Format: DVD from NetFlix on laptop.
I’m not really sure how film movements start, but things become in vogue at certain times and in certain places. One such movement is the New French Extremity. While the style didn’t really become a thing until about a decade or so ago, it feels like it got its start with Baby Blood from 1990, which has a lot of the same elements. Lots of gore, lots of blood, and a good amount of body horror. I’m not saying that this belongs in the genre, but that it’s one of those films that seems to presage the genre and pave the way for it.
Yanka (Emmanuelle Escourrou) is an abused woman working in a carnival as a part of a lion taming act. One day the carnival gets a leopard, but the leopard is infected with a parasite that, we’re told in voiceover from the parasite itself, has essentially been around since the very beginnings of life on Earth billions of years ago. Eventually, the parasite explodes out of the leopard and crawls into Yanka. Since a great deal of this film is going to focus on sex, I’ll leave it to your imagination where the parasite enters her body.
Anyway, the parasite is fully conscious and fully aware and can speak to Yanka whenever it wishes. What it wants is for her to start killing people and drinking their blood to feed it. We get several instances of this happening. We jump forward in time at several points in the film, eventually getting to nine months along and Yanka preparing to give birth to the parasite. In each of the different scenes, Yanka encounters men who essentially want to take advantage of her. Eventually she kills them as bloodily as possible, and when she can, she drinks their blood to feed the parasite.
Early on, at least up to the point where Yanka is visibly pregnant and ready to give birth, she spends a great deal of the film walking around naked. It’s a strange sort of non-sexual nudity, a frank sort of nudity that is just sort of there. It’s not specifically pleasant or unpleasant; it just sort of is. Emmanuelle Escourrou is an odd-looking heroine. She’s perfectly attractive but has massive front teeth that feature a generous gap; in close-ups, it’s impossible to look at anything else.
Anyway, things get more an more depraved as the film goes on. Yanka uses a car to decapitate someone, for instance, and eventually steals a bloodmobile so that she has a constant supply of fresh blood to feed her “baby.” Of course, the big moment here that the film really builds up to is the birth of the critter.
So let’s talk good and bad. There are some surprisingly good aspects of Baby Blood. This isn’t the sort of movie I would choose to, say, watch with my sister, but it made for an interesting movie experience. Director Alain Robak doesn’t skimp on the blood. Yanka’s victims generally end up covered in it, as does she—her blood drinking isn’t done with any sort of finesse—it’s actually pretty feral.
On the downside, Baby Blood is extremely amateurish in a lot of places. There are some great moments that come from this—some very interesting camera work in places, for instance that come across as really effective. This also has its problems, though—there are several moments of obviously sped-up camera work that come across as comic rather than action-packed or scary. When Yanka temporarily dies after a car accident, the shots that take place inside her body are incredibly silly. Yanka frequently runs around literally dripping with blood and no one seems to notice. No one notices when her vehicle is coated with gore. Near the end, she’s dripping with blood and jumps onto a bus…and no one questions it. In fact, that bus is loaded with soccer players who are somehow turned on by the fact that she’s covered in blood. It makes no damn sense.
At its heart, Baby Blood is a combination of several other movies. It has the entire birth trauma plotline as a bunch of movies--Rosemary’s Baby, It’s Alive, and even something like Village of the Damned. On the other hand, there’s a great deal of films like Inseminoid and Demon Seed as well. One of the weirdest parallels is with Frank Hennenlotter’s Brain Damage, at least in terms of how the parasite communicates with the main character. Here, the creature is a lot less comic and a lot more menacing, but there’s a definite parallel.
Baby Blood is a difficult film to recommend. It’s weird as hell and incredibly bloody, and for the right sort of horror fan, a film very much worth seeing. I guess I’m glad I saw it, but I’m not sure I’d want to sit through it again anytime soon. As a piece of history, though, something that presages what will happen in the industry eventually.
Why to watch Baby Blood: It almost feels like the start of the French Extremity.
Why not to watch: It feels very much as if it was made by an amateur.