SCARY HORROR STUFF: The Apparent Mystery of Art-House Horror and Why It Pushes the Envelope (Sometimes Too Much)
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Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Apparent Mystery of Art-House Horror and Why It Pushes the Envelope (Sometimes Too Much)

We really are seeing the surge of experimenters in the genre trying to go for something new, visually orgasmic, and yet darkly mechanical with a brooding nature meant to deliver the eerie we expect out of horror. For good reason, too. After all, the horror genre gets a bad rep, a type of entertainment meant only for the scares and gratuitousness wrought with copious amounts of verisimilitude. Why do you think we hardly ever get to see the horror genre included in awards shows? (Except for GET OUT, apparently)

That's Why We Have ART-HOUSE HORROR, a Type of Sub-Genre That's Actually Been Around Longer Than We Think


Believe it or not, but the first film to be even categorized as art-house horror is THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI, a true masterpiece heralding other classics like Lynch's ERASERHEAD or NOSFERATU. Easily arguably the best horror film for a lot of reasons (for one thing, it was considered to be the very first "horror film" ever made), this 1920 classic was even the first movie to utilize what we all know is the "twist" ending.

Visually arresting. Vibrant. Even in B&W. You couldn't beat the power of Robert Wiene's silent German expressionist masterpiece. And that's precisely what art-house actually is: it's a composition of visual and emotion-evoking bloodthirsty weapons, probably the true killers of horror that we all should experience but hardly ever do these days, because people just want the jump scares.

The Only Problem With Art-House Horror Is That It's a Little Too Easy to Emulate


When you think about it, an artist only has to throw paint on a canvas and call it a "masterpiece." It's subjective. But just because you turn an old toilet upside down and call it a "fountain" doesn't mean you have a masterpiece on your hands.

The idea of art-house horror operates much in the same way. The newest film to hold the title of art-house horror is LIKE ME, a massively colorful and wickedly punchy film so experimental that it may even have redefined what art-house horror really is. Debuting at the Overlook Film Festival and receiving quite a few rave reviews already, you'd be surprised to know that it does have its dissenters with a largely convoluted color puke mess on the screen with no substance about an internet celebrity robbing a convenience store and recording it, falling into more madness over kidnapping helpless simpletons and recording that, and watching the viral-ness of her escapades envelope her like the white noise on a TV screen.

Make no mistake: it is visually a feast. And an interesting commentary on the "infection" of social media on the mind of a young woman. However, we have the same issue as the artist only needing to "throw paint on a canvas." It's trying to be art-house horror for its own sake. Yes, it's a super-power for the eyes, but we end up asking the question: why? The experiment of the film's style lends too much to itself and not to the whole point of the film. In other words, it's like overkill.


However, a Disaster It Is Not, and That's Honestly the Biggest Point of the Film, and Art-House Horror as a Whole


Not everyone's going to get it. Or feel it. It is subjective. Case in point: I'm willing to bet you'll have a handful of people who would watch the iconic THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI and go MEH. Fair enough. They'd opt for something more like the SAW movies or anything from the Soska Sisters (which I would have to say can be considered somewhat art-house horror, too!). Art-house horror is an acquired taste, but a taste worth acquiring and savoring. That's for sure. But what do you think? You want your horror simple and bloody? Or with some "seasoning" in the background to whet your creative imagination?

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