As I sat down in my film class after having seen It: Chapter Two the previous weekend, I was astonished to hear my classmate relay that he hated horror and found it to be predictable, campy even. I sat through the subsequent screening of The Thin Man (W.S. Van Dyke, 1934) in utter shock, “How could someone view such a transformative and quite frankly importantly genre as unoriginal.” After further reflection it became obvious; horror, as I and many other horror fans experience it, is different from what the average person sees it as; campy, unoriginal, violent, and tired. What horror brings to the table for horror fans is not the same for everyone, let alone people who don’t like the genre in the first place.
It’s impossible to undo the effects of the never ending push of terrible horror films like Annabelle, Escape Room, and the IT reboots- full of poor plots, worse scripts, and cheap scares, not to mention often times terrible CGI. Of course these movies are often enjoyable, but a movie is not good simply for being enjoyable.
From the outside looking in, horror can look and feel like an extremely tired genre. Do we really want another Insidious movie? (I don’t) Is anyone else tired of the Paranormal Activity franchise? But horror is so much more than the corny films people continue to chalk it up to be. We are living in the middle of a renaissance- a goddamn, horror renaissance.
When did this renaissance begin? Who’s to really say, but all I know that it has been going on for the majority of my life and that’s one of the greatest privileges I have. While I was busy being a child, reading books outside and chasing the neighborhood stray cats, films like Ginger Snaps (John Fawcett, 2001) and Jennifer’s Body (Karyn Kusama, 2011) were being released. These films, while at the time, were paid absolute dust by the horror crowd (largely dominated by men), now have huge cult followings. Both films involve the horrors of not only growing up as teenage girls, but specifically the body horror associated with it.
The conversation has long since moved from discussions of confusion and disapproval for these films centered around girls to a place where the white male voice is no longer needed to make a film valid.
Get Out (Jordan Peele, 2017) is one of the best horror films released in this time of rebirth for the genre. The story focuses on a black main character, neo-liberalism, and the nuanced ways racism exists within our society. Both Midsommar (Ari Aster, 2019) and the Babadook (Jennifer Kent, 2014) are gripping female centric films that deal with the way trauma and grief is handled. Both main characters, because of the certain roles they are filling as women, girlfriend and mother respectively, lack the ability to express their grief not only in a healthy way, but at all.
It’s impossible not to think about the films being released right now and revel in the glory of the horror genre. The VVitch, It Comes at Night, Ready or Not, the Haunting of Hill House, Quiet Place, and every other film mentioned seem to be reshaping what was starting to be a tired and worn out genre. Sure these great films are haunted by the not so great ones; holding onto tired franchises, overused tropes, and cheesy jump scares, but I’ll be damned if I let those movies outshine a genre that continues to produce amazing films. Welcome to the Horror Renaissance.