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It’s Halloween time and, as many others, I’ve been sitting down to watch and re-watch some of my favorite horror movies. Old and new, I’ve been going through my list day by day, and an interesting thread popped up. In direct correlation to the decade produced, horror movies seemed to get smarter and smarter. Of course, this is a common trend in all forms of cinema, but still,  more often than not horror movies take a back seat to the other genres of film.

However, horror movies are getting more sophisticated as time progresses. Over the last few years, horror movies in the U.S. have proven to be more than just a few cheap scares. There is still plenty of phoned-in stuff out there, but some horror movies released in recent years have given real hope for the genre.

Get Out

The first movie that really gave this argument some legs was Get Out. Jordan Peele’s directorial debut was a solid one, making a film that invokes many shades of horror, some of which is blatant and some of which is subtle. Peele takes the classic “monster in a house” motif and turns it around, making it a person inside of a monster’s house. Of course, Get Out isn’t the first film to do this, but it is the first to do it in this manner.

The line “a mind is a terrible thing to waste” is used over and over again in the trailer, almost hypnotically. That line comes from the United Negro College Fund scholarship program, founded for black students. Essentially a mind is wasted in this film…

Thematically, it’s an obvious reflection of systemic racism in U.S. culture, but it’s more than an idea. Nuances of the film drive this theme home, such as the fact that Chris is a black and white photographer exclusively. Furthermore, the trailer even hinted at the theme. The line “a mind is a terrible thing to waste” is used over and over again in the trailer, almost hypnotically. That line comes from the United Negro College Fund scholarship program, founded for black students. Essentially a mind is wasted in this film, bringing both the narrative and the theme to a point.

It Follows

It Follows has to be one of the best horror movies I have ever seen. The terror is constant throughout the film, in a way that both narrative and thematically make crystal clear.

By taking the risk of omitting key information, the audience isn’t left bored with unneeded exposition dialogue, and further not turned off by some massive underworld plot.

Starting with the narrative, It Follows takes us along for the ride with Jay. We only have the information she has, shrouding “It” in as much mystery as she would be feeling. By taking the risk of omitting key information, the audience isn’t left bored with unneeded exposition dialogue, and further not turned off by some massive underworld plot. Their sole focus is “It.

Thematically, the movie does the same thing. It Follows doesn’t explain it’s theme which, * spoiler *, is based around rape. It’s subtle, using dialogue such as “she won’t believe you” to drive home the theme without taking away from the narrative.

It Comes at Night

It Comes at Night is a “horror” film, with the monster being humanity, asking how we would react when put in given circumstances.

It Comes at Night has got to be one of the most disappointing movies for me. Not disappointing because I didn’t like it, but disappointing because it seemed like no one else did. I loved this movie, as well as everything it stood for.

The tale isn’t nearly classic horror by any stretch of the imagination. The title implies that there would be some sort of monster that would come at night to hunt down these families. Even while watching the film, I assumed “it” was the disease they were trying to outrun.

Neither seems to be the case. “It” is humanity, and the movie brings into question what we would or should do when put into danger. It Comes at Night is a “horror” film, with the monster being humanity, asking how we would react when put in given circumstances.

Conclusion

From Attack of the 50 Foot Woman to War of the Worlds to Friday the 13th, horror movies have progressed in their sophistication a great deal. They’ve continued to get smarter as audiences have stopped playing into established tropes.

However, horror movies have seemed to have reached a new level, in which they can really make comments on society, humanity, and more through its framework. What used to be a throwaway genre is now molding into something sophisticated and truly special.

Horror movies have a unique advantage as a genre. They can scapegoat something to reflect what may be experienced in everyday life. Thankfully, that seems to have finally started be capitalized on.

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