Set in the famous Paris Catacombs, John Erick Dowdle's As Above, So Below carries on several grand horror traditions: claustrophobia, fear of the unknown, haunted history, and the dangers that come from just a touch too much curiosity. Coming to US theaters on August 15th, As Above looks to be a truly frightening return to form that horror aficionados will love. But in the meantime, if you're looking to brush up on your Parisian horror, you have tons of options!
Before we take a crash course on fictional French horror films, let us dive into the real history of the Catacombs that act as the setting for As Above, So Below. Established in 1810, the underground cemetery, located south of the former Paris city gates, holds the remains of approximately six million people. Just who, you may ask, is buried within the walls of the catacombs? Well, pretty much anyone who had died in Paris prior to the late 1700s was dug up and moved to the location to free up burial space in the overpopulated city. As such, the bones of Paris's dead became part of the structure that is now one of the city's most popular tourist attractions.
It's kind of amazing that more horror films haven't been filmed there.
However, believe it or not, As Above isn't actually the first horror film to be set in the Paris Catacombs. Released in 2007, Catacombs (clever title, right?) starred Shannyn Sossamon and... Pink. Yes, Pink. While partying underground style, surrounded by the bones of the dead, a canibalistic Satanic serial killer picks off those who get lost in the tunnels. Despite an interesting premise, Catacombs has a 4.5 rating on IMDB and was actually filmed in Romania. So... moving on.
What could possibly be more frighting than a home invasion film? How about a home invasion film where the violent perpetrators are small children? Them is probably one of the most terrifying movies many people haven't seen. While it was also filmed in Romania, the French aesthetic in this movie is clear: a young couple is tormented and stalked, from their home and into the woods and sewers, by a group of teenagers and a small boy who "just want to play." If that doesn't give you the shivers, nothing will!
Everything about Sheitan is insane, in the best possible way. If the idea of Vincent Cassel playing himself and his pregnant wife/sister doesn't appeal to you, then just go ahead and skip to the next movie. But once again, we have a group of people, trapped in a strange and unknown place, being tortured by inbred French crazies, with a dose of Satanism for extra fun. The first time I saw this movie, I watched the entire thing with my mouth hanging open. I can pretty much guarantee you will do the same.
Are you sick to death of vampires? Me too kids, me too. However, this creepy little flick from the makers of Inside, filmed in Brittany, France, is an interesting take on the mythology with some really beautiful imagery. This particular story features a bedridden old woman, a buried treasure, a ghost daughter, and creepy stuffed animal tea parties. The settings of the film are especially eerie, and play perfectly into the story. So give Livide a chance. It may reignite your love of vampires.
You can't get more confined than a prison cell. Four men, with varying (in some cases, horrifying) criminal pasts, sharing a cell in a French prison discover the journal of a 1920s prisoner who mysteriously disappeared from the same cell. Black magic, close quarters, time travel, and sudden violence all make Maléfique the kind film that could only come from France, and one that must be seen to be believed.
Frontier(s) is believed by many to be one of the most gruesome and intense French films ever made, with good reason. Set against a politically tumultuous backdrop, a group of friends fleeing a riot find themselves trapped at the mercy of a sadistic family who own an inn in a small French town. Frontier(s) is brutal, and at times painful to watch, but it is one of the best examples of what makes French horror the wonderful, excruciating, singularly exceptional enigma that it is within the film community.
Other amazing French horror films include Inside, Martyrs, High Tension, and Calvaire, but I have already covered these in other posts! Is there another French horror that you think I missed? Let me know in the comments!
For horror podcasts, reviews, lists, and more, make sure to check out thehorrorhoneys.com!