‘Smart’ hor­ror flicks beck­ons new era of film

The Myanmar Times - - The Pulse -

A NEW wave of low-bud­get “smart” hor­ror movies is chal­leng­ing the stu­dio be­he­moths with a recipe that swaps gra­tu­itous gore and elab­o­rate spe­cial ef­fects for good old-fash­ioned sus­pense.

Don’t Breathe, which is due for re­lease next week on the back of wide­spread acclaim, is hop­ing to em­u­late the suc­cess of The Babadook, It Fol­lows and a se­ries of other creepy hits made on a shoe­string.

While they lack the mar­ket­ing mus­cle of the sum­mer tent­poles, these films of­ten be­come word-of­mouth hits, gath­er­ing mo­men­tum as re­view­ers praise their un­com­pro­mis­ing re­fusal to rely on the usual hor­ror tropes.

“Main­stream hor­ror these days is re­ally all about what­ever’s clever – a new twist on an old story, or one hell of a trailer,” Jeff Bock, of film in­dus­try re­search firm Ex­hibitor Re­la­tions, told AFP.

“As we’ve seen lately, ‘smart’ hor­ror films are in vogue right now,” he said, adding how­ever that there would al­ways be ex­cite­ment when “a hor­ror icon is re­vived for one more hunt”.

It Fol­lows (2014), a the­mat­i­cally rich modern slasher that takes its cue from the 1980s out­put of masters like Wes Craven and John Car­pen­ter, is of­ten cited as the jewel in the crown of hor­ror’s new wave.

Its di­rec­tor David Robert Mitchell was ac­claimed for weav­ing the cliche of teenagers men­aced by a malev­o­lent su­per­nat­u­ral force into that rarest of things – a scary movie that drips with sub­text and not just blood.

One of its leads, Daniel Zo­vatto, also stars in Fede Al­varez’s Don’t Breathe, which hits cin­e­mas this week and is the di­rec­tor’s sec­ond fea­ture after the 2013 re­make of hor­ror clas­sic Evil Dead.

Made on a bud­get of just US$10 mil­lion, Don’t Breathe fol­lows a trio of friends who break into the house of a blind recluse, con­fi­dent of an easy pay day, only to find them­selves in a ter­ri­fy­ing life-or-death strug­gle.

“At the time when we first showed the movie peo­ple had no idea what it was about. There was no trailer, there was noth­ing,” says Zo­vatto, a 25-year-old Costa Ri­can ac­tor last seen in AMC’s zombie show Fear the Walk­ing Dead.

Don’t Breathe is un­usual in that there are very few jump scares – a sta­ple of the teen slasher end of the hor­ror genre – and those that do fea­ture feel like they’ve been earned.

Zo­vatto, who ap­pears with stage and screen veteran Stephen Lang, rel­a­tive un­known Dy­lan Min­nette and “Evil Dea star Jane Levy, says he grew up watch­ing hor­ror movies, but was of­ten dis­ap­pointed.

“I think there were a few years, es­pe­cially in my teenage years, where I would go and watch films in this genre and I was just dev­as­tated be­cause I didn’t re­ally get to see some­thing that I liked,” he says.

“And I feel like this whole new wave brought a new per­spec­tive to the genre and new di­rec­tors like Fede Al­varez and David Robert Mitchell – and they are chang­ing the game.”

Al­varez, who brought in al­most $100 mil­lion with “Evil Dead” on a $17 mil­lion bud­get, prides him­self on try­ing to “spot what ev­ery­one else is do­ing and [run­ning] in the op­po­site di­rec­tion”.

After di­rect­ing a rel­a­tively con­ven­tional re­make, the 38-year-old Uruguayan wanted to avoid haunted houses, chain saws, zom­bies and all the other go-to de­vices in the hor­ror tool­kit.

Brought up by his fa­ther on a diet of Al­fred Hitch­cock – “Psy­cho,” fol­lowed by “Ver­tigo,” “Strangers on a Train” and many of the oth­ers – Al­varez says that, for him, hor­ror was “never the scares and the jumps, it was al­ways about sus­pense.”

“A cou­ple of things I love and I wanted to bring to this film: one was sus­pense and the sec­ond one is that the char­ac­ters al­ways have shady morals,” he told AFP.

“If you take Janet Leigh steal­ing money in ‘Psy­cho,’ or in ‘Strangers on a Train’ ob­vi­ously plot­ting to kill the guy’s wife ... they’re not your ev­ery­day Hol­ly­wood he­roes.”

If you give your cen­tral char­ac­ters nu­ance, he ar­gues, you’ll keep the film­go­ers guess­ing about who they should be root­ing for, who de­serves to sur­vive, who should get the money and how it’s go­ing to end.

“I like that you have to choose who to root for and I’m not spoon­feed­ing you about who’s a hero and who’s a vil­lain, who’s the funny guy,” the di­rec­tor said.

Photo: AFP

From left to right, Ac­tors Daniel Zo­vatto, Olivia Luc­cardi, Maika Mon­roe and Keir Gilchrist of Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val in Park City, Utah. It Fol­lows ar­rive at the 2015

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