6. Trouble Every Day (2001, Claire Denis)
Claire Denis is one of the most influential figures in modern French cinema. She is said to have “been able to reconcile the lyricism of French cinema with the impulse to capture the often harsh face of contemporary France”.
Trouble Every Day is more of an erotic thriller than a horror film. The plot revolves around a medical experiment concerning the libido which goes wrong. The results give the patients a cannibalistic urge as they reach an orgasm, and also an insatiable hunger for sex at the same time. Each time they have sexual intercourse they literally end up eating their lover.
A retired doctor barricades his wife in enforced isolation inside their house. As she is one of the patients of the experiment, she’s extremely dangerous to the rest of the world as well as herself.
An American couple is honeymooning in Paris, where the retired doctor lives. Shane, the husband, continuously rejects his wife despite being attracted to her. He spends most of his time visiting the medical clinic due to being frustrated concerning his wife. Their connection with the other couple is self evident.
The dialogue is cut down to the bone, sometimes compromising a full understanding of the dynamics of the plot. Everything is shown through silent actions, even if sometimes it’s hard to understand what’s going on and why a certain situation is being shown.
The cannibalistic scenes are full of gore and grit. Denis’ authorial touch is evident in the way characters are developed through small touches.
7. In My Skin (2002, Marina de Van)
Together with “Tore Tanzt”, “Dans ma peau” is the most challenging film on this list. There’s no mercy evident in this film. Violence and gore is fully displayed on screen and the full process of the corruption of Esther,the main character, is shown.
As Esther’s life gets a boost (she gets an important promotion at work, where she has scored a new prestigious client, and her boyfriend has asked her to move in with him), she goes into a self-destructive spiral of, triggered by a wound to her leg. At first, she underestimates the severity of the matter, but then she develops a morbid fascination for her own flesh and blood.
The performance of Marina de Van is stunning, and she also directed the film. De Van displays no self indulgence for her own character. Esther is arrogant and distant from others. Her interest in her own body is scientific and aseptic. One may think of self-cannibalism as an attempt to restore a connection with self, but the character actually remains detached, as if she’s analysing the functioning of a another human body.
The film is full of gore and graphic violence which is even more effective due to the emotional detachment of the main character.
8. The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears (2013, Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani)
“L’étrange couleur des larmes de ton corps” is directed by a Belgian couple, Cattet & Forzani. While there’s partially a male element in this film, but it would have been a shame to exclude this film due to this fact.
The plot of the movie is diffuse and complex. A man comes back to his house and finds that his wife has disappeared. Inside the house strange things happen and an array of people tell him increasing bizarre stories concerning the structure. After a certain point, the building itself emerges as the main character of the film.
It’s hard to describe the plot, as the narration interweaves a lot of different subplots, each strand shot using a different technique, from black&white and neon colors, slow motion and fast speed, dramatic sound effects, and closeups. The result is a great piece of art nouveau.
The structure of the film is so complicated that pretty soon the plot is forgotten the film becomes a wonderful visual experience.
Cattet and Forzani have revealed that in this film, elements from giallo movies were used as tools in order to give to the viewers a “filmic orgasm”. They aimed at giving more of a sensory experience more than a cohesive narrative.
9. The Babadook (2014, Jennifer Kent)
This film originated in Australia. “The Babadook”, widely acclaimed worldwide enjoyed a great success thanks to its minimalistic and effective plot.
A mother and her 6-year-old son are left alone after the death of the father/husband. The boy convinces himself that an evil presence is trying to kill both of them and this persistent claim starts to get on his mother’s nerves. She starts having problems at work and with her only friend.
One day, while she’s reading her child a story, they come across a book entitled “The Babadook”, which neither of them has ever seen before. When they open it, the child’s fears come to life.
Even with a very traditional storyline, this film is one of the best horror movies of the 2010 decade. Jolting horror effects are never wasted, but are used to great effect when needed and work perfectly. Visual effects are solid and realistic, despite being created with a minimal budget.
The unveiling of the monster is masterful, it is framed as one of the many delusions of a frankly unpleasant kid seeing attention. Even the happy ending doesn’t spoil the film, as it creates a balance in the proceedings. This is director Jennifer Kent’s first film.
10. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014, Ana Lily Amirpour)
“A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” is the first-ever Iranian Feminist Vampire Western though it was shot in L.A. with a westernized cast.
The plot revolves around a girl who happens to also be a creature of the night. As she walks through Bad City, she encounters all sorts of people: a child beggar, a prostitute, her pimp, a junkie and his good-looking son. The latter eventually falls in love with the vampire girl, so they start having a sort of romantic relationship.
The film is shot in evocative black and white. At the beginning the female characters seem relegated to minor roles, but as the Girl starts to dominate the events on screen, the other female characters progressively gain strength over the male characters and earn freedom. It’s fair to say that feminism and female emancipation is the backbone of this film, even considering its cultural background.
When the Girl rolls down the streets on her skateboard, her hi jab looks like a cape. She’s a sort night hero, protecting the weak from the evil. Her liaison with the young man is based on gender equality. He’s the only male character that is open-minded towards the rest of the world.
Author Bio: Caterina Frezza is a university student in Italian language and literature. Favourite quote: We are not girls. We are silver bullets for your middle-class brains!