Dread X: DEATHCEMBER Director Rémi Fréchette’s Top 10 Quebec Horror Films
Filmmaker Rémi Fréchette is one of the directors of DREAD’s upcoming horror anthology Deathcember. In today’s edition of Dread X, Fréchette has chosen a “Family Feast” theme–perfect for the day after Thanksgiving! It’s a classic take on “what can go wrong when you’ve had too much to drink, and possibly a nervous breakdown, and you’re surrounded by a whole lot of unbearable family members for the holiday feast“! And since Fréchette is our only Canadian director on Deathcember, he chose the topic of horror in Quebec for his list.
Give it a read below the synopsis for Deathcember; you can see the trailer embedded at the top of the article!
A collection of 24 films that take a look at the dark side of the festive season. 24 international directors with the most diverse ideas and styles; linked by short animated segments that deal with the Advent calendar itself.
There are two distinct film cultures here in Canada. From an outsider’s perspective, the division that exists between Canadian and Québecois cinema may seem solely based on language, with Québec producing films in French, and English-speaking Canada producing the rest. While this is superficially true, the more remarkable difference lies in the content of the films themselves; Québec filmmakers are drawing inspiration from a melting pot of artists, language and oral traditions, all of which are deeply connected to the unique cultural DNA of this province. Here are only but a few examples of iconic local films that can provide a good taste of québécois horror.
10. LE COLLECTIONNEUR (The Collector) – 2002, Jean Beaudin
Based on a successful novel written by local author Chrystine Brouillet, this may very well be our very own Silence of the Lambs. Our version of Clarice, named instead Maud Graham, is charged with investigating a serial killer who is known to collect certain body parts of his victims, in an effort to build the perfect human being. Despite the sometimes very obvious references to Hannibal’s universe, Le Collectionneur is a very satisfying scare, with its dark ambiance and strong performances.
9. KARMINA – 1996, Gabriel Pelletier
Karmina was the first popular local hit in the horror genre, while also being an approachable comedy. It tells the story of a young, 140-year-old vampire named Karmina, who runs away from an arranged marriage to Vlad, only to seek refuge at her aunt’s in Montreal. The myth of the vampire becomes intertwined with the tropes of Québec comedy, featuring, of course, the local kitschy clichés. This film would also have a rare sequel, which focuses on the character of Vlad and further explores the absurd universe in which the story takes place.
8. GAME OF DEATH – 2017, Sebastien Landry and Laurence Morais-Lagace
The pitch is simple: Jumanji meets Battle Royale, with hints of a slasher. When they find an old board game, a group of friends find themselves trapped by a curse that forces them to kill a certain number of people, or else one of them will die every hour. It’s what I would call the ultimate “festival film,” filled with gruesome murders, hilarious scenes and the most entrancing electronic soundtrack. The duo of directors come from the advertising and music video industry, and trust that they pull out all the stops to deliver a stunning visual experience.
7. TRUFFE – 2008, Kim Nguyen
In an alternate future, Montreal is discovered to be sitting on top of several tons of truffles. A large corporation tries to seize the monopoly of this resource by hypnotizing the population, using killer fur collars. Although this storyline isn’t entirely horror, the synopsis alone could have it falling into several different categories. Filmed in black and white, with expressionist lighting, surreal sequences and crawling creatures as seen in the best (worst) B horrors. A few years later, the director of this film represented Quebec at the Oscars, with his film Rebelles (War Witch) in 2012.
6. THANATOMORPHOSE – 2012, Éric Falardeau
Over the course of several days, a young woman gradually decomposes in her apartment. Physically, as much as spiritually. A strong representation of body horror since Cronenberg, this film offers a slow and agonizing descent, made palpable by both a stellar performance and incredible FX make-up. By mixing blood and sexuality, exploiting the boundaries of its own limitations, this film is a troubling and hypnotic experience. It will be memorable, for better and for worse.
5. LES SEPT JOURS DU TALION (7 Days) – 2010, Daniel Grou
A doctor captures the man who raped his daughter in order to torture him to death. Based on the book by the same title, written by one of Quebec’s most popular authors Patrick Sénécal, this film is a visceral moral conundrum. With its drab cinematography and dramatic performances, this film will not let you up for air. Sénécal has other successful titles made into film, such as Sur le seuil (2003) and 5150 rue des ormes (5150 Elm’s Way, 2009).
4. END OF THE LINE – 2007, Maurice Deveraux
A young nurse finds herself trapped in the last metro, in the middle of a tunnel, with a bunch of religious fanatics who claim the apocalypse is coming that very night. This closed space thriller is truly a hidden gem, even for a local audience. In addition to having an intense rhythm from beginning to end, the storyline offers a lot of twists and turns that do not fail to surprise.
3. TURBO KID – 2015, François Simard, Anouk Whissell et Yoann-Karl Whissell
The year is 1997. In this post-apocalyptic future, a lack of petrol resources forces the earth’s inhabitants to travel by BMX. A young comic book fanatic finds himself imitating his favorite superhero in order to fight against an evil lord (played by the incredible Michael Ironside!) With a vibrant passion that truly colors each scene, Turbo Kid is a nostalgia trip through pop culture, utilizing it to add texture rather than parody. With hilarious gore effects inspired by Peter Jackson’s first films, the colourful universe and an epic soundtrack by local synthwave artist Le Matos, this is a fun film to watch with your gang.
2. LES AFFAMÉS – 2017, Robin Aubert
Quebec cinema recently dipped its toe in the zombie genre, or rather, zombies recently dipped their toes made it onto Quebecois soil. It is in rural Quebec that a very regular group of people will encounter zombies for the first time. This film doesn’t just rehash the typical zombie trope; it offers a whole new chapter to the mythology surrounding the undead. These zombies have blood-curdling cries and are building towers of objects towards the sky. There are moments of tense horror, but also poignant and hilarious dialogue. Not to mention a whole bunch of blood. This film reeled in best feature at Gala des films Québécois, proving that genre cinema is coming out of the woodwork.
1. SHIVERS – 1975, David Cronenberg
Indeed, David Cronenberg started his career in Montreal, at the heart of the Quebec cinema industry! This Top 10 could have easily included one of his other excellent films, such as The Brood (1979) or Scanners (1981), where Montreal is the backdrop for these cult classics. Shivers establishes the codes that will become the filmmakers’ signature, pushing the limits of body horror and pandemic storyline (although it features crawling creatures.) A small budget resulted in a grittier quality to the film, creating that anxiety-inducing atmosphere that would follow Cronenberg into his future projects.
Some other titles I recommend:
–Le Diable est parmis nous (Possession of Virginia) – 1972, Jean Beaudin
–La peau blanche (White Skin) – 2004, Daniel Roby
–Eternal – 2004, Wilhelm Liebenberg et Frederico Sanchez
–Cadavres – 2009, Érik Canuel
–Discopathe – 2013, Renaud Gauthier