By Daniel F.
Horror movies have been around for a long time. From the Universal monster movies of the 1930s and 1940s to the alien-centric B-movies of the 50s and 60s, horror has existed since the dawn of the medium.
But horror is entering a new boom now as more intellectually-minded horror movies arrive on the big screen. With recent films like The Witch, It Follows, Get Out, Hereditary and many others, people are starting to consume and appreciate complicated horror films that tackle larger issues.
Of course, there have always been intellectual horror films. Movies like The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, The Shining, and The Silence of the Lambs have all been hailed as masterpieces of the genre for being unconventional and tackling dark themes. And recently, more of this type of film is being created for an audience that desires challenging works.
As the new millennium started, horror films started to go through a resurgence much like in the 1980s. Franchises like Saw and Hostel started to become blockbusters because people wanted to see all the gory kills the movies had to offer. However, audiences eventually began to tire of the mass carnage and started craving unique new entries for the genre. One film was 2005’s The Descent, which had an all-female cast, something different than most of the films. While the film had plenty of gore, it also focused on the claustrophobic feeling of being trapped in a cave before the monsters showed up. This reminded audiences of effective slow-burn films of yesteryear such as The Exorcist and The Shining.
Recently, directors started to make challenging and smart scripts. Guillermo del Toro, one of the best horror directors, has provided many acclaimed films that delve into folklore and dark fantasy. His most famous film, 2006’s Pan’s Labyrinth, is considered a masterpiece and draws from Spanish folklore. His other films, The Devil’s Backbone and Crimson Peak are also known for their atmospheric nature and focus on ghosts. Recently, The Shape of Water became the second horror film to win an Oscar for Best Picture (1991’s The Silence of the Lambs was the first). And all of del Toro’s films are known for their breathtaking visuals and cinematography, something rarely seen in the horror genre.
Horror films today are also tackling big issues as well. The Babadook focuses on grief, loss, and depression. It Follows focuses on sexuality in a very mature way. American Psycho, The Cabin in the Woods, and What We Do in the Shadows are all clever satires of the genre. And last year’s sensation Get Out tackles racial and social injustice.
Some modern horror films can also be seen as coming-of-age films. The Swedish film Let the Right One In and its American remake Let Me In focus on a twelve-year-old boy who becomes friends with a vampire who looks like a twelve-year-old girl. Both films manage to be both heartwarming and terrifying at the same time and have been met with acclaim. The Witch is a period piece about Puritan New England and has a teenage girl as the main character. Last year’s Raw focuses on a girl who starts becoming a cannibal when she is a teenager.
Today, streaming services such as Netflix–with its cheap subscription price and diverse options– allow movie-watchers to take a chance and see more of these movies. The expanding audience helps film studios give more money to directors and screenwriters of this particular genre. This lets creative filmmakers explore more possibilities with fresh and invigorating ideas.
Horror is going through a new golden age in film. Hopefully, it’ll last for a long, long time.
Feature image from Guillermo del Toro’s Twitter page.