In the early 2000s French extremity made a comeback and and took it to the, well… extreme. A good dollop of blood, pain and torture mixed with the dulcet French accent took the world by storm. Nothing was hotter in the horror film industry at the time and most directors were quickly shipped off to Hollywood for questionable studio movies. Horror, more than any other genre, lends its self to those who have trouble with subtitles by displaying most of its narrative through hellish visuals.
Here’s our favourites…
High Tension / Haute Tension directed by Alexandre Aja
A young Frenchwoman travels out to the country to visit her family and brings along her friend Marie. Soon after they get settled in the secluded home, Alex's parents are brutally attacked by a psychotic truck driver, who proceeds to stalk the two women as well. When the killer kidnaps Alex in his truck, Marie hides in the back to try and rescue her, but the bloodshed is far from over.
Alexandre Aja went on to direct the well made remake of the The Hills have Eyes.
Martyrs directed by Pascal Laugier
Brutal. Philosophical. Haunting. You'll be thinking about this one for week, months and years after it finishes. Be prepared.
On his film Pascal Laugier said, “My film is very clear about what it says about human pain and human suffering. [...] The film is only really about the nature and the meaning of human suffering. I mean, the pain we all feel on an everyday basis - in a symbolic way. The film doesn't talk about torture - it talks about the pain"
Laugier went to Hollywood and directed Jessica Biel in, the nothing to do with Phantasm horror film, The Tall Man which had mixed reviews.
Inside directed by Julien Maury & Alexandre Bustillo
A scissor-wielding psychopath hunts a pregnant widow on Christmas Eve... It doesn't take a genius to know what she wants and how she is gonna do it but the intensity of the film is something to behold.
Julien Maury & Alexandre Bustillo continued making films in France with Lived and Among the Living before getting the call to direct the rather tepid TCM instalment Leatherface.
Them directed by David Moreau & Xavier Palud
Lucas and Clementine live in an isolated house near Bucharest. On one rainy night in their home, the telephone rings, again and again but that's the easiest thing they'll deal with on a night from hell. P.S don't look through key holes. Ever.
David Moreau & Xavier Palud signed up for the remake of The Eye before returning to France to direct The Blind Man. They've definitely got a thing for eyes.
Frontier(s) directed by Xavier Gens
A thief (Karina Testa) and her gang encounter a family of sadistic neo-Nazis. CHAOS ensues. A smart, action packed film delivers on all fronts.
Xavier Gens, oddly, popped up next as the director of video game spinoff Hitman, which had all the violence but none of the class of Frontier(s). Gens went on to direct a number of poor direct to video (in a world where good and bad films are released on streaming platforms, what do we call bad films?) culminating in a French version of The Hangover. He has since redeemed himself working on the brilliant Gangs of London series.