This is a guest post by Steve De Roover.
My feature-length documentary Forgotten Scares goes back to the birth of Flemish horror in the '70s and shines a bright light on the future of horror made in Flanders, Belgium. The viewer gets a chance to discover long forgotten - and even unfinished - genre gems and learn in-depth info about underrated "splatter and gore"-fests, post-apocalyptic movies, slasher films, nazisploitation, women-in-prison and other fantastical Belgian genre benders through the eyes of the directors, producers, composers, principal actors and genre experts. Forgotten Scares is illustrated by rare behind the scene footage, classic film scenes, production stills, promotional art and even never before seen videos out of the vaults of the filmmakers.
When people ask me why I made Forgotten Scares: An In-depth Look at Flemish Horror Cinema, the answer is quite simple: I love these films. And even when all of them are not grand pieces of cinema, I adore them even more because these were shot in Belgium, and most of them in Flanders to be exact. All of them were made by Belgian directors or producers, who fought tooth and nail, to get these features finished and distributed in a film climate that doesn't seem to accept them. A lot of these productions were made without government funding or big budgets. While films like Daughters of Darkness, Malpertuis, Rabid Grannies, The Afterman and even Maniac Nurses became international sensations in the horror scene, it's funny that these films were almost impossible to find in my own country. And when Welp (internationally known as Cub) was released, the mainstream press called it the "first Flemish horror film." So the pioneers, and these classics of the Flemish scare-genre of the 70's, 80's and 90's, just got "forgotten." I hope that my documentary puts these films back in the limelight, and give them the honor they so greatly deserve.
Forgotten Scares: An In-depth Look at Flemish Horror Cinema (4-Way Films/Skladanowsky) tackles 24 feature-length horror films made in Flanders, written, produced and/or directed by Flemish genre masters like Harry Kümel, Johan Vandewoestijne, Rob Van Eyck, Leon Paul De Bruyn, Jan Verheyen, Pieter Van Hees and Jonas Govaerts, to name a few.
Here are my eight personal favorites:
8 / The Antwerp Killer
The Antwerp Killer is not a good film, to say the least. Why is it in my top-list then? Well, it's fun! With a running time of around 50 minutes, it's quite a stretch to even call this a "movie," but the gritty atmosphere of Antwerp - underlined with the awesome 80's synth-score, the unintentional laugh-out-loud funny situations and the ridiculous plot, make this almost worth the price of admission alone. Luc Veldeman is, of course, a trial-and-error director, but here and there, he created pure, cheesy gold, thanks to an interesting mise-en-scène that is extra underlined with the whole low-budget DIY-vibe of it all. A unique guilty pleasure, that almost deserves a documentary on its own - thanks to all the legendary stories about the making of the film.
7 / Maniac Nurses
Maniac Nurses is a straight-forward (s)exploitation-film, influenced by Leon Paul De Bruyn's incredible love for the "woman-in-prison"-subgenre and cult classics like Ilse: She-Wolf of the S.S. While the film drags sometimes and the story is an afterthought; it checks off all the necessary boxes of the WIP-films: Beautiful naked girls? Yeah, baby!! Ridiculous dialogue? Check!! Practical gore FX and lots of torturing? Of course!! A high cheese and camp factor? Yes!! Totally politically incorrect? How could it not be? Director Leon Paul De Bruyn clearly had fun making this little exploitation flick, and it shows. So, if you are searching for awards-material, go seek elsewhere. But if you are looking for a jolly B-film with lots of naked ladies firing machine guns and cracking whips, you could do worse than Leon Paul De Bruyn's Maniac Nurses.
6 / The Afterman
The Afterman has to me always been the Belgian reply to Mad Max - a gritty post-apocalyptic world where people forgot how to talk and slowly became sex-crazed sadists. Instead of souped-up cars, you have raping farmers, cannibalistic priests and lesbians screwing in fancy swimming pools. A brilliant trade, if you ask me! Rob Van Eyck directs (and also shoots a lot of the footage) this crazy exploitation flick and keeps the samurai-like Jacques Verbist in check, who delivers his best performance since the little seen surreal schizo-fantasy Mirliton. Franka Ravet is stunning to look at, in this violent world full of gruesome killings, rape, and necrophilia. The special makeup effects (by Cor Blancke) look cool and have that Friday The 13th Tom Savini-esque realism to it. The Afterman became a sensation in Japan and will always be one of my favorite exploitation flicks of all time.
5 / Alias
Alias is Jan Verheyen's one and only attempt to make a horror movie. While critics were not kind for the film at its release - because of the abrupt genre shift, I always supported and applauded it just because of that. Alias starts out as a fairly standard mainstream thriller, with a couple of violent kills, a decent cast, and a cool soundtrack. But the fun really starts, when the tone shifts to a bloody horror spectacle at a gothic castle, were logic - as well as political correctness - gets thrown out of the window and dialogue gets extra campy, just as it should be. Hilde Van Mieghem is deliciously sleazy as the evil Yvonne, while Pol Goossen shows that he can do more than play in soaps. A pity that Jan Verheyen never made another attempt at a horror film after Alias.
4 / Rabid Grannies
Rabid Grannies is together with Harry Kümel's Daughters of Darkness one of the most popular, and internationally most-sold Belgian films of all time. It got picked up by the famed New Jersey horror-label Troma and the rest is horror movie history. This blood-and-guts filled "splatter and gore"-fest about the titular rabid grannies, is directed by Emmanuel Kervyn and produced by Kortijk's one-man horror factory Johan Vandewoestijne (Lucker, Engine Trouble). It's a crazy fun ride from beginning to end and the special effects are spectacular, especially in this day and age where productions even use CGI for simple things as blood. The accents are kinda weird, but this only adds to the unique experience!
3 / Linkeroever
Linkeroever is best described as a mix between The Wicker Man and Japanese J-Horror movies like Ringu or Dark Water, and even then the actors weren't allowed to sell it as a horror film. Pieter Van Hees direct with a steady hand and creates a dark and brooding world, where relationships go bad as fast as they started. Eline Kuppens and Matthias Schoenaerts are two perfectly synchronised leads and as a viewer, you can feel the connection between them. The film has some great surreal scenes (with some cool special effects) and while a lot of the audience - and critics for that matter, couldn't swallow the weird ending, I for one am a true believer that this was the only way to go. Kudos to director Van Hees, that he accepted the challenge to be different.
2 / Welp
Welp is Jonas Govaerts debut feature, and from the very first frame, you can feel his love for the scary genre. A lot of people keep claiming that a horror film would never work in Flemish (or dutch) and Govaerts puts them all to shame. Welp is tense, brutal and sometimes quite scary, with an excellent cast to boot. Jan Hammenecker is a creepy villain with echoes from the real horror villains of the 80's like Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers. Evelien Bosmans is perfectly cast as the scream queen, while the young and inexperienced Maurice Luijten impresses every second as the protagonist of this survival story. Oh yeah, let's not forget the stunning photography of internationally renowned director of photography Nicolas Karakatsanis (Rundskop, The Drop). I for one can't wait for the next feature of mister Govaerts!
1 / Daughters of Darkness
Daughters of Darkness is a masterpiece of modern cinema. Harry Kümel created a classy vampire picture, that bursts with international ambition and eerie, gothic atmosphere. Daughters of Darkness is a live-action comic book, with interesting erotic undertones and superb acting from the whole cast. But Delphine Seyrig is the one that steals the show. She oozes presence everytime she is on the screen and her chemistry with that other beautiful creature, Andrea Rau, is sizzling! They don't make 'em like this anymore, and that is a real shame. This is cinema with a capital C, that doesn't need to rely on cheap thrills or heavy special effects to find its way to an audience. Daughters of Darkness became - rightfully so - an international hit in the rest of the world, with various filled to the brim special edition DVDs and Blu-rays. However in my home country Belgium, the film is to this day not available on DVD / Blu-ray...
Forgotten Scares: An In-depth Look at Flemish Horror Cinema will be screened April 9th at the Brussels International Festival of the Fantastic Film at 22:00 in Cine 3 in the BOZAR.
Which of these Belgian horror movies are you most interested in? Will you be watching Forgotten Scares: An In-Depth Look at Flemish Horror Cinema?