Let’s do a little bit of a throwback here, awhile ago I wrote an article (click here) commenting on how horror seemed to have no direction and instead has fallen victim to lackluster Hollywood writing. However, the monsters that sleep in your rotted out closet have a new but familiar face…
Caution, some spoilers may lie ahead!!!
Over the past few years, there has been a sort of awakening from deep within drenched in storytelling, existentialism, and real life horrors. Taking the mangled pieces of legendary films like “The Thing“,”The Wickerman“, “Rosemary’s Baby“, and “The Exorcist” (along with authors like H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Harlan Ellison), that pose questions of morality, religion, and real life horrors.
Two writer/directors to seriously emerge as forerunners of the movement would be Jordan Peele (“Get Out“, “Us“) and Ari Aster (“Hereditary“, “Midsommar“). With both of Peele‘s movies, it focuses on the running themes of race, identity, and how repeated trauma can shape a community. Featuring predominately black casts and main protagonists, Peele has used the historical troubles and hardships of black America to showcase metaphorically the realities that are dealt with everyday. Through his films, there is a decades old tradition of mixing race with horror. Going back to Lovecraft even, multiple stories have shined a light on his inner fears and battles with xenophobia. A different time calls for a different lens. Where Lovecraft‘s was an outward hatred, Peele looks to focus on internalized hatred.
Aster on the other hand tends to lean on human emotion. Grief in particular. “Hereditary” has the themes of grief and mental illness running all throughout. With our main character Annie (Toni Collette) talking about her families past experiences with mental illness and later finding out the vast misunderstandings she has had of her family history. The story starts with her mother dying and continues with the deaths of her daughter and husband. There is no break for her mentally from the grief she is suffering which Aster uses as a tool to make the audience question the characters reality along with their own. “Midsommar” handles loss and grief in a different way. The main character of this tale Dani (Florence Pugh) also deals with mental illness in her family, but unlike “Hereditary” where the family is picked off slowly, Dani‘s family is killed in a mass murder-suicide in the very beginning of the film. On the opposite side of “Hereditary” as well, “Midsommar” has a strange uplifting yet cathartic ending for Dani. Through the loss of one family, she strangely gained another.
Aside from specific visionaries, there have also been standouts within the genre. 2014’s “It Follows” borrowed a lot from the visual storytelling of “Halloween” using the camera to instill feelings of voyeurism while also creating the nostalgic feeling of recent releases akin to “IT“. You have seen this type of film before, but it somehow remains stand alone and original with its story that beyond hiding in the shadow of its predecessor, it can stand beside it. 2016’s “The Witch” used old world beliefs to build it’s world. presenting questions about the superstitions and religious beliefs of colonial America. Then there are odd bits like 2017’s “The Void” that carry on the Lovecraftian themes of other wordly fears that expand beyond human comprehension.
The new face of horror is within ourselves. Our basic fears. Questioning our understandings and what we have been taught as a group/society. Looking back at historical atrocities and accepting it into the common knowledge. Who to trust and what is right. All things that are still unknown to us can be shone through an entertainment spotlight that can amuse you as well as make us question our own existence and personal stories. The new face of horror is ourselves and there is no escape.