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A New Brand of Horror From A New Generation of Horror Directors

By Say Peng  /  03 Jul 2019 (Wednesday)

Get Out, Hereditary, The Witch, Us, Midsommar - what do they have in common?

Eschewing traditional horror troupes, they all share the common trait of the psychological horror style and they are all directed by new and emerging directors. 

Get Out and Us are directed by Jordan Peele. The Witch is directed by Robert Eggers. Hereditary and Midsommar are directed by Ari Aster.

All of them are critically acclaimed, with some critics even claiming that we are in a new era of horror.

These horror filmmakers stand apart from horror filmmakers such as James Wan or Wes Craven. 

Wan and Craven's horror movies - Insidious, The Conjuring, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream - belong to the more traditional mould of horror. 

Traditional horror films employ devices such as clearly defined villains (Freddy Krueger, Ghostface, Sadako Yamamura), jump scares, frantic editing, claustrophobic compositions before revealing the monster lying just outside of the frame, and at the end of the movie, the narrative is unambiguously resolved.

Whereas the kind of horror that these new filmmakers are making are generally more formalist, slow-burn, character-driven, atmospheric, and ambiguous. They are usually inspired by arthouse cinema than by mainstream films. These filmmakers would more readily cite Roman Polanski and Stanley Kubrick than John Carpenter or George Romero. 

In an interview for the Verge, Aster explains “You have two camps. One is horror films that are essentially roller-coaster rides, that are there to just give people a series of jolts, and then let them go home and get on with their life. Then there are others that are maybe more existential in nature and are really trying to play with very serious fears and engaging with them on a serious level."

The Hollywood Reporter called the new trend of horror the "elevated horror". And traces its inception to Robert Eggers' The Witch.

Premiering in Sundance in 2015, The Witch, essentially a girl-to-witch coming-of-age story set in 1630s New England, played to rave critical reviews. 

However, general audiences and horror fans are not taking too well to this elevated horror. On Rotten Tomatoes, Hereditary is rated 80% by the Tomatometer (which aggregates critical opinion) and 64% on Audience Score.

The reason is simply that Hereditary, like The Witch, subverts a lot of the expectations and troupes that horror fans want from horror films.

But because of the rise of elevated horror, the genre, often regarded as trashy B-movies, is basking in love both from critics and filmmakers. 

Genre is experiencing a resurgence and it's in no small part thanks to elevated horror.
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