Horror introduction: French extremism and bloody comedy


Disney channel horror never quite made it for young me, but some of the goriest and funniest offerings of the horror genre certainly did their job!

I’ve almost always had an intriguing love-hate relationship with anything related to the horror genre. Growing up, my love for films never extended beyond slapstick comedies and cheesy action films (Face/Off is still a personal guilty pleasure of our family) and honestly, that was something I could live with for the time being.

All I needed for a movie to be a success with me was if it made me laugh or squirm in my seat with excitement. Horror hardly provided any sort of related pleasure.

Yeah, I was scared of horror when I was much younger and it extended beyond the films and shows that were conventionally scary. Sci-fi, psychological, supernatural, and even slasher horror films were enough to frighten me to the point of avoiding horror at all costs. To be honest though, even if I did enjoy them when I was younger, I doubt my parents would’ve allowed me to consistently watch them at such a young age.

I had a tendency to repeat every single thing I heard (my dad found this out the hard way when he bought the explicit version of Eminem’s The Eminem Show for me when I was 7 years old, and don’t worry, he didn’t know and I begged him to buy it), so bloody horror films were a big no-no for me for a little while. Blood Sport was still something I could watch for some reason though???

A scream and a laugh

Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI — Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Horror never appealed to me until I saw it mixed in with my favorite genre of film at the time: comedy. When the horrors were combined with a heavy sense of humor, it eased my fears up significantly, rendering me brave enough to branch out into the land of horror.

It wasn’t a giant step by any means, as I was still too chicken to even brave through most of the Friday the 13th movies. A masked and quite literally indestructible serial killer hacking up teenagers at a remote cabin?

Count me out. But it was this series that actually started my journey towards me now, currently writing FOR a horror site.

With me being a comedy geek, there was just something about Friday the 13th: Part 6 – Jason Lives that kept me hooked through all the scares and gnarly kills. Sure, Jason was doing what he usually does best: kill horny teenagers in unnecessarily brutal ways, but Part 6 appealed to the inner comedian in me.

I found myself entertained by the newfound sense of humor that gave this installment so much personality and wit. Just about every character had jokes for days, which busted me up at any available chance and made me forget I was watching a bloody slasher movie.

horror- scream 2 via Dimension

It wasn’t just this one that made me laugh and scream, as Scream played a big part in that as well. The movies are well-known for their sense of humor and self-awareness of the genre they’re poking fun at, which sat well with little old me back in the day.

By this point, my parents had eased up on me watching horror movies, so long as I watched it with them and seeing Scream embrace its cliches with so much joy and laughter (amidst all the violence) entertained us to the point of me being able to watch these kinds of films without much fear.

From then on, I slowly branched out into more traditional horror films in the form of Jeepers CreepersAlien, and more, while still discovering new horror-comedies for me to latch onto, such as Bride of ChuckyBones, and even Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk Till Dawn, which still contains one of the best second act transitions in cinematic history.

Through my journey into horror-comedy, I became brave enough to branch out into more straightforward horror films, testing my bravery with increasingly dark and violent horror films. None of the films I watched ever seemed to cross that line, but they were getting close to doing so and I thought that maybe I was just too desensitized by horror.

At this point, nothing could faze me, right? Right?

French Extremism in elementary

Before I get into this, I should mention something else about my family: we are HUGE movie buffs. At any opportunity possible, we will see what’s available to buy and if it’s cheap enough, it’s going on our flooded DVD shelf. To this day, there are movies that my parents bought that I’ve never seen, simply because I have never taken the time to view them all.

My parents would jump at the chance at getting something they considered even mildly interesting and in early 2006, one of those films that went on to live a life on my parents’ movie shelf was the infamous French horror-thriller, Haute Tension (High Tension for English speakers). Yes, THAT one.

High Tension, originally released in 2003, is often considered one of the cornerstones of the rising trend in New French Extremity, which essentially boils down to disturbing and graphic French horror films that were willing to push the boundaries of taste and comfort for audiences. High Tension is no different, as I would consider it to be one of the most disturbing home invasion films ever made, making The Strangers look like a direct-to-DVD Disney film.

No, my parents never willingly asked me to watch this with them. I just simply noticed that everyone else was beginning to watch it in our living room and me being the curious boy I was, I sat down in between my mom and one of my older sisters. It was just another movie night with the family! What could go wrong?

I’m sickened but curious…

That question was answered the moment the film’s main antagonist knocked on the door of an innocent family’s farm house. From there, absolute mayhem ensued, in which everyone, from parents to strangers to even children, were not safe from the wrath of the haunting truck driver.

All of this happening and despite how utterly terrifying and graphic it all was, I couldn’t turn away. Why couldn’t I? I used to hate watching this stuff and now here I am, managing to stomach the scenes in ways my even younger self would not have done. Granted, my whole family was there with me, but even then, I still finished the whole movie, riveted by the intense and twisty story.

High Tension opened the door for me to explore some of the darker films in horror (that I bothered to look at anyways) and it made watching something like The Hills Have Eyes remake a lot less excruciating to watch. That film, directed by Alexandre Aja, the same director as High Tension, is best described as an American version of a French Extremist film. Aja, willing to take moral risks with his stories, turned an already disturbing story of a pack of deformed desert cannibals hunting a vacationing family with a flat tire into something truly wicked and depraved.

High Tension – Courtesy of Lionsgate Home Entertainment

The Hills Have Eyes is a disturbing, bloody, and action-packed mad house of a film and it’s something I found myself revisiting after my first watch. The all-too-real acting from the cast (ESPECIALLY the underappreciated performance from a very game Aaron Stanford), the trippy and adrenaline-fueled camera work and of course the grisly deaths in the film intrigued me, but no longer did it frighten me to the extent that it did before. I was disturbed by what I saw, but never to where I had to turn the film off.

What horror means to me

They Live – Courtesy of Alive Films,Larry Franco Productions

With these films, horror films proved to me how effective they could be in inspiring all kinds of emotions. I learned to laugh along to the horror, as well as recognize the tropes, stomach the blood and gore and most of all, realize that what I was seeing onscreen was just a movie. Nothing else.

That isn’t to say it killed my love for the horror genre. I have never been more in love with it than at any time in my life. Horror continues to push the boundaries of art to disturbing new degrees and I find myself fascinated by how it has elevated the art of storytelling into more than just a bloody cringe fest.

Horror films used to scare me consistently and sometimes, they genuinely still do. But now I find myself at a peaceful place with horror. It no longer frightens me, but it does fascinate and still disturb me when it gets a chance.

Next. Steven Spielberg reveals why The Shining plays part in Ready Player One. dark

Horror is more than just something to scream at with your drunk friends. Horror has the rare opportunity to be as creative with its storytelling as its other genre bedfellows.

Jordan Peele and John Carpenter used horror to challenge the social status quo, while storytellers like Stephen King still use it to tell complex and challenging stories on a variety of different topics. Horror may be disturbing, but it’s unbelievably fascinating and something I find myself cherishing for the rest of my days.

What do you think? Do you love horror and if so, how did you get into it? Sound off in the comments below!