Recent years have seen the rise of a new breed of horror movie, a more prevalent brand of chiller rearing it head in our picture houses, our giant multiplexes and even on streaming services. The Witch, It Follows, Get Out, It Comes At Night, Under The Shadow and the upcoming A Ghost Story, they have all offered a more thoughtful and measured approach to horror than the brainless, rotting popcorn fare than we are used to. Does this mark some kind of turning point in what we perceive as the watermark for horror cinema in the 21st century?
I am not adverse to a broad, escapist horror movie, I’m not being some kind of elitist cinematic snob here, well, at least I’m not intending to be at any rate. I realise that these films are cheaply made and thrown out with impunity because with such low budgets it is very easy for them to make their money back with the sacrifice of established actors and story writing , it doesn’t however mean that standards should be thrown out of the window entirely, this new breed of horror movie proves this needn’t be the case. I realise that it can be argued that a film such as The Witch when held up against a franchise such as say Insidious or The Conjuring, which both had instalments i actually quite enjoyed incidentally, doesn’t really have any chance of making anywhere near the same box office as those films, it is a more niche prospect and I do get that but that doesn’t mean that studios or budget production companies should always plumb for the lowest common denominator option for a quick buck. A chief perpetrator of dumbed down, conveyor belt horror, Blumhouse put out earlier this year one of the most thoughtful & original horror movies I had seen in a long time in the excellent Get Out. Get Out had a $4.5 million budget and made in excess of $200 million in the box office showing that a well written, intelligent horror movie with a message can make for box office gold. The same can be said of well received streaming content, Middle-Eastern horror movie Under The Shadow received Netflix distribution in this country and was getting Oscar nominations, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
I’m not completely naive, I do realise that executives care very little for artistic integrity when the cash is rolling in but the success of films such as Get Out and Under The Shadow and to lesser extents, the likes of The Witch & It Follows, which enjoyed great critical success and reasonable takings mark an emphatic shift in attitudes towards horror movies by both film makers & the cinema going public, they don’t just want to be scared anymore, they want to be challenged. There will always be top billing for horror that is cheaply made and marketed to succeed no matter it’s critical or artistic worth but the thinking man’s horror is on the move and it’s out for blood.