LSJTD: Top 5 of The Last Three Years
When Kelly came up with the idea of “Let’s Scare Jessica to Death” in 2018, I was still green around the ears in regards to the more “intense” horror films. It became a way in which Kelly could introduce me to various subgenres of horror, as well as challenge me to watch films that I would never select on my own. I have honestly grown to love “Let’s Scare Jessica To Death”, as it has allowed me to leave my comfort zone and make some surprising discoveries about what type of films I enjoy and ones I actually gravitate towards. It has also shown me the movies that I just need to stay away from; we all remember when I watched Chained as it broke me.
However, as we come to the end of our third year, I have grown as a horror fan; it is becoming more and more challenging for Kelly and listeners to select films for me to watch as I may have already seen it, or it’s really not that much of a “challenge”. I have watched some incredible films along the way and some that were quite disturbing. We aren’t sure if “Let’s Scare Jessica To Death” will go away in 2022, however, it may evolve into something different. So, stay tuned for that.
One of the things I have learned about myself through this challenge is that I like films that are visceral, though not necessarily in their onscreen violence, but with raw emotional impact. Or films that are just plain absurd or weird. These are the films that stayed with me for days after watching, became one of my favorites, or made me a fan of that particular subgenre of horror such as Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989), Kill List (2011), Begotten (1990) and Ichi The Killer (2001). So listed below are my top five films (and initial reactions upon first watch) that I have enjoyed the most over the past three years of “Let’s Scare Jessica To Death”:
February 2019 - WiHM Edition: RAW (2016) and Trouble Every Day (2001)
For WIHM 2019 Kelly got me to check out some New French Extremity with both RAW and Trouble Every Day. Both films disturbed and fascinated me. The concept of combining the act of devouring someone physically with the act of losing yourself in the ecstasy of our primitive sexual desires is an interesting topic for me. Especially in RAW, as Justine finds her strength and sexual identity through her acts of cannibalism. These are films definitely worth checking out -- if you can get past scenes with hair eating and graphic sexual, yet gory nature.
Since February 2019, I have watched RAW on multiple occasions, shown it to friends and also discussed the film with Alix and Mike over at the Spirits of Horror Youtube Channel, Unpacking the Monstrous Feminine. It has become one of my favorites and in my top 10 horror movies. I get chills everytime I hear the film's score and find something new to talk about each time I watch it. This is surprising to me considering I was so shocked when Kelly first challenged me to watch it and since I didn’t even think I would get all the way through it. But here I am singing the film’s praises and absolutely loving Julia Ducournau’s work. I have yet to rewatch Trouble Every Day, but it is on my list to revisit and add to my own growing collection of New French Extremity films.
April 2020 - Audition (1999)
I did it! This was another movie that I built up in my mind and was not as bad as I originally thought it would be. It was an interesting film and got me thinking about how the 'auditions' held to find a wife are really no different from the world of dating. In the search for the ideal life partner, it’s interesting how far we go to blank out ugliness or pain in people in order to feel the "butterflies'. The scene with the piano wire did not bother me as much as the scene where she was putting pins into the skin just under his ribs (I was in the fetal position watching that). The rib area is a no touch zone for me! Also, the scene of feeding one of her victims her vomit almost had me throw up. It was a good film and definitely made me feel uncomfortable at points, but I would recommend it to others.
This is another film from my challenge that I have revisited. I showed it to a friend recently who wants to understand my love of the horror genre and, in particular, these types of visceral films. So she selected Audition and I couldn’t have been happier to watch it! Upon this rewatch, I came to have a further appreciation for its style and storytelling. Also, that idea about the world of dating and how it feels like an audition to be in someone’s life has got some writing ideas brewing. As well, I am planning in 2022 to watch more films by Takashi Miike, as after watching Ichi the Killer, I recognize that I am becoming a fan and want to see more of his work.
June 2020 - Inside (2007)
I have to say that I think I am becoming a New French Extremity (NFE) convert. Kelly is correct in saying that this is my second NFE film for my monthly challenges. However, I have watched other NFE films outside of LSJTD and I am finding it to be an appealing subgenre of horror. I heard about Inside from a Faculty of Horror episode, and at the time, I thought "Nope, I will never watch this film". But then again, I said the same for Anti-Christ... and well... that has changed. I enjoyed Inside an immense amount; it got under my skin. I was terrified and shocked by how visceral the film was and the life or death situation of our protagonist (?) Sarah was in. The film really takes you through the motions of grief, the fear and complexities of motherhood, isolation, chaos and then, with the backdrop of the Paris riots and lack of safety in the streets. It's intense. I am looking forward to reading Alex West's chapter on this movie in her book Films of the New French Extremity: Visceral Horror and National Identity.
I did read Alex’s West chapter on Inside and it made me like the film even more. It was also the first film that started my small (but growing) New French Extremity collection (Thanks Kelly!). I am not going to lie, I have yet to rewatch it since my first viewing, but it has been on my mind. It is also the next film I plan to show my horror curious friend that enjoyed Audition. As much as I liked it, it is one of those films that I need to be in the right headspace for, because like another film on my top five list - it stays with me for days.
September 2020 - Possession (1981)
This movie! This movie! I LOVED IT! As I said in my Instagram reaction stories over at our Spinsters of Horror account (please follow if you don't already!), if Lovecraft and Clive Barker had a child it would be this movie. I was engaged with the film throughout its two hour runtime just trying to figure out what was happening. At times it played out like a really intense dark drama with some VERY visceral emotional reactions to the end of a marriage. Then the murders start to happen and the reveal of the tentacle like creature -- WHOA! I was also entranced by both the performances of Sam Neill and Isabelle Adjani. The scene of her losing her mind in the tunnels then to have a 'miscarriage'- I could not turn away. This was a great pick for this month's challenge and a film I would love to add to my collection.
This film made it on my top five list because of how much I enjoyed it when I first watched it. I also love hearing people talk about this film and give their own analysis to what they are seeing unraveling on the screen. For me, I was impacted by the emotional intensity of the actors, the portrayal of a marriage falling apart and the back and forth a couple goes through to salvage whatever remains. It reminded me of how volatile people can become when they feel trapped and how chaotic life can feel when you are trying to find your way out. Marriage is fucking hard and when you live in a society that tells you your a failure when you can’t make it work – it is a mind fuck. I connected with the film emotionally as well as was entertained by the nightmarish cosmic horror elements.
March 2021 - Martyrs (2008)
Well it finally happened. The movie that I had been building up in my mind since Kelly told me about it so many years ago, the movie that I have read about in Alex West's book Films of the New French Extremity: Visceral Horror and National Identity, and listened to podcast episodes about (Faculty of Horror). Over the past few years I have become a fan of New French Extremity and have been building myself up by having seen RAW, Ils (Them), Inside, and Trouble Every Day. I know I have a few more to see, but Martyrs was the film that was high on my list of "can I take it?" -- and I did. I was captivated by this film within the first five minutes of it and did not breathe or move until the final credits rolled. I just stared at my computer screen trying to process everything I had just seen. I wanted to cry and be held, but at the same time didn't want to be touched at all. I just wanted to stare off thinking about everything I had 'witnessed'. People are right when they say that after watching this movie it "fucks you up", but I would say that it happens in a positive way - it really makes you think about humanity, cruelty, knowledge and our obsession with death and the afterlife. After a night of processing Martyrs, I will say that I loved it. These are the films in the horror genre that ignites my passion for it - these films make me walk away changed and thinking differently. Will I watch it again? Yes, but not right away. Do I recommend it for others to watch? YES! But with the same warning Kelly gave me - you will walk away forever changed.
This film made it on my top five list because of how intensely impacted I was by it. I cried for days and couldn’t stop thinking about it. I went on to read other people’s reactions and interpretations of the film to get more of an understanding of it. It is a film that I want to add to my growingNew French Extremity collection - I just haven’t rewatched it yet. But I feel like after having watched this film, it also changed me. I want to watch more visceral horror; films that make me walk away processing the plot and imagery, as well as inspire me to write. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy all types of horror films and will watch more “light hearted'' horror films - but that tends not to stick with me the same way films like Martyrs, Possession, Inside, Audition, Raw and Trouble Everyday have. These films explore the taboo and push me outside my comfort zones - which I appreciate. These films give me catharsis and I am here for it.