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!

Saving Heroes

In the November 16th issue of Entertainment Weekly, show creator Tim Kring fesses* up to the problems with Heroes that have made Season 2 abysmal. He seems to have turned around a bit from when he was interviewed at the end of October, if one can believe journalism at all.

The problem is that, in EW, he sometimes fingers the wrong reasons for the show’s problems. He cites the romances as dragging down the story, but fails to note the numerous plot holes that crater each episode like a lunarscape. The romances are not bad: in fact, those of us who love Hiro get squishy inside thinking of our Favorite Co-Dependent Time Shifter getting a girl. The time Hiro spends in Japan is worth every moment — unlike the time we spend with the dopey Tar-Eyed Twins. (This week’s episode has a case in point: How could any reasonable human being assume they’re responsible for the sudden death of an entire wedding party? So many things about those characters just don’t add up at all.) I’m even a fan of Claire’s teen romance, despite its Electra Complex overtones and highly suspect beginnings, because it gets into the idea of whether or not the future is changeable. I love that Claire’s father is trying to avoid the future shown in Isaac’s paintings while everyone around him is trying to change it for entirely different reasons. How many Heroes does it take to change the future of a light bulb? I’d like to get more into the physics and philosophy.

(My love of X-Men is peeking under my hem, eh?)

So, if I had his ear, I’d say, Tim, please fix the goddamn plot holes. Your Pulp Fiction approach didn’t pan out as you noted. We spent weeks of WTF? waiting for what should have been the beginning of the season. And introducing Adam to Peter before the trip back to medieval Japan would have been infinitely more powerful. This week’s episode (which was also riddled with plot holes) proved that it’s so much stronger to build the story line linearly for this show.

And there you have it. A rant.

*Just thought I’d mention that “fesses” in French means spankings. And they are deserved here!