Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Director Profile: Alexandre Aja (HORNS)

If you're familiar with the term "New French Extremity," then you've probably heard of or seen the work of writer/director/producer Alexandre Aja (pronounced AH-zhah). Haute Tension (a.k.a. High Tension or Switchblade Romance) splattered the screen as part of the 2003 Toronto International Film Festival's Midnight Madness programme, joining the legacy of other ultra-gory French horror films like À l'intérieur, Frontière(s), Irréversible, Martyrs, and more.

Before Haute Tension, there was Furia, Aja's feature film debut, starring Marion Cotillard (Rust and Bone) and Stanislas Merhar (La Folie Almayer). Furia is based on "Grafitti," a short story by Julio Cortázar and critic Mark Deming provides a brief synopsis on

Combining romance, science fiction, and a political parable, Furia takes place in the future, after an oppressive government, which has shut down all political opposition, recognizes art as a means of free expression--and therefore bans painting on public surfaces.

2003's Haute Tension, a riveting, terrifying, incredibly gory film, earned Aja an international reputation, and rightly so. The less you know about it going in, the better, but here's a trailer that will give you a taste.

Aja reimagined Wes Craven's low-budget shocker The Hills Have Eyes for his first English-language film in 2006, and the result is a better-looking, more believable, more frightening, and ultimately better film (I realize horror fans will fight me on this one but I am standing my ground).

Aja then wrote and produced the somewhat-less-popular P2 about a woman trapped by her stalker in an underground parking garage on Christmas Eve and then wrote and directed Mirrors, an English-language remake of the Korean film Into the Mirror, starring Kiefer Sutherland as an ex-cop haunted by hallucinations, murderous mirrors, and abusive nuns at a convent (it's actually more coherent on film than it sounds on the page).

For the remake of Joe Dante's beloved (do not question me on this one) Piranha, Aja was a triple threat, writing, directing, and producing this exceptionally popular and bloody (Aja says they used more fake blood than Kill Bill) tale of spring break insanity and killer fish. Also, boobs. Lots of boobs. And did we mention it is in 3DD?

For the 2012 remake of the infamous 1980 William Lustig slasher Maniac,  Aja wrote and produced, but snagged old friend Franck Khalfoun (who directed P2) to direct. Maniac, which stars Elijah Wood as the titular character, screened at Cannes to impressive critical acclaim.

Which brings us to Horns, premiering at The Toronto International Film Festival's Vanguard Programme this year. Based on Joe Hill's novel, Horns stars Daniel Radcliffe as Ignatius "Ig" Perrish, who, after being blamed for his girlfriend's murder, not only wakes up one day with horns growing from his head, but also becomes the confessor to everyone he encounters. He hopes to use his developing status as a way to find the real killer.

Aja apparently likes giving actors associated with one iconic character a chance to prove they can do something vastly different, and Horns, which skillfully blends horror, fantasy, and mystery, intends to do just that.

HORNS Screening Times:
Friday, Sept 6th, 6:00 PM THE BLOOR HOT DOCS CINEMA
Sunday, Sept 8th, 1:00 PM SCOTIABANK 4

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