Every year when October comes around, we appreciate classics like Scream (1996), Poltergeist (1982), and Psycho (1960). We also get a handful of your typical slasher or jumpscare-riddled films that overflow the theaters. But what separates new releases from this never-ending pattern of commercialized Halloween horror is just how inventive and experimental directors are willing to get.
In recent years, Hollywood has finally begun to reach out of the box and broaden the limits of the genre. Directors like Jordan Peele and Ari Aster are spearheading this new horror renaissance.
Let’s face it, horror isn’t what it once was. But, the genre adapts to its audience. We’re no longer as scared of a man with a knife or a spooky ghost story as we once were, we want more—so we’re given more.
Take Peele’s summer release, Nope (2022). He takes the (debatably overdone) alien invasion trope and lets the reins loose. We’re given a perspective that adds layers of childhood trauma, spectatorship, and fame. It’s more than just aliens on earth and it’s the opposite of the well-known “we have to save mankind!” situation. It reimagines even how aliens can appear, something other than the green skinny slimy being we’ve adhered to. This renaissance doesn’t mean that the movies are suddenly better, but they are becoming more innovative and creative in approaching these common fears and tropes.
Now, horror movies are less focused on the kill count, the gore, and the jumpscares but more geared towards being unpredictable and imaginative. Aster’s cult horror Hereditary (2018) isn’t outright terrifying. We get a shock here and there but mainly it’s about a family struggling with grief—a situation much scarier than some made up tale. It’s about the terror that comes with loss, subverting our expectations to tell a much larger (and horrifying) story that becomes more and more complex as the movie reaches it’s climactic finale.
Horror is a genre that has never been taken seriously nor has it been as critically acclaimed as others. But now it is no longer handcuffed to the month of October, it’s no longer something we only watch that month. It’s a genre that is finally getting raving reviews aside from “that was scary!” The films are more than just a surface level scare that we’ll forget about in a month or two.
We still have our favorite slasher or monster movies, they don’t all have to be this crazy never-before-seen concept, but now they don’t adhere to the common tropes that we’ve come to predict. Newer releases like Bodies Bodies Bodies (2022) and Barbarian (2022) somehow find a way to keep these conventional stories fresh. Diehard horror fans, regular viewers, and critics are finally coming to the same page. Keep an eye out for the new horror releases, they may surprise you.
Carla Rubio is an English major on the Writing and Rhetoric track with intentions of going to law school. Film studies to her is something to look forward to in the midst of all the essays and cases and research papers.