We all know the type: dark and brooding, sitting in the back of the class, arms folded over his chest like armor, usually masked. He doesn’t say much but lets his actions do all the talking, and while he’s slower than a constipated turd, he always catches his prey.
His name’s Horror, and while most of us have grown immune to his devilish charm, he’s still the keeper of our childhood nightmares, and for that we remain devoted.
Some call him Pinhead, some Freddie, some Jason. Maybe Jack Torrance or Annie Wilkes. Or maybe screw all that—you’re a sucker for a hefty man in a butcher’s apron and a flesh mask.
I, myself, practice at the Temple of Michael Myers every Sunday, and I pray to the Horror gods every night. When I want to curl up and feel at home, I go for a dose of King; 1408 is always a warm and cozy choice.
Despite my devotion, I’d be remiss to point out that some years ago, our favorite brooding fella began losing his appeal and started showing signs of becoming the washed up jock who haphazardly bench-presses dainty dudes at his high school reunion, before making you feel his moderately impressive biceps through his dragon bedazzled button-up shirt, leaving you yearning for something deeper.
Until recently, many of Horror’s faithful followers found themselves asking what the future of Horror looked like. That is, until a children’s book birthed a nightmare into the world, and then the emergence of a deadly STD, followed by an autopsy gone horribly wrong. And let us not forget that visit home for a strapping young African American man and his too-good-to-be-true girlfriend.
With the release of films like “The Babadook,” “It Follows,” “The Autopsy of Jane Doe,” and “Get Out,” viewers found themselves face-to-face with a horse of a completely different color, and we all had a collective mind-gasm because we didn’t know Horror came in that shade of Oh. My. God.
Artistic, intelligent, and featuring acting that rivals Meryl’s (okay, almost), these recent heavy hitters proved that Horror can be served alongside filet mignon, and that scary & smart do in fact go together.
Jennifer Kent, David Robert Mitchell, André Øvredal, and Jordan Peele did the Horror genre a serious solid with their uniquely evolved interpretations of fear and its effect on the human psyche. With nerve-wracking pacing and pleasingly ominous tones, these writers/directors fleshed out brilliantly told stories with the use of intellect and with a great respect for their craft—all without resorting to gore as a cheap filler.
Growing up as a huge fan of Horror, I remember the rare diamond—the one shining spot within the muddy waters. Horror has always struck gold from time-to-time, but never in the history of filmmaking has the genre been so masterfully represented. After a run of so many successful films, I think it’s fair to say that Horror, if it so chooses to accept the mission, will soon be worthy of that golden statue with no clothes and zero modesty.
I’ve only listed four films, and while that certainly won’t propel Horror to its rightful place within the film echelon, I think it’s a clear indicator that the Gods are listening to our pleas and are offering up smarter, deeper, richer horror that doesn’t dumb itself down for audiences, but that can play on the big kid playground with the rest of Hollywood’s masterpieces.