Psychological-Thriller & the New French Extremity

The psychological thriller is a genre that has been around for centuries, feeding our natural want for mystery, but it’s only recently that films of this type have become quite popular. This sub-culture of thriller wraps us with suspense, gore and especially dark themes traditionally relating to a mental illness, or what the writers interpret them as. It wasn’t until the 1950s that coloured psycho-thrillers were being produced, starting with Alfred Hitchcock’s 1948 film, ‘Rope’, although they were written about in centuries leading up to this time. 

When the 1990s hit, the genre’s popularity really took off. Viewer numbers rapidly increased and soon, the New French Extremity ‘movement’ would take place. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, many French-directed films were made in a style reflecting European arthouse with a few distinguishing characteristics. Films put in this category included those with strong, gruesome violence along with sexual themes all to shock the audience, which was successful in most cases; however, this has led to these collective films being controversial, from their heavy dependability on constant shocking visuals. Interestingly, the man who coined the phrase ‘New French Extremity’ and contemporary art critic, James Quandt, intended the now widely accepted term to be pejorative. While these films may have faults, the movement could be said to have opened up a new direction for thriller filmmakers, pushing people to not being afraid of exploring realistic or daunting avenues that might upset some of their audience.