past that though, then you’ll find that this is indeed quite a compelling horror tale.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.