The Renaissance of Horror / by Frixos Masouras

Ask yourself. When was the last time you watched a good horror film? I bet a scream or two, that the answer is "very recently". I've been thinking about this for the last 3 years and I think it is finally time to call it how it is. The renaissance of Horror is reaching its peak. 

There is no way that we could reinvent the wheel or rediscover fire. "Originality is dead!" screams the angry mob outside the manor gates, but what the torch-wielding villagers forgot is that originality is but a compliment to creativity. How many more times can you tell the haunted house story? The found footage case? The slasher flick? In truth, the answer to all those questions is "as many times as you want, as long as you do it right!". This is what has been done in these last 8 or so years, and I am speaking strictly cinema here. TV is having its own horror renaissance! 

Many people brush off Paranormal Activity as "meh, Blair Witch Project in a house". It is! And in my eyes it worked (even the sequels had a bit of something to them...a bit). This was in 2007. Something in the market snapped. Writers, directors, cinematographers and actors understood how to look at thousand-told stories from a different angle, not even with a different twist. PA took the found footage story and shoved it right in our homes, figuratively and literally. It delivered an intense story involving two normal people (as always!) in a scenario none of us wish to be caught in. Tried-and-true stuff, sure but blended together nicely. Its heart was in the right place (same goes for the Spanish REC!). However, PA was not the film that kickstarted the horror renaissance in my eyes. That title goes to the magnificent French MASTERPIECE Martyrs

Such was the force of the punch that film landed squarely in my face that I now have zero qualms about branding it the best horror film I have ever watched. Jaws? Classic, but I was VERY young but still is the bible for creature-horror films. Yet I ask myself how would I perceive Martyrs had I watched it at that age? Oh, the horror... (Disclaimer: If you have never watched this film and you love horror then stop reading right now and get yourself a copy. NOW!) 

Something had changed right after that film, the ante was upped. The rest of the world took some time to take notice, that the people were screaming (is this...yeah, pun...) for a good horror film. Then just like the flash of an axe head gleaming in the moonlight, the creative peeps around the world started delivering good horror! Hell, even Darren Aronofsky picked up on that and gave us Black Swan in 2010. I can hear some of you saying "What about Saw?". The first one (read: the best one) was released in 2003 and the result? A bunch of lukewarm towards decent sequels... and an evolution! The Collector which now has two films that can be considered a direct descendant of the Saw films. A crazy man sets traps. There. Both Collector films were north of OK in my books and served their fast-food horror purpose. Another notable (among many I am bound to forget!) release of 2009 was the bat-shit crazy Human Centipede. There isn't much I can say about this film but it sure turned heads...the other way!!! The Japanese release Grotesque gets an honourable shout here as well for being, well... grotesque.  

Enter the new decade. I have already mentioned Aronofsky's horror opus Black Swan yet that was, at the very least, an alternative horror film. Far from classic horror. One of the best films of the year arrived fresh from Korea (home of some AWESOME horror) in the face of I saw the devil. Brilliant use of blurred moral lines and gore (yes, dammit. GORE!) delivering a fantastic one-two punch. Before I move on to US releases however there is another horror film that was released in 2010 that disturbed the waters. A film so frowned-upon that even the most avid horror fans shake their heads at it. Yes, I am speaking of course of A Serbian Film. It's trashy, ugly, disgusting but in my books above all it is satire. I will say no more of it.

In this new decade we enjoyed the playfully dread-full (not dreadful) Insidious and the funny yet Cthonic Cabin in the woods. The Brits had a stab (p-p-p-pun combo!) at it with the eerie release of The Awakening. I am sincerely lost among the wonderful horror films that we have enjoyed during this time. And that's without mentioning the 'meh' reboots of both Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street...which I just mentioned...

Even sharks started having a comeback during this decade with at least three notable releases. Yes, one is Sharknado... but the other two took me by surprise. One was the suspenseful Bait centred around two great whites trapped in a flooded building with people following a tsunami but the other one is actually something of a poster-boy for the new era of horror! The greatest bane a director & crew faces when making a shark film is how to make the shark look real. Well, y'all should watch The Reef! An Australian (no surprises there) production that decided not to use CG and opting instead to film a real great white as the creature-protagonist while using some brilliant editing to deliver a horror film master class. Summer is approaching so I wholeheartedly recommend that you don't watch it. But, oh what the hell, do watch it! The chances of meeting a great white during your beach-days are ridiculously slim...hopefully.

Such was the thirst we had for horror films that The devil inside 2012 which cost $1 million to produce (filming was only $250.000!), raked in $100 million of which $35 million was on opening weekend. And this is a rather mediocre horror film! Ridiculous, right?? We have been given brilliant horror films. It just hit me that I forgot to mention V/H/S! Both of them! This entire article just burst into my head right after I finished watching Oculus. Another clear recommendation for you as it delivers a good story with characters you care about. What I found interesting was that the film was ready for release in 2012 yet it only saw the light of day at the end of last year with a US release only happening this year! That is good timing seeing how the market was flooded with juicy horror!

I am ecstatic with the amount of good horror films going around these days and I get the sense that it is about to peak. Like the ending of a horror film that you see coming a mile away yet you can't LOOK away. You want to know how it ends, how everything rolls out. How I see this era ending? With Guillermo del Toro doing us all proud by finally bringing Mountains of madness to life. He is currently finishing up Crimson Peak, which as you probably guessed, is a (gothic) horror film. 

So, sit back, don't relax, breath in this true renaissance of the horror genre and...


- Frixos Masouras 2014