Cinema: get ready for a horrific summer in theaters

A time reluctant to horror cinema, France is gradually letting itself be won over by the genre. At the start of this summer, five horror films are being released in France on the big screen. In the sights of producers and distributors? Teens and young adults, fond of thrills, monopolized by streaming platforms. It remains to convince them to push the doors of the dark rooms…

“Tremble youth! » This seems to be the credo of film directors and distributors in France on the eve of the summer holidays: no less than five horror films have been on the big screen since June 8th. Four horrific thrillers – Men by Alex Garland (June 8,) Black Phone by Scott Derrickson (June 22), master mah by Didier D. Daarwin (June 29) and Arthur, curse by Barthélémy Grossman (June 29) – and The Sadness by Rob Jabbaz (July 6), a zombie film whose reputation for ultra-violence has aficionados of the genre talking.

“What we look at are the “comparables”explains Victor Lamoussière, distributor of the film. We know that this period of early summer is favorable for blockbusters, Marvels and horror films. The high school students have passed their baccalaureate. Freed from their constraints, they are more inclined to go to the cinema. And we know that they are fond of horror films, particularly those from Asia which are often very violent. »

The classification prohibits children under 16, “it’s the holy grail”

For the distributors, the task is complex: they must provide enough to make the crowds tremble, to push the cursor of horror ever further, while avoiding a “Prohibition for those under 18”which would deprive the film of a large part of the public. ” The case of The Sadness has been studied twice by the plenary committee of the CNC which decides on the age restrictionspecifies the distributor. Twice is rare. And we know that the debates were stormy. 60% of the members wanted a ban on those under 16, 40% a ban on those under 18, which would have been fatal for the film. And it ended in a compromise: a ban on those under 16, with a warning. »

We can understand that there was a debate: this Taiwanese film is so violent (even more than Last train to Busan) that after seeing it, one is mentally stiff. The four horror films banned for children under 12 released in June seem to have been made by altar boys in comparison. “For a director of horror films, the mention ‘prohibited for children under 16’ is the holy grailtold us the director Didier D. Daarwin the day after the release of his film master mah. If it were up to me, I would like to have it for my next film. It would then benefit from an aura sulphurous enough to attract the curiosity of the public while not repelling either the press or cinema operators. »

And you have to attract them, the cinema operators, assure them that they will have a “good” audience. “Some are chillyconfirms Victor Lamoussière. They fear that horror films will drain an audience of restless young people who are likely to ransack their cinemas. There would have been some precedents for this. (at the release of the film Paranormal Activity, a group of young people ransacked a room in Perpignan, editor’s note). But for The Sadness, they decided to follow us. And we leave with a fleet of 80 copies. »

Camille Razat at the gates of hell in

“The indoor experience has added value

Eighty copies: a very good figure for a cinematographic genre which has had great difficulty in establishing itself in France. Only The Exorcist in 1973, with its 5 million admissions, was a huge success. Starting in 1996, the franchise Scream (2 million admissions for each opus), parodying the effects of horror cinema, has become cult thanks, essentially, to an audience of young adults. It is this same group of 18-25 year olds that streaming platforms such as Netflix have attracted in their nets since their creation in 2007 by programming horror series on the channel: The Walking Dead, The Haunting of Bly Manor, All of us are Dead, IZombiato recite nobody else but them.

Getting the young generation out of video-on-demand sites to bring them (back) to the cinema is a major challenge, but not an easy task. According to Victor Lamoussière, there would not really be a rivalry between the platforms and the cinemas, rather a complementarity. “The indoor experience has added value. Like laughter, fear is best experienced in community. And then, the violence, the hemoglobin, the monsters, all of this takes on another dimension on a big screen. Just as it is more impressive to go see a Marvel or a blockbuster like Jurassic Park indoors than on a small screen. »

A woman to the rescue of French genre cinema

If horror cinema, with its sub-genres (slasher, vampire, zombie, survivor, etc.), has found its audience, there is still a catch: for the film to appeal, it has to be American. , Korean, Taiwanese or Spanish. In short, everything, except French. only the movie let’s wander in the forest by Lionel Delplanque, in 2000, managed to exceed 700,000 admissions in France. The film is rated 14e in the list of the worst films of all time on AlloCiné…

Quality and attractiveness do not necessarily go hand in hand in the world of horror. Disappointed by the scores of his film High tension in 2003 (100,000 admissions), Frenchman Alexandre Aja made his next film in English in the United States. Ironically, this film, The hills Have Eyeswas a hit in French cinemas.

There are several reasons for this lack of public interest in made in France. First, it is very rare for a star bankable agrees to “compromise” himself in a horror film. Maïwenn and Cécile de France were only at the start of their careers when they starred in High tension. Then, the projects are too often entrusted to novice directors. “A lot of genre films were produced and let’s say it modestly, they weren’t very good”, notes Richard Grandpierr, producer of Martyrs. Finally, television channels only very rarely participate in the financing of genre films, budgets are limited and this can be seen on the screen.

Renowned for his big-budget films and his Anglo-Saxon know-how, producer Luc Besson played quits or doubles with Arthur, curse – live and nightmarish continuation of the series of animated films Arthur and the Invisibles –, relying more on word-of-mouth than on the enthusiasm of journalists. Without that we can already speak of failure, the film only made few entries during its first day of exploitation. Same disappointment for the second French film, master mah.

So, what future for the French fear? It would now rest on the shoulders of a woman: Julia Ducournau. After the critical success of Severehis very gory first film in 2016, his Palme d’Or at Cannes for Titanium enabled him to attract a more mature audience. Three hundred thousand admissions isn’t a great success, but for a genre film, it’s not bad at all. And, for once, the heroine is one hell of a psychopath, and not another. scream girl fleeing from an ugly man armed with a knife.

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Cinema: get ready for a horrific summer in theaters