Artistic horror – still an oxymoron?

My personal opinion about the new trend in the horror film industry.


Horror movies became one of my major areas of cinematic interest recently and it’s undisputable, that the dumbness of the majority of them goes far beyond the imagination of ordinary people. There is no need to dig deep into the topic; just recently we could be blessed with flops like “Pyramid” or “Ouija”. Everything would be cool, if I didn’t see the so-called genre revelations, which created a heated debate not only among the critics, but also horror fans. Here is what I think about those allegedly artistic hits.

Last year’s horror top lists were taken over by “The Babadook” – an Australian story of a mother, whose son suffers from a psychological disorder issues and claims their house is haunted by Babadook – a demon from the book he found. We should begin with stating the obvious – children in horror movies can be either scary as hell (“The Shining”  or “The Grudge” for instance), but also ridicuolously hilarious and cheesy (like “Children of the Corn” series proves). The problem with Noah Wiseman, who plays the role of Samuel, is that his performance is way too dramatic and overdrawn, creating a vague and rather cliche character. Apart from that, melancholic performance of Amelia does not provoke any sympathy either. All in all, two main characters happen to be a blurry silhouettes on the very mysterious canvas. Needless to say, there is something artfully delectable about the cinematography of Jennifer Kent‘s “The Babadook” and this is what distinguishes it from hundreds of mediocre features. Nevertheless, this is not enough.

The critics hailed the intellectual aspect of “The Babadook“, pointing out that the psychological penetration of the relationship between Amelia and her son is used to frighten the audience, simultaneously avoiding horro cliches. Kent’s movie is not free from them, but they are quite wisely covered by this mysterious atmosphere, hanging heavily in every scene. “The Babadook” did not deserve to be such an acclaimed picture, but at least, it’s an interesting approach to the horror genre. It dwells on a psychological aspect of fear and pictures the disturbing paranoia in a quite an appalling way.

The list of those “ambitious” flicks gets bigger every year. “As Above, So Below” (picture above), directed by John Dowdle, also received quite a heart-warming reviews, although the movie is just another POV-filmed aftermath of “Blair Witch Project” idea. This time, instead of dusky forests, we follow the endless corridors and chambers of Parisian catacombs. Nevertheless, Dowdle’s movie was at least originallly written and even though the creators did not avoid a lot of plotholes in the script, “As Above, So Below” was surprisingly fun to follow – still, did not constitute a wind of freshness in the genre.

My horror frustration rose to the maximum after watching “It Follows“… Jay, an attractive teenage girl, meets a guy and sleeps with him – as a consequence, he transfers onto her a demon, which follows her everywhere. Furtherore, she cannot be touched by it and she can pass it only by having sex with someone. Sounds like a ridiculously stupid idea for a horror movie?  Even though the story already raised my doubts whether to see “It Follows“, I gave it a shot…

… And experienced a truly pitiful, gimcrack piece of pseudo-artfull horror. The list of the numerous flaws of Mitchell’s film was getting longer and longer, as “It Follows” made me more sick with every minut passing by. David Robert Mitchell was extremely hyped about creating a visionary horror, influenced by such movies as Winding Refn’s “Drive” or Carpenter’s “Thing“. His ambitious approach clashed with a complete lack of a neatly-crafted script and well-picked actors. Hilarious scenes double and triple, Jay does not change her facial expression at any cost and at the peak of the mountain we have naked, old people, creepingly walking or staring. Does that sound even a bit scary or, God forbid, artistic?

All in all, there is something charming how tacky those artistic horrors are. Cinema is rapidly evolving, the genres are mixed and blended all the time, but yet those revelations are still longshots from what could be possible called this way. I still find movies as “The Shining” or “The Ring” to be the milestones, which lay way further than 2014/2015 hits. And don’t get me wrong – I firmly support this desire to bring horror genre to a new, artistic level – there is a great potential in it. But not the way movies like “It Follows“, “The Babadook” attempt to do.

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