Funny Games (1997) & (2007)
Director: Michael Haneke
Michael Haneke is well known for his ability to play with psychological terror while exploring wider society and its fears and apprehensions. For example, with his 1992 film ‘Benny’s video‘ Haneke aimed at a youth culture obsessed with violence on film. Exploring the gaps between reality and fiction in the actions of a boy who lives his life through video, his horrendous acts a mere reflection of the video culture he has absorbed.
In both his original 1997 Funny Games and its subsequent remake in 2007. Haneke aimed at the safety and security of the middle-class family. Once again taking audiences to the very extremes of human psychology and fear. At the same time, providing us with a home-invasion thriller where the real horror comes from our role as viewers. As we passively watch the ensuing bloodshed and cruelty of young male perpetrators, while doing nothing to stop it. Both young men using the camera to address the audience directly, ensuring the audience are spectators. While the sadistic games they play become more and more threatening.
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Director: George A. Romero
In 1968 George A. Romero introduced the world to a horror film that would change the landscape of the zombie picture. Romeo’s black and white film, notable for its political references to The Vietnam War challenged pre-conceptions of horror. In both Introducing a black male hero and focussing on human psychology. Rather than the undead at the heart of the film.
Splatter horror that would later become a staple of Zombie films is in short supply in Romero’s vision. Replaced by a tense exploration of humans facing a crisis. The classic tension of the family home invasion replaced by a group of strangers who quarrel and clash in political and social views on the terror surrounding them. In many ways, this tension and exploration of human behaviour play to the disaster movie genre. As those trapped desperately seek escape from the world collapsing outside their front door.
A classic that would give birth to the modern zombie movie, Night of Living Dead still haunts us all in its ability to capture the darkness and panic of humans facing a crisis.
Director: Ari Aster
Ari Aster’s feature film debut is a homage to the classic horror of Rosemary’s Baby and Don’t Look Now. In creating a claustrophobic story of a family unravelling. Their lives manipulated and controlled by an unseen force. Its narrative littered with clues to the events unfolding, like breadcrumbs on the trail of terror. Asking the audience to find the darkness present before the family on screen.
Aster cleverly using image, sound and hooks in delving into our subconscious fears. Delicately and slowly wrapping the audience in darkness, while paying homage to classic occult films of the 1970s.
Director: Ari Aster
Building on his debut Hereditary, Ari Aster takes us on a journey that not only pays homage to The Wicker Man but also redefines folk horror for a modern audience. With Aster using the Swedish countryside to create a horror bathed in sunshine. While equally launching the audience into a hallucinogenic trip into terror. A remote community embracing naive young travellers, while weaving them into the folklore of their hidden lives.
Midsommar gets under your skin, its stark whites blazing through your mind, as you descend into a rabbit hole dark folk horror.
Let the Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in) 2008
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Vampire films have become a staple of modern horror, from Salams Lot through to Near Dark and The Lost Boys. But what happens when you combine vampire mythology with the classic coming of age themes of loneliness, difference and anxiety?
The answer is a film that combines the horrors of growing up with the fears of blood-sucking eternal creatures. Two children isolated and lost in the darkness; one a bullied and friendless human; the other a vampire child walking the earth in endless seclusion. With both children becoming protective and dangerous friends, their love young love of each other, leading to the destruction of those who threaten them.
Let the Right One In talks to the deepest fears of early adolescence, while letting in the darkness and friendship of a creature who may just enact the very things we dream of but never do.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Director: Tobe Hooper
Replacing the dark manipulation of Hitchcock with full-bodied violence and terror, Tobe Hooper’s indie film single handily ushered in a new era. Not only giving birth to the ‘slasher’ genre but also inspiring countless directors to push the boundaries of the horror on screen. By dovetailing themes of real crime with a new breed of visceral terror, that built on the work of Romero and Craven.
Without The Texas Chainsaw Massacre we may never have had the likes of Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street or Alien. But the power of this film and its handheld documentary-like realism still unsettles the strongest stomach to this day. In a that screams for your attention and never let’s go.