Archive for French Horror

Inside (2007) Review

Posted in Inside with tags , on December 5, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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INSIDE

***** Out of 5

Release Date- June 13th, 2007 (France)

Running Time- 83-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Alexandre Bustillo

Director- Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury

Starring- Alysson Paradis, Beatrice Dalle

After the success of Alexandre Aja’s High Tension the door was kicked wide open for French horror and when Inside was released it was getting rave reviews and some hailed it as an instant classic. Going into the movie I wasn’t quite sure what to expect since some of these films that receive such praise I often walk away wondering what was so great about that? But the rave reviews for Inside was right on the money and this in my opinion was the best film of the decade it would be in the top 5 in any decade for that matter.

Horror is a genre that will never fade and while every so often there might be times when the genre can be weak the reason horror has remained so popular is due to the fact there are so many directions to go; you have horror flicks that are serious, some that mix comedy, drama and some simply meant to be fun and not be taken seriously, but some people think horror is only meant to be fun and anything too serious isn’t any good. While I enjoy light horror flicks, but horror is meant to bring fear and Inside succeeds on all levels. This is the kind of movie that has no boundaries and there is no line the filmmakers won’t cross. Wes Craven with Last House on the Left, Meir Zarchi with I Spit On Your Grave and Ruggero Deodato with Cannibal Holocaust were filmmakers not afraid to cross that line and make a movie that would shock and disturb and could even borderline on bad taste maybe and while Inside is a different kind of movie, but like those filmmakers, Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury the directors of Inside also make a movie that shocks and disturbs and they don’t walk the line the jump right over it!

Inside is extremely graphic and bloody, but unlike many films that use that as a gimmick to make up for bad filmmaking, Bustillo & Maury use violence and gore to further create tension and scare the audience; despite what many have said about the violence in Inside this isn’t the kind of movie that has violence from opening to closing, but it’s spread out nicely and when the violence does happen its raw and brutal and will leave you numb and like I said the violence and gore isn’t used as a gimmick, but rather add to the suspense and tension.

The screenplay by Alexandre Bustillo was excellent and well plotted, but this isn’t the kind of flick that really needs to develop the characters. That’s not to say the characters aren’t any good, but the way the movie was constructed the characters work perfectly in regards to what is happening. Sarah (Paradis) is pregnant and her husband is killed in a car accident, which ends up leaving her a little bitter and angry and she was very sympathetic and even though we never get to see what her life was like before there are a few nice touches in the script that gives us some insight. There really isn’t anything about the screenplay that stands out, but it’s just tightly written and well executed.

Inside was the directorial debut for Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury and in my opinion this is one of the great feature film debuts. From the very opening Bustillo & Maury set an eerie tone with a real sense of dread; Inside starts off a bit slow, but it’s never boring as the lead character Sarah is tragic enough to find interesting and the uneasy tone set by Bustillo & Maury really keep the pace moving along until the plot really gets going. Once the suspense starts it never lets up and Bustillo & Maury craft a movie that will have the viewer on the edge of their seat and they craft scenes that shock, scare and disturb and will remain with the viewer long after watching it; these shocking scenes will be burnt into your heard and it’s quite hard to shake.

What makes Inside work so well is you never know what’s gonna happen next due to some truly horrific scenes and unlike many filmmakers, Bustillo & Maury aren’t afraid to cross that line, which is something rarely done these days. It’s like you’re in the hands of madmen and nothing is off limits and just when you think they won’t go there they do and it’s shocking, but it’s not shock value for the sake of it and that makes the images even stronger and add to the fact Sarah is pregnant it raises the stakes even more and again Bustillo & Maury aren’t afraid to go one step further and some might even find the movie offensive due to the graphic acts of violence against a pregnant woman, but this is what horror is all about; Bustillo & Maury don’t make a movie that holds back, they make a movie that is shockingly violent and brutal and hands down this is one of the greats in the horror genre. Inside is one of the scariest movie I have ever seen and one of the most suspense and tension filled as well.

Like how I mentioned Craven, Zarchi and Deodato these were filmmakers that really pushed the limits with their films I brought up and in this day and age nobody has the nerve to make a movie like that since from a marketing standpoint it might be too much for most viewers who have grown so accustomed to silly slasher flicks and Hollywood horror. Most horror filmmakers play it safe and therefore even if the movie is good it’s too predictable, but the fact Bustillo and Maury are willing to push the limits the viewer has no idea what will happen next, which makes Inside such a breath of fresh air in the horror genre and if only more filmmakers would follow their lead the horror genre would be a truly great place.

The performances from the two leads Alysson Paradis Beatrice Dalle are flat out brilliant; Sarah as I stated earlier is very sympathetic and seeing what she goes through in the movie and the violence against her is cringe worthy and Paradis pulls it off perfectly. For some reason whenever a horror film has a female villain a lot of people complain they aren’t scary enough. Beatrice Dalle as La Femme is one of the scariest villains to ever appear in a horror film and anybody who says women cannot be scary must not have seen Inside; Dalle is downright terrifying and she’s as scary as any male villain and in some ways maybe even scarier; she was so sadistic she might even make Krug (Last House on the Left) piss his pants.

Inside is a film that isn’t afraid to push the limits and some of the scenes in this movie will have the viewer in pure shock and if you think you know how the movie will end odds are you’ll be wrong and the final few minutes are some of the most shocking scenes I have ever seen. Inside for me easily rates as one of the all-time greats and there are very few movies that truly scared me, but Inside is no doubt one of the few that did.

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Grapes of Death (1978) Review

Posted in Grapes of Death with tags , , on March 8, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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GRAPES OF DEATH

**** Out of 5

Tagline- When the Wine Flows, the Terror Begins

Release Date- July 5th, 1978

Running Time- 90-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Christian Meunier & Jean Rollin

Director- Jean Rollin

Starring- Marie-George Pascal, Felix Marten, Serge Marquand, Mirella Rancelot, Brigitte Lahaye

1978 was truly a landmark year in the horror genre, which saw the release of John Carpenter’s Halloween, the remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, which in my opinion are three of the greatest genre films of all time. Also in 1978 I Spit on Your Grave and Toolbox Murders were released and while those two films aren’t held in as high regard (for good reason) both films though I still find to be very good. That brings us to the Grapes of Death also released in 1978 and while I’ve known of the films of Jean Rollin for many years I never sought out his work and this is only the 4th film I have seen by him. The first 3 films I saw were Zombie Lake, which was horrible, but yet fun well sort of. Schoolgirl Hitchhikers, which by no means great, but a fun watch and the Living Dead Girl, which was another fun movie, but not great. But the Grapes of Death was an awesome movie and I can honestly say I never expected to love this film, but I did it truly was an excellent chiller.

The Grapes of Death is often labeled a zombie film, but think more along the lines of George Romero’s the Crazies as the characters are infected and not the living dead. However the only real problem I have with the film is its a little inconsistent. Some of the infected actually feel bad about killing people, but cannot help themselves whereas others are totally insane by the infection and have no grasp of right or wrong and others have sort of a blank look on their faces and shuffle about and if you just happened to tune in at that moment you would think it was a zombie film. So I guess it can be debated if Grapes of Death is a zombie movie, but I would say no since the characters are infected. But if anything that’s my only problem with the film is how some of the infected are so different than others at certain points in the film.

Elisabeth (Pascal) is on a train heading to Roubles, which is France to see her fiancé who works at a vineyard, but along the way a fellow passenger is attacked and killed by a man and Elisabeth makes a run for it. As she tries to get to safety she encounters more people like the one on the train that are mutilated and have some sort of infection that causes them to murder.

The script by Christian Meunier & Jean Rollin is fairly well written for the not part, but this isn’t a film that relies on its script. Grapes of Death is more about the directing than writing. The characters aren’t very developed, but in a film like this it really isn’t needed and while its not difficult to figure out why people are infected it isn’t until the end its made clear. Overall the script is strong, but again a film like this really isn’t based off the script.

As director Jean Rollin delivers an excellent and well made chiller that is visually amazing to look at and loaded with eerie atmosphere and great suspense and tension. More often than not Grapes of Death is quite creepy and Rollin gets great usage out of his locations. Based on the films I have seen thus far by Rollin even if I enjoyed them I felt they often lacked in suspense and tension, but not here. From the very start of the film Rollin establishes an eerie tone and crafts one hell of a creepy movie. Like I said I never expected to love this film, but Rollin in my opinion crafts one of my new favorite horror flicks. It has everything one would want in a horror movie. Most of Rollin’s films often feature nudity and that’s no different here, but there isn’t as much skin on display as some of his other work and this film shows Jean Rollin had a lot of talent. While some of his work can be seen as hack jobs and others ok films that are entertaining, Grapes of Death though is a classic that truly deserves far more attention.

As much as I loved the film though it does have some problems that keep me from rating it higher; as I brought up the film is a little inconsistent on the infected as some feel bad, but cannot control themselves and others are totally insane and others shuffle about silently like zombies, but I still again wouldn’t label this as a zombie movie though points can be made on why. Also another problem is shoddy editing at times as one characters changes out of her clothes into something else in a matter of seconds than goes outside and when she’s off camera for about a minute emerges in another set of clothes and now as 2 dogs with her. The ending also does slightly lower my score as unless Elisabeth was infected, which unless she drank wine she shouldn’t be, but if she wasn’t infected what she does at the end of the film is idiotic. I would say though she was infected and it just wasn’t made clear or perhaps that was the point we were supposed to wonder, but this was the only part of the film that Rollin didn’t handle very well.

Overall Grapes of Death was an excellent and eerie film much in the tune of George Romero’s the Crazies and would make an ideal double feature with it. If you haven’t seen any of Rollin’s work this is as good a place to start and if you only know him with films like Zombie Lake, well you haven’t seen how wonderful a filmmaker he could be at times.

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The Living Dead Girl (1982) Review

Posted in Living Dead Girl with tags , , , , , , on February 23, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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THE LIVING DEAD GIRL

*** Out of 5

Release Date- 1982

Running Time- 91-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Jacques Ralf & Jean Rollin

Director- Jean Rollin

Starring- Francoise Blanchard, Marina Pierro, Mike Marshall, Carina Barone

Released in 1982 The Living Dead Girl is an interesting film as its sort of a vampire/zombie hybrid with some violent deaths in tune with that of a slasher movie. The Living Dead Girl Catherine Valmont (Blanchard) returns from the dead thus making it a zombie movie, but she feeds off human blood making it a bit of a vampire flick. It also had a touch of Frankenstein; like how the Monster never asked to be created, Catherine never asked to be brought back to life and like the Monster she’s quite sympathetic as she knows she no longer belongs in this world.

While I’ve seen some of Jean Rollin’s films before, but its been a while and when I started back up it was with Zombie Lake, which was one of the worst films ever made, but oddly enjoyable at times and The Living Dead Girl comes 1-year later and what a difference in filmmaking and its hard to believe the same person who made this made also made Zombie Lake. While The Living Dead Girl won’t go down as one of the greats it’s an interesting and well made movie and unlike most films of its time it doesn’t knockoff Romero or Fulci and Living Dead Girl might be the most original zombie movie of the 80s. While its always good to avoid cliches the only problem I have with the film is it doesn’t really have an identity since again its a zombie/vampire hybrid and it seems, Rollin was unsure what he wanted to make so he made both. In his career, Jean Rollin is best known for his vampire flicks so I suppose he felt the need to add a little of that in Living Dead Girl.

Thieves enter the tomb of Catherine Valmont to steal her jewels and also store some toxic waste in the crypt. An earthquake hits and spills the toxic waste and the gases resurrect Catherine who dispatches of the thieves. She than heads back to her old mansion. She ends up coming across her childhood friend Helene (Pierro) who tricks people in coming back to the mansion so Catherine can feed and will do anything to keep Catherine’s resurrection a secret, but a when a photographer spots Catherine and begins taking pictures of her only to find out Catherine is supposed to be dead she begins to investigate what’s going on.

The screenplay by Jacques Ralf & Jean Rollin is actually quite interesting since as mentioned it plays up to both zombie and vampire elements and while the characters lack depth and the script unsure of exactly what it is the film is fairly well written. None of the characters standout except Catherine who as the script goes on becomes quite sympathetic. Catherine is able to retain memories of her life while alive and as the film goes on even is able to speak as well. There also comes a point when Catherine realizes she doesn’t belong in this world and no longer wants to kill anybody. I’d say Ralf & Rollin had to be heavily inspired by Frankenstein since it takes so many aspects of it. In some ways the script can also be seen as a love story of sorts since it seems there is something deeper to Catherine and Helene’s relationship than just friends or that’s how I saw it. What’s also interesting is there really isn’t any real villain either; Catherine starts off as one, but as the film goes on you begin to feel bad for her and if anything Helene is the real villain as she tricks people into going to the mansion for Catherine to feed and even kills people who can expose her secret, but Helene is also just trying to protect the person she deeply cares about even if she is committing murder its done more than just being evil. Quite honestly I didn’t really expect anything like this out of the script and while sure characters are one dimensional, the plotting a little uneven the script also has some deeper aspects that might be lost on some or perhaps I’m looking into things too much.

As director Jean Rollin delivers a solid film, but with many flaws. In general Living Dead Girl is well made, but the pacing at times can be quite sluggish. Everything starts off well enough, but as the film goes on and strays from any action for quite a bit things do begin to slow down and while I wouldn’t say I was bored it wasn’t very exciting either. The majority of the film is shot during the day, which does hinder the suspense and while the final act is nighttime it’s also very brightly lit as well. Living Dead Girl has some great settings, but Rollin never uses it to its fullest potential as the film for the most part does lack eerie atmosphere and the suspense can be a little weak for the most part, but despite these problems, Rollin does deliver a mostly well made film that can at times as I said be sluggish in its pacing. When there is action, Rollin does deliver the goods with some great gore and outside of 1 or 2 gore scenes they all look great. I’m not very well schooled on the career of Jean Rollin despite knowing who he is, but based on what I have seen I never thought he could deliver a deep film that actually made feel bad for Catherine and the ending is quite tragic and really stuck with me as well.

Overall the Living Dead Girl was a much better film than I expected it and while the film has enough flaws to prevent me from rating this too highly it is a film I would recommend and while the film as a whole isn’t strong enough to overcome the flaws it also has enough going for it to make it a solid film.

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Zombie Lake (1981) Review

Posted in Zombie Lake with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 17, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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ZOMBIE LAKE

** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- God Help Us If They Rise Again

Release Date- May 13th, 1981

Running Time- 84-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Julius Valery & A.L. Mariaux (Julian Esteban, Jesus Franco)

Director- J.A. Laser (Jean Rollin)

Starring- Howard Vernon, Pierre Escourrou, Antonio Mayans, Nadine Pascale, Burt Altman

I think I should get some kind of reward for sitting through Zombie Lake because to say this movie is bad would be a major under statement. I could be taken hostage by terrorists and tortured for hours upon hours and I would laugh in their faces and say this is nothing I sat through Zombie Lake! I think if you wanna get answers from criminals or terrorists simply put them in a room play Zombie Lake and within minutes they would be talking. However with all that said the film is just downright hysterical; I was in complete awe at how bad this film was that I don’t think words can fully describe it. The really scary thing is I think I would actually be open to watching it again perhaps even adding it to my collection. When a film is such a hack job like Zombie Lake its quite difficult to fully hate the film. And make no mistake Zombie Lake is a hack job and easily one of the worst films you can ever sit through, but despite how bad the movie was it still provides plenty of laughs in how truly awful it was.

Released in 1981 Zombie Lake came out during a time when it seemed every horror flick was either a slasher or zombie movie. And while the slasher film had an edge zombies weren’t too far behind and whenever something in the horror genre is a success everybody gets in on it, which after a while leads us to some truly horrible films. Zombie Lake is truly bottom of the barrel cinema and I can’t even fully begin to explain what a hack job this was from the writing, directing, music, F/X and the acting and its no surprise that so many involved used an alias or denied being involved with the film since I would as well, but with that said only in the horror genre can a film be this terrible, but yet fun as well.

If anything I think this film was made just to have women get naked. The film opens with a woman getting fully naked and going for a swim in the lake and you see everything and I mean everything! When she’s under water her legs spread a part yeah you get the picture. Later in the film a bunch of girls go swimming and again you see everything including yes again their naughty part. I have zero complaints, but I am sure the 12-year old in would have rated this a 5 simply for that (the 30 something in me wants to rate it higher due to that). While the film doesn’t really go for sleaze, but due to these shots it does get a bit sleazy. While I don’t need to see this in a film I do miss the days when filmmakers weren’t afraid to show everything.

The film is set in France during the 50s (while my knowledge of 1950s France is quite low I doubt it looked like this), but there is a lake where Nazi soldiers were killed and dumped into the lake, but of course they come back as zombies and kill anyone nearby.

The screenplay was written by Julian Esteban under the name Julius Valery and Jesus Franco under the name A.L. Mariaux. To say their script is horrible is putting it very mildly. This has to rate as one of the dumbest screenplays ever written and its quite amazing how two people could actually write this. All the characters are complete idiots and everything is just well horrible. There are also long stretches without any dialogue and I’m not so sure that’s a bad thing! However in between all idiocy and terrible dialogue there is actually some decent ideas if you can believe that. The script also takes place during WWII and we have a love story between a German solider and French woman and they have a child. This one solider zombie is even more evolved than others and seems to retain some memories and he even tries to protect a little girl that has some kind of connection to a woman from his past. We later find out the little girl is actually his daughter. But you even have evolved zombie fight another zombie. Actually this really wasn’t a bad idea, but the film is such a hack job rather than be deep and dramatic its laughable and like I have said before unless you’re George A. Romero keep your zombies mindless since it always fails with the smart zombies. Only Romero can pull that off and even Romero out times can sort of miss with that. The script is downright pathetic and I have to assume Esteban and Franco knew exactly what they were writing.

Originally the film was also to be directed by Jesus Franco and for some reason he ended up not making it and in his place came Jean Rollin who than apparently regretted it after reading the script and for many years denied having anything to do with the film. Rollin used the alias J.A. Laser. I know of Jean Rollin or should I say J.A. Laser, but I haven’t seen a lot of his work and what I have seen its been many years. The direction by Rollin is horrible to say the least. I think its clear he had no passion for the film as he knew no filmmaker could salvage this mess of a script and he never really tries and it seems the scenes with the women naked are the only times any effort was put it. The film is a bit sloppy in its pacing as at times the film is so bad its almost unwatchable and other moments its such a hack job its a lot of fun. The death scenes are the same for the most part and quite often hysterical. When some of the characters die the acting is so bad its some of the funniest scenes you’ll ever see. Jean Rollin crafts one of the worst films ever made, but like I said when a film is this much of a hack job its really difficult to fully hate.

How about the F/X? The zombie makeup is so cheap looking it looks as if green paint was applied and to be totally honest anybody could get the same results if they tried. The zombies look like skinny versions of the Incredible Hulk!

I was at times in awe at how bad Zombie Lake was; the reviews you may have read are legit. However unlike many other others I had fun with this. There are moments when the film is just plain bad and not in a fun way, but its such a hack job I can’t help, but have a soft spot for it. Zombie Lake easily goes down as one of the worst films ever made, but if you can sit back and relax and poke fun of the movie you might find yourself entertained at times.

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