French Horror: 3 Great TV Shows You’ve Got to Watch

I’ve been falling out of love with cinematic horror for some time, as I find most American horror uninspired, badly written, or too dependent on gore and jumpscares. (Often all of the above.) If being grossed out is your thing, more power to you. But for me, I need something a lot more sophisticated.

Fortunately, Netflix has been delivering some incredible horror TV from foreign markets, especially France. These three French shows are some of the best horror I’ve ever seen.

1. Les Revenants (The Returned)

That kid is the creepiest part of the series.

This show was originally released in 2012, but was new to me in 2014. It was even made into a completely inferior American version. While I wasn’t enchanted by Season 2, the first season of this utterly original “zombie” story was breathtaking.

People who have been dead for years — in some cases decades — start returning home, utterly unaware that they died in the first place. Most in fact died under violent circumstances. And that’s just before the story goes truly bonkers. The powerful emotions this show evokes deepen the dread of this paranormal tale in a way that one rarely ever finds in horror. For me, that’s what makes this show one of my all-time favorites.

2. Black Spot (Zone Blanche)

I’m completely wild about this show because hits three sweet spots for me:

  1. It’s a bloody police procedural with a new mystery in every episode and an overarching mystery each season.
  2. It’s unexpectedly hilarious at times with wonderful characters like the gay policeman named Teddy Bear and the hyperallergic, ultra-awkward detective Siriani.
  3. It’s pagan AF. Set in the mountainous, isolated Villefranche, which has an insanely high murder rate and a monster that resembles Cernunnos, the story blends France’s Celtic history with horror in a very satisfying way.

I also adore the main character, Major Laurène Weiss, chief of police. The women are all tough, complicated, and secretive — she more than anyone. While I was initially puzzled by her relationship with Bertrandt, the story behind their bond was eventually revealed. And, wow — c’est fou, y’all.

Season 3 is rumored to be headed to Netflix in June 2020. I can’t wait!

3. Marianne

With Marianne, writer and showrunner Samuel Bodin has created something as intoxicating and frightening as The Ring. This outstanding original horror series is about a famous female horror author, Emma Larsimon, who is lured back to her hometown to do battle with the evil spirit that has been terrorizing her dreams and that is now killing her loved ones. Every episode starts with a literary quote. You know shit’s about to get more than real when Lovecraft opens an episode.

Victoire Du Bois (Call Me By Your Name) plays the arrogant, alcoholic Emma to perfection, especially as Marianne’s bloodshed brings Emma to her knees. But as the layers are peeled back on the characters and the horror they face, it’s forgiveness and the strength of female friendship that entwine to become the twin heartbeats of this tale.

So, what are you waiting for? Dépêche-toi!

The Fly Opera Buzz

If you do not see this in its death throes at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, you’ve missed an historic development in the art of horror and theater.

Whether you actually like it or not is irrelevant. It is what it is. It’s its own art form, a new thing unto itself. The cast sing the lines of dialog yet there are no songs. This did not thrill me, being a lover of most traditional forms of musical theater. And some of the lines were clunkers. That said, as someone pointed out, it must have been tremendously challenging for the cast to learn the music and lines, with no melody to speak of. Ultimately the murky atonality leant itself completely to the heavy, dark themes of the Promethean tragedy.

But what did thrill me was the spectacle, the collaboration of film, composer, theater and opera professionals in my beloved genre. I was thrilled to be there witnessing the innovation. History in the making in our culture. In our genre.

The stage design incorporated 1950s-style sci-fi props, and effects included prosthetics and puppeteering. It felt like we were back in the glory days of physical special effects filmmaking, the heyday of Rob Botin and Stan Winston. Gore scored the inside of the pods. Daniel Olkulitch who played Seth Brundle transformed before us, leaping, back flipping and eventually even singing in full fly costume as he climbed the set.

The ending was powerful. The theme of unconditional love really struck a profound chord.

Thanks to Keith for the unforgettable experience and to my friend Christa Faust, too.