A new wave of smart horror films

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For many film — goers, this past summer was marked by discovering newfound fears of telephone poles and tongue clicking. Ari Aster’s Hereditary garnered more praise than usual for a horror movie, and it was well — warranted. The film set aside jump scares and monsters to explore the far too real fear of losing a loved one. It touches these issues with a depth unheard of in the slashers and found — footage flicks from more recent years. Visceral and traumatic, Hereditary managed to haunt audiences to the point where we’re still discussing it months later.

Despite this, it’s quite easy to name other recent films filled with just as much dread. For instance, 2017 was the year of Get Out, the chilling social commentary from Jordan Peele. Get Out was particularly significant for horror, a genre often turned away from conversations about cinematic masterpieces. Yet, the Golden Globes and Academy Awards were more than willing to welcome the film, even earning Peele an Academy Award for best original screenplay. Rejoice resounded amongst horror enthusiasts when this happened: finally, our genre is being taken seriously. But what’s changed?

Few genres get complete overhauls like horror does. In the late 2000s and early 2010s, the found footage horror rose to prominence, spearheaded by the original Paranormal Activity. It grew tiring fast, sitting through blurry demonic possession footage while daydreaming about Cronenberg making a return to the genre with something downright disgusting to cheer us horror fans up. For a while, it seemed as though every possible concept for horror had been done to death, a side effect of film studios lazily churning out the same jump scares over and over again.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where the shift began because it’s been so gradual. Even harder is identifying what to call this “renaissance of horror.” It’s fairly easy to describe: there’s no big scares, no monsters jumping out of the shadows at the main characters, just an atmosphere of pure dread surrounding every scene. The underlying realism of the issues plaguing Hereditary and Get Out’s characters also lends way to their fear factor, making the ghosts and killers of past horrors lack the thrill they once had. Take, for instance, It Follows, an eerie parable about anxieties regarding sex, or Raw, a film that turns growing older into a monster. All these ideas are so unique from one another, it’s hard to imagine them being boxed into the same category — a huge difference from horror movements of the past. That’s only one of the many reasons these films and more have been met with praise from film fanatics even outside the horror realm.

Due to the innovation the filmmakers from this new wave of horror offer, I don’t see it dying down any time soon. There’s already many more anticipated horror films in the works from writers and directors responsible for the most eerie and atmospheric of the bunch. Jordan Peele has promised a whole collection of horror movies with underlying social critique, and the one slated for a 2019 release is titled Us. Ari Aster’s upcoming Midsomer is being kept under wraps, aside from being mysteriously described as an “apocalyptic breakup film” by Aster himself. Robert Eggers has taken on The Lighthouse, a fantasy-horror set in 1890 and shot completely in black and white. Eggers was responsible for what many consider to be the best horror film of the decade, The Witch, a folkloric slow burn that earned lead actress Anya Taylor-Joy a scream queen card. Eggers and Taylor-Joy intend to work together once again on a future remake of Nosferatu — while remakes are misses more often than hits, only good (and terrifying) things can be expected of this duo. Aside from these, I imagine there are some surprises in store from currently unknown directors — a vast majority of these atmospheric horror films seem to blow up from nothing.

These promising past years for horror give fans of the genre a lot to look forward to. Not only the films themselves, but accolades in areas horror movies have been neglected in for years now. It’s refreshing to see a tired genre be revitalized with such unexpected ideas, even when it seems like nothing can top the dread of the last one.

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