Modern times call for a popular horror movie

In a new horror movie “Horns,” Keri Russell plays a high school teacher in the troubled city of Oregon who assumes that one of her students (Jeremy T. Thomas) is hiding a supernatural secret associated with a series of brutal murders. (He’s right.)

Scott Cooper, the director of the film “Horns,” which is currently in theaters, had no qualms about showing the film to his daughters, ages 15 and 18, though he is in the portrayal of the glutton in abundance. wendigo, a creature with roots in the folklore traditions of the Indians.

Instead, he showed it to them because he knew the horrors he portrayed — for example, opioid addiction and the environmental effects of mining — would fade compared to what they already feared: the falling spiral of the natural world in front of their front door.

“When you live in California, you face climate change and drought on a daily basis,” he said. “They are very aware of what they are doing and what their future holds. My girls understand that my film is a metaphor. “

The catastrophic attitude of humanity towards nature and the rebellion of nature against the human body are more than just a device for the complication of horror movies. They also continue the tradition of folk horror, a genre that stems primarily from British cinema, which American audiences recently tasted in Aria Aster. “Midsommar” and Robert Eggers “Witch.”

In general, the films take place in a rural setting and deal with folk customs and ancient belief systems. The stories are mostly about conflicts: between internal and external, city and country, technology and analog and modernity, and idyllic past (unless you were a witch).

As a scholar of popular horror wrote Adam Scovell, the genre speaks of “evil underground, threatening forgotten paths in the woods and ghosts haunting stones and patches of dark, lonely water”.

This fall, “Horns” from Disney’s Searchlight Pictures division joins other new, mostly indie folk horror movies from around the world. He is there “Old ways”, the story of an estate set in a Mexican village; “Demigod,” a supernatural story set in the German Black Forest; “Medium”, about a Thai shaman and a demonic entity; and with the opening on November 19 of a film in the Welsh language “Holiday”, about a fantastic dinner.

The popular horror film “wonders if the old ways were right,” as scholar Maisha Wester put it in Janisse’s film. Howard David Ingham, author of “We’re Not Going Back: A Guide to People’s Horror,” said one of the reasons people’s horror is so important now is that, whether it’s a pandemic or politics, “there’s a sense that we’re being chased by a whole bunch of unresolved deals . “

“Are we afraid that our neighbor is secretly a witch? Probably not, ”Ingham wrote in an email. “But it’s an absolute metaphor for what we experience, how the lines of error are manifested in our society.”

The labeling of popular horror as a genre only became seriously established in 2010, when it was used in the BBC documentary series “The History of Horror” to describe three British films that fans now call Unholy Trinity: “General of Witches” (1968), with Vincent Price as inquisitor; “Blood on Satan’s Claw” (1971), on demonic rituals in 18th-century England; in “The Wicker Man” (1973), on a pagan community on a remote Scottish island.

In the 1960s and 1970s, American audiences gained a sense of genre in film, such as the occult drama “The Dunwich Horror” inspired by HP Lovecraft, as well as in absurd exploitative films such as “Manitou”, the story of a demonic body horror, and in experimental cinema as »Ganja & Hess, “the story of the black vampire. Folk horror of this period was not considered a genre; filmmakers simply used horror to reflect the environmental, racial, and spiritual changes around them.

Later, American directors used folk traditions in popular films such as “Children of Corn” (1984) in “Blair Witch Project” (1999). Over the last decade, the label of folk horror and genre has stuck has gained dedicated followers and critical acclaim, thanks to films such as Jayro Bustamante‘s “La Llorona,” and especially works Ben Wheatley (COM)“In the ground”)

Although there is a rich tradition of folk horror movies around the world, folk horror movies are mostly filmed by whites, often about the fear of whites. A filmmaker who does not come from the culture he is researching, Janisse said, “will have to be able to explain how it is appropriate for them to make a film in today’s climate.”

Cooper, who is not a Native American, said he is aware of his alien status, so he consulted with experts on folklore wendigo and Native American history of the Pacific Northwest to “tell his story without feeling like I was accepting their legend. . ”

For filmmakers who work within their own folk traditions, there is nothing scary about creatures or ancient beliefs because they are embedded in their culture. Valdimar Johannsson, director “Lamb,” a new Icelandic film about a couple’s animal child, said Icelanders understand their folk history “as a normal thing and do not consider it supernatural or horrible.”

In the Anthological Film Archive, “Human horror” the new series, organized by Jed Rapfogel and Jennifer Anna, explores genre narrative and global scope. The program, which runs through Nov. 11, includes what may come as a surprise: “Go out.” But Jordan Peele’s film examines two fundamental themes of folk horror: isolation and landscape, in this case the white suburbs of the upper class, where the island’s mentality leads to social violence.

In “Get Out,” Rapfogel said, “the past is not the past and things of the past reappear in horrific ways.”

This is one of the reasons why popular horror shows no signs of wilting. As long as people always with mother nature and continue to renew old hatreds, horror will hold its mirror.

“We may be looking at stories of human sacrifices, of ghost visits, of witch sabbaths,” Ingham said. “But in a broader sense, there’s something in popular horror that makes us think so.”

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