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The Meta Movie Monster Milieu: The Postmodern Horror Film…

Horror films have historically performed very well.

They never really get the same attention or focus as more prestigious genres like drama or even comedy or action, but they tend to chug away reliably in the background. Since the explosion of blockbuster filmmaking during the seventies, horror has always had several innate advantages over other genres. Horror films are cheaper to produce than star-studded dramas, period pieces, or epic spectacle, meaning that they have to earn less money to be profitable. Horror films are also largely seen as disposable and fun films, so there is always a market for these films and they tend to be insulated from bad reviews.

Indeed, there has been a miniature horror revolution over the past few years, itself building on the low-budget found footage revolution of the first decade of the twenty-first century. Very few people seem to talk about it, but director James Wan seems to have built what is Hollywood’s second successful shared universe with the nexus connecting films like The Conjuring and The Conjuring II to movies like Annabelle and The Nun. Indeed, the success of these films has even led to a sort of weird hybrid of revived seventies horror stylings with blockbuster narrative sensibilities.

However, there has also been a quieter revolution in horror storytelling, with several low-budget and independent horror films gaining critical and cultural traction. Films like The Babadook were greeted with enthusiasm. Get Out become one of a handful of low budget horror films to secure a Best Picture nomination. Films like Hereditary emerge from the festival circuit with considerable buzz. Horror movies have always been pointed towards and engaged with contemporary politics, often in a manner more visceral than the prestige dramas around them. However, it seems that is finally being acknowledged.

With all of this happening within the genre, there has been something else bubbling through contemporary horror cinema. Films like It Follows, Don’t Breathe, Lights Out and A Quiet Place represent a fascinating shift within the genre towards more self-aware storytelling. There is a decidedly meta quality to horror films like It Follows, Don’t Breathe, Lights Out and A Quiet Place. As with horror films like The Babadook and Get Out, these are films that hinge on the audience’s understanding of the mechanics and structure of horror films, weaponising the viewer’s expectations.

However, these films are markedly different from companion horrors like The Babadook and Get Out, films that use the language of horror to construct broader allegories. Instead, films like It Follows, Don’t Breathe, Lights Out and A Quiet Place are horror films that often seem to be explicitly about the experience of watching horror films.

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Non-Review Review: The Ring

The Ring is actually a surprisingly effective horror when measured on its own terms, as well as being perhaps the most successful American adaptation of a Japanese horror. I would make the case that the film isn’t a patch on the original Ringu, but it’s to director Gore Verbinski’s credit that he attempts to subtly distinguish his film from the one that inspired it, while remaining true to the spirit of that classic cult horror.

Watts going on here?

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Non-Review Review: Ringu

There are a handful of movies I will forever associate with a particular viewing experience – and some with the first time I had seen a given movie. I remember, for instance, seeing Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back for the first time with my father in the local cinema during its nineties re-release. When I think of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, I recall the time I had to sit in the hall while the grown-ups watched it. Anytime I see The Shining, I think back to watching it in the wee hours of the morning with gran and granddad. The Japanese cult horror Ringu is something of a similar experience.

All's well that ends well...

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When Was the Last Time a Horror Film Gave You Nightmares?

We had a family outing at the weekend. We all went to see The Last Exorcism, on the recommendation of my gran. We were pretty much all disappointed, but to different degrees. Anyway, as we sat around the kitchen table at midnight, discussing the film, my gran and my aunt conceded that whenever they typically saw a film about demons, they had trouble sleeping – even the camp horror of The Devil Rides Through or the courtroom-focused drama of The Exorcism of Emily Rose. However, neither would have any real trouble sleeping that night (and, the following morning, both seemed perfectly rested). So it got me thinking, perhaps the perfect measure of a horror movie’s effectiveness is how afraid it makes you as you lay yourself down to rest. So, when was the last time you had trouble sleeping?

A stab in the dark...

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It’s For-eign, Not For Americans…

What is the deal with remaking foreign films for American audiences, really? That Akira remake apparently still alive.

Despite the high volume of foreign films being remade, there are comparatively few English films that warrant an Americanised reworking, so I’m going to suggest that it’s not merely the cultural barrier that needs transcending. I think it’s the foreign language barrier. So, what’s the point in remaking and reimagining foreign properties for huge amounts of money – why not simply pay more heed to the original product?

For the record, NOT how you do a 180-degree turn...

For the record, NOT how you do a 180-degree turn...

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