The last twelve months represent a marked increase in quality and interest within the genre of horror film. Three films in particular have sparked interest online whilst simultaneously becoming conversation pieces IRL. These specific films: “It Follows”, “The Babadook”, and “Starry Eyes” represent a new golden era in popular horror film, an era far removed from the gridlocked studio politics of Hollywood and the film industry at large.
The dismal condition of blockbuster-size horror flicks contributes an ironic layer of intrigue to “Starry Eyes”. Written and directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmeyer, the pairs’ sophomore feature focuses on the disillusionment of several young hopefuls in Hollywood and the lengths to which our lead, a beautiful and desperate ingénue, will go to please a corrupt studio. The operating device of the film is that the corrupt studio is in fact a satanic cult. Where “Starry Eyes” achieves in clever writing and visual excellence it falters in landing the punches necessary to create a truly great horror film.
It is the much lauded Australian-Canadian production of “The Babadook” led by writer/director Jennifer Kent that succeeds in establishing the new standard of excellence within the genre of indie horror. Boasting a Rotten Tomatoes score of 98% and capitalizing on a career-making turn from Australian actor Essie Davis as the unhinged widow Amelia, “The Babadook” is a wholly terrifying and inventively unusual look at mental illness. The movie has become one of, if not the most talked about genre films of 2015, in no small part due to its’ streaming on Netflix, made available shortly after its limited theatrical release. Less talked about than “The Babadook” but arguably more impressive is David Robert Mitchell’s 80’s inspired romp “It Follows”. This psychosexual thriller pays heavy homage to the decade that established horror films, while breathing new life into a tired genre.
Beyond the impressively spare cinematography and social commentary on the shrine of urban decay that is Detroit, Michigan, “It Follows” is blessed with an original soundtrack that can hold its own against any of the most innovative and visceral soundtracks crafted in recent memory. Composed by Rich Vreeland, aka Disasterpiece (previously known for his masterful videogame soundtrack work) the score is at once a dread inducing, nostalgia-baiting, and almost chiptune-y take on the precedents set by horror film composition titans like John Carpenter and Bernard Herrmann. It is films like these are helping to revitalize a genre only recently thought to be near it’s deathbed. The groundwork that these flicks and others like it are laying is helping to establish a new era of creativity and artistry in a genre drowning in trite remakes, found footage clones, and poorly crafted cash grabs.