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A few years ago, Japanese horror films were all the rage. Not even so much the Japanese versions, but rather the American remakes which did well at the box office amongst teenage girls and their unlucky dates. I suppose we've found a new type of filmmaker to exploit now, as America has found its next obsession - French filmmakers. For those of you who've seen Haute Tension and The Hills Have Eyes remake, you are well aware that this obsession isn't all bad. It is in this wave of French films that newcomers Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo have written and filmed one of the most brutal and terrifying films since - in my opinion - Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door.
Review by Tristan
Added: April 25, 2008
Tonight's story begins with Sarah (Alysson Paradis), a young, pregnant photographer getting into a hideous car accident which claims her husband's life. Jump ahead 4 months to Christmas Eve. Sarah, who fortunately didn't lose the baby, is 9 months pregnant and ready to give birth, whether induced labour is required or not. Back at home, all is going well - as well as can be expected - until she is awoken by an unexpected knock at her door. A mysterious woman (Béatrice Dalle) is asking to come inside, and after being refused, she smashes a window and disappears. Sarah obviously calls the police, who tell her that they believe the woman will not return, but they will swing by every so often to check up on her. Certain that she is safe, Sarah goes to bed with the hopes that this incident is over. She couldn't be more wrong. Sleeping soundly in her bed, she is woken this time by slashes across her belly and face from a massive pair of shears. She fights her way to the bathroom, where she barricades herself and waits. We don't know who this woman is, or where she came from. All we know is that she wants the baby inside of Sarah, and nothing short of death is going to stop her.
I don't know how many of you follow the horror scene, but in the past week or so, this movie has been quite the topic at the proverbial water cooler. Dimension Extreme has an exclusive deal with Blockbuster, meaning that their films are only available to rent at this one particular franchise. I'm not too familiar with the US, but up here in Canada, Blockbuster is the biggest movie rental chain in the country. What seems to be the problem, you might ask yourself. Well as it would seem, Blockbuster has cut out a staggering 7 minutes from the film, leaving the folks who only rent films to not get their full money's worth. I'm not intending to rant about censorship, and things of that ilk, but c'mon folks. The company is called Dimension Extreme; that should mean something.
As for the movie itself, brilliant. I haven't enjoyed a horror film this much in a long time. There are so many elements to this film which make it a genre masterpiece, it is almost hard to list them all. Since I'm such a nice guy however, I shall do my very best. First things first, the acting. The two leading ladies, who are essentially the only two people in the film, do a fantastic job of bringing this story to life. You don't quite know who to root for, or who to sympathize with, as both women are struggling and fighting for what they think is right. Which brings me to the script. It's simple, believable, takes place all in one location, and written so that again, you don't know who the "bad guy" really is. The characters develop very quickly, and even though you can figure out why the woman is harassing Sarah, it's not touched upon until the final moments.
When I said this was one of the most terrifying films I'd ever seen, I meant it. What I forgot to mention however, is that it's also one of the most blood-filled, cringe inducing films I've ever seen. Everyone involved is brutalized in one way or another, and it never once feels excessive or inappropriate. There are stabbings, slashings, shootings, piercings, and even some burnings; all of which fit into the story ever so nicely. From start to finish, this movie is one giant bloodbath, and without spoiling too much, lets just say that there is one of the finest gunshot wounds I have ever seen in film. You know how there's been a wave of CGI gore effects in movies lately? I can point out Day of the Dead and The Rage as the first two that come to mind. I am so glad that this film didn't go that route. It made good use of prosthetics, props and bucket loads of the red stuff. And I do mean bucket loads. By the end of the film, the entire house looked like a war zone.
Directors Maury and Bustillo have created a fantastic addition to the horror genre. After checking their IMDb credits, I was amazed to find this was their first film, and from the looks of things, they have nothing else lined up afterwards. Much like the writing/directing duo of Alexandre Aja and Grégory Levasseur, these men know that what makes a horror movie is suspense and atmosphere. Since it takes place in such a small area, the film has a very panicked and claustrophobic feel to it. Coupled with the low lit, ambient glow of the house, it makes for a very eerie setting. It's also a very modest suburban home, which I think adds to the beauty of the location, as most people can easily identify with the concept of your home being the safest place you can think of being.
All in all, a bloody fantastic film. A little on the short side, but I think making it too much longer would have just been a time filler. It was everything I wanted it to be, and I can only hope that directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury get the recognition they rightfully deserve for this. This is solid proof what a good premise, a good script, and some believable, realistic acting can do for the horror genre.
A well deserved 10/10.
grain of sand
- added 04/25/2008, 03:57 PM
The brutality of this movie is so priceless, they
never shy away from showing you anything and it's
so perfect and engaging, I actually felt bad for
Sarah. I wait for movies like this.
- added 04/28/2008, 02:06 PM
Not bad. Didn't have high hopes for it, but I
found it rather entertaining. 7/10.
- added 05/05/2008, 11:27 PM
One of the best movie in recent years...
- added 05/08/2008, 09:24 PM
I haven't seen this yet (but I will soon
hopefully) but I heard something interesting. I
work at Wal Mart and a friend of mine in
Electronics told me that Wal Mart pulled this dvd
as well as the other recently released Dimension
Extreme title, Teeth, from the shelves. I just
thought that was cool. Makes me want to see it
grain of sand
- added 05/08/2008, 11:38 PM
Yeah, I doubt Wal Mart knew what they were
getting into with those two films.. I doubt
they've ever carried anything with such mature
subject matter, based on what I've seen there and
how they used to edit their CD's with explicit
lyrics and coverart even.
Also, I saw
this again recently at a friends house (the RATED
Blockbuster version) and their was a very large
chunk of the good stuff cut from it, 10 minutes
I'd say? so steer clear if you like your gore.
Kari Byron's Sex Cyborg
- added 05/16/2008, 02:01 AM
There certainly were a bunch of brutal moments to
be found as I caught myself clenching my toes
continuously. Acting from the leading ladies was
ace, the special effects were good, but the story
was pretty lackluster and contained some of those
bug-bite flaws that are to be accepted so the
movie can still move along. The first half (or
third?) of the film gave way to great atmosphere,
but it was all soon flushed down the toilet once
gears were switched; then, having an exorbitant
amount of focus on the body count and senseless
violence. Despite not getting the horror movie I
thought I was walking into, I was still definitely
entertained all throughout.
- added 05/19/2008, 03:02 AM
This one will almost certainly rank in the
year-end lists. Fantastic.
grain of sand
- added 05/23/2008, 02:50 AM
I knew you would appreciate this Chad
- added 05/30/2008, 05:19 PM
OMG I freaking loved this one. It was just so
damn brutal! The story was kinda boring but who
the hell cared?! It was all about the
gore......mmmmm good stuff
- added 06/19/2008, 10:34 PM
Wow, Kari Byron's Sex Cyborg, your opinion is
just like mine that its creepy...lol. First half
was awesome, then it went completely stupid and
unbelievable. Everybody was a dumbass in this
movie except for the psycho. Great gore though,
some scenes were painful to watch cause it looked
realistic. Bad CGI though. Anyways, not worth the
$15.99 I spent on it, and only 1 special feature
so it sucks even more. 7/10 sounds about right for
me. Just bugs me how well it started.
- added 06/19/2008, 11:23 PM
Oh, and did any of you burst out laughing during
the toaster scene? Holy smokes, I was nearly
choking I was laughing so hard. Best use of a
I kick ass for the Lord!
- added 07/11/2008, 03:30 PM
I thought this film was successful on numerous
counts, Béatrice Dalle was extremely
intense (and holy shit that was awesome when she
would just appear from the shadows and then slink
back) and the premise was pretty disturbing even
though it was a touch banal. I enjoyed the film
until (as many have already put it) the final act
came into play. What really got me was the
"zombie" cop who started beating on
Sarah at the end. What the fuck, the movie
retained a gritty realism for quite a while
(except for the less than intelligent moves from
some of the bodies-to-be) and then, POW, I'm
transported into a zombie movie. Not that I don't
enjoy zombie flicks (I love them in fact) or the
synergy you can get from genre amalgamation, but
the "zombie cop" just felt disjointed