Friday, July 16, 2010

Liberty! Equality! Fraternity! Bloggity!

Missed Bastille Day? There’s always alternative ways to celebrate France’s favorite summer holiday, especially when it comes to horror movies.

Prison Breaks

Since the Bastille was primarily used as a high security fortress, it makes perfect sense to kick back with, say, Stuart Gordon’s Fortress. As a bonus, it even stars a pseudo-French Christopher Lambert! Not into early 90s sci-fi horror? Zombies are the universal language for making a stand against society, so why not queue up an internationally friendly undead film set during a prison riot? Of course, I’m speaking of 1987’s John Saxon directed Zombie Death House. It’s the most holiday appropriate viewing since Santa Clause conquered the Martians.

Rich vs. Poor

Without royalty and peasants, there would be no cause for fireworks this 14th. How does horror celebrate the tragic beauty of class division? Generally, with the poor kicking the rich’s ass or better yet, eating them. Wes Craven’s The People Under the Stairs has a nice ghetto vengeance on oppressive slumlords plot, while George Romero’s still underrated Land of the Dead teaches the wealthy a fine--and final--lesson on oppressing the poor from a glass house. 

I Love a Parade

The French like to honor Bastille Day with a parade and thankfully, so does horror. Scariest parade ever? The coulrophobes among film fans will rightfully cite Killer Klowns From Outer Space, where the full-blown devastation of the titular villain invasion is revealed via ticker tape marching. Alternative watches? I suppose I Know What You Did Last Summer could suffice (especially since it’s so seasonal). Except it doesn’t have cotton candy. And it kind of sucks. 

War...What Is It Good For?

National change, societal fixings, and occasionally, good movies. Sadly I come up empty in identifying official French Revolution-set horror, but its American counterpart The Legend of Sleepy Hollow has a nice flashback colonial touch. Something more current? Choose your battle. Class of 1999 features good old fashioned gang warfare (and psychotic robot teachers, natch). Something more epic? Three films in and those werewolves and vampires still can’t get along in the Underworld series. For a simple wartime setting, there’s always the historical--if still 70 years past the original 1789 anniversary--Dead Birds, an eerie and incredibly well-cast (Michael Shannon, Henry Thomas, Patrick Fugit, plus more) ghost story set during the American Civil War.

National Pride

Perhaps it’s a resurgence of past mentality (this is the birthplace of the Grand Guignol, after all), but something in the Seine is causing France to produce some of the best--and most brutal--horror films of the decade. High Tension, Martyrs, and Inside are easy recommendations but to best capture the political spirit inherent in July 14th, check out Xavier Gens’ Frontier(s). Part torture porn and part backwoods horror, this 2007 film is set in a near future dystopia where a few petty criminals flee a rioting urban French society (get the connection?). Of course, this gory little slice also features evil Nazis, mutants, and slashed Achilles tendons, If that’s not revolutionary, what is?

It should be noted that I have not one drop of French blood in my veins, so if you have any of your own celebrations, add them in the comments section and wave your flag with pride. If it’s any good, I’ll even let you eat cake.

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