From Suspiria to Hereditary, the genre is increasingly ditching its B-movie bag of tricks in order to be taken seriously. But I was far more frightened by ‘duds’ such as Overlord and The Nun than this new monstrous Oscar-bait
Horror is having a moment. Films such as Suspiria, Halloween, A Quiet Place and Hereditary are no longer being dragged out and dusted off at Halloween before being kicked back into the basement for another year. Now, they generate high-profile coverage all year round, often reiterating some version of the idea that they shouldn’t be called horror at all, but should be fenced off in a subgenre dubbed “elevated horror”, “smart horror” or “post-horror”. I don’t like horror, the reasoning goes, but I liked these horror movies … so now I have to call them something else.
This is nothing new. The history of horror films is one long tug of war between the classy, critically lauded top of the market, where the monsters are suggested rather than hidden, and the schlockier depths, where the monsters are not only revealed but run up and down the aisles screaming and waving blood-stained axes. While it is always splendid when horror is taken more seriously, it is a shame that less prestigious examples are still routinely dumped on by critics and pickier fans, although this doesn’t appear to have affected the huge profit ratios of this year’s critical punchbags, which include Insidious: The Last Key (“tiresome”), The First Purge (“cheap-looking and spineless”), Truth or Dare (“an execrable mess”), The Nun (“boring, uneventful, downright ludicrous”) and Overlord (“a futile exercise in turd-polishing”).
Stop the horror snobbery! I just want my jump scares back