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For those wanting to explore beyond 'Irreversible', here is a list of films – just make sure you have steel nerves & an even stronger stomach.

These French horror movies make ‘Irreversible’ look tame

Irréversible is a French experimental psychological thriller that was described by film critic Roger Ebert as “a movie so violent and cruel that most people will find it unwatchable”. Ebert was not wrong in his description of Irréversible as it’s filled with depictions of rape, violence, and homophobia that sink deep into your psyche. 

Irréversible has been categorized as part of the New French Extremity, a film genre coined by James Quandt. Films in this genre indulge in “savage violence and sexual ugliness”. Another term for New French Extremity could be “body horror” or cinéma du corps as it explores the limits of torture, sexual sadism, and animal-human savagery – it’s not a jaunty walk around the park, to say the least. 

Many French directors have explored this dark genre of film, including the notorious Gaspar Noé who is responsible for creating Irréversible. For those wanting to explore New French Extremity further, here is a list of films – just make sure you have steel nerves & an even stronger stomach. 

Possession (1981)

Possession is a psychological horror film that was made decades before the New French Extremity movement was formed. Nevertheless, Possession adheres to many of the same ideals as New French Extremity and delivers an experience rife with powerful, visceral horror. 

The story follows Anna (Isabelle Adjani) who tells her husband, Mark (Sam Neill) that she’s leaving him. Mark discovers that Anna has a lover and is determined to find out who it is. Anna meanwhile, begins to display signs of a violent breakdown and steadily becomes more & more volatile. 

High Tension (2003)

High Tension is a slasher flick which follows the story of Alex (Maïwenn Le Besco) & Marie (Cécile de France) who vacation with Alex’s parents in a secluded home. A psychotic truck driver (Philippe Nahon) murders Alex’s parents then stalks the two women, creating a claustrophobic cat-and-mouse game with horrifying results. 

Martyrs (2008)

Martyrs fully embraces the extremity of horror by twisting the knife deeper into physical as well as psychological torture. The story follows Lucie (Mylène Jampanoï) & Anna (Morjana Alaoui), two young women who have escaped unspeakable abuse at the hands of a sinister organization. Martyrs explores the depth of human depravity and the haunting & lasting damage mental illness can exact. 

Inside (2007)

Inside is a terrifying film about a strange woman (Béatrice Dalle) who stalks Sarah (Alysson Paradis), a pregnant woman who was recently widowed. The woman relentlessly tries to break into Sarah’s home with one goal: to steal the baby in Sarah’s womb. The struggle for Sarah to survive becomes more & more critical as she nears her time of labor. 

Frontier(s) (2007)

Frontier(s) portrays a social message wrapped in brutal torture. Frontier(s) tells the story of Arab-French youths that leave Paris during a time of turmoil. They unintentionally stumble on an inn run by Nazi loyalists who intend to continue the Nazi ideology by cultivating a pure Aryan race. The youths are hunted by the Nazi family who plans to use young people for their mission. 

Them (2006)

This seventy-four-minute horror film is taut with maddening tension. Them is a film about a couple that escapes to a remote mansion in Romania for a weekend of relaxation. The couple then hear a strange noise and find themselves being stalked by a group of hooded figures intent on murdering the pair. The couple scrabbles survive as the figures encircle their prey, closing in on them. 

Raw (2016)

Raw is a horror film that comes slightly after the period known for the New French Extremity movement in the 00s. Raw however, sits quite comfortably amongst other films in the movement as it succeeds in making its audience as uncomfortable as ever. 

Raw is about Justine (Garance Marillier), a strict vegetarian in her first year of veterinary school. Justine is forced to eat raw meat during a hazing ritual and later develops an insatiable hunger for meat. Her hunger builds and she finds new methods to feed her cravings – including sampling some more foreign cuts of meat.

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