Monday, August 26, 2013

FOREIGN HORROR: Euro-Horror Part Three


We spent some time focusing on the films that came from France...because, well, France is home to some of the most intense and influential horror films that have come out in the last decade. However, it is now time to turn our attention to other parts of Europe that have released some great horror films on their own. Please join me for a strudel and Jaeger...and let's shine the light on some of the darker corners of Europa.

I apologize if we spent way too much time in Europe this week. But, I just wanted to make sure we covered everything. Especially concerning the French Extremity movement and how important some of those films are to the genre. I mean...take a look at the last ten years...or so. How would the landscape of horror look like if France never made any genre films? Would it be pretty tame? Would a film like A Serbian Film  ever have been conceived if it were not for hardcore filmmakers pushing each other to see who could make the most shocking film? Perhaps. Who knows for sure. I'm sure our very own August Underground  films here in the States have served to influence many filmmakers around the world. Still...it is difficult to ignore the influence that the French Extremity movement has had on horror to this very day.

And, so...we move on.

What trip into European horror would be complete without a mention of Tom Six's Human Centipede  films from the Netherlands? They are two of the most diabolical and subversive genre films to have come along in quite some time. And, yet, you would almost be scoffed at by hardened horror fans if you've never so much as even seen one trailer of the films. Hell, I remember walking into a Target on my break once and saw The Human Centipede  on the new release shelf right next to mainstream stuff like Iron Man 2...and wondering to myself if society would ever truly embrace a genre film of this fare. And before my thought ever reached an ending...some teenage girl excused herself as she snatched up the second-to-last copy of the film on the shelf in front of me. I shrugged and made my way to the cereal aisle in which to get myself a half-dozen more boxes of Boo Berry.


What makes Six's ultimate ass-to-mouth films so interesting is the ways in which he approaches his commentary within the movies. Oh, yes...amongst all the crazy body-horror stuff there is a sincere underlying message on the state of horror films and how they are made. Six is quick to make a case for the predictability and uncreative ways that female protagonists are lured into Dr. Heiter's nightmarish lair. He purposely filled the act of the film with these predictable genre tropes in which to sort of trick his audience into thinking they were watching the "usual" horror film. Until, of course, it all hits the proverbial fan. Six has also stated that The Human Centipede  is a direct reflection on the fascist practices of Nazi Germany, in particular. He cites the film as a means of dealing with many of his own demons that spawned from that European real-life nightmare. The inclusion of the German doctor, Dieter Laser, was a way of creating a true-to-life monster as the antagonist that would come off pretty realistic in the ways that he would produce all the "medically accurate" procedures in the film.

And because critics and fans, alike, felt the film to be way too restrained in gore and tame in execution...especially for the subject matter, Six explored his over-the-top direction for the inevitable sequel...The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence. A film with its own perversions of the conventional horror movie formulas. Six is methodical in his storytelling...utilizing every frame as a means for him to share his commentary as he illustrates his pictures with a excrement-soaked paint brush. The third film promises to deliver an extremely in-your-face meta experience.

Speaking of Germany, films like the recent Rammbock: Berlin Undead  make an excellent case for viewing the country as a strong contender for the next wave of foreign horror. While certainly not perfect, Rammbock  is a strong "zombie apocalypse" film that works because of its emotional character developments. It employs some dramatic elements within to paint a picture of love within its horror movie conventions.

Zombie films are getting fresh new takes from all over Europe. La Horde, 28 Days Later, Dead Snow, the [REC]  films, the hilarious Cockney vs. Zombies, Mutants  and Shaun of the Dead, to name just a few...have all offered up some different and interesting new takes on the old sub-genre. And while on the subject of sub-genres, Cold Prey, Ils  and other films of this particular nature have given us a fresh new take on the other old sub-genre...the slasher flick.


I find it kind of funny how the UK is sometimes considered an extension of American culture. I mean...just because we were owned by England at one point doesn't mean that they are part of our horror landscape. The UK have made some of the most iconic horror films throughout the century. Mostly known for their Hammer films of the 50's, 60's and 70's, the British have definitely come into their own in the last decade. You might say that Danny Boyle started the British resurgence with his brilliant 28 Days Later...then films like Neil Marshall's awesome Dog Soldiers  and The Descent  really put the country on the genre map. And even in recent years we have seen amazing filmS come our way from across the pond. Kill List, Eden Lake...and even Hammer's The Woman in Black  have shown us what the UK is capable of when it comes to striking cinematic fear in us all.

While all of these films have a bunch of things in common with each other, there is one major thread that connects all of the previously mentioned films together. And that is the notion of taking some truly intriguing premises and combining these elements with a brand new approach. It is what keeps our beloved horror genre going. Europe won't ever stop making horror films that push the boundaries of filmmakers and present fresh new takes on some of the more familiar ideas that have been established over the years. Foreign horror films will always help to inspire American filmmaking...just as America will inspire other countries around the world. It is a never-ending process necessary to ensure the progression of the genre.

Here's a really cool behind the scenes featurette for The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence...





Thanks for reading,

bryan.





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