The Return Of Intelligent Horror

Cerebral horror movies like Us, Midsommar, Hereditary and The Witch have thrived both critically and commercially in recent years. Thomas Hobbs speaks to a selection of contemporary horror filmmakers to try to understand why intelligent horror is succeeding in 2019

There was a time in the not too distant past when the horror films that cleaned up at the box office were more rooted in torture porn than actual character development. Basically, if you created a sadistic bogeyman who could inventively kill horny teenagers and return for five sequels, then you’d probably hit gold as a filmmaker.

Yet over recent years there’s been a noticeable shift to more considered stories. Thoughtful horror films like Jordan Peele’s Get Out (winner of an Oscar in 2018 for Best Original Screenplay, no less) and Us, Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook, Robert Eggers’ The Witch, and Ari Aster’s Hereditary and Midsommar, have each been commercial and critical successes, generating existential fear by exploring emotionally complex themes such as grief, identity, race, toxic masculinity and the breakdown of the family unit.