A new century, indeed a new millennium, new takes on the horror genre have emerged to terrify those daring to watch. But are they just adaptations of the old or do they embrace new concerns and find innovative ways to deliver their scares? Twenty First Century Horror Films by Douglas Keesey looks at the movements and key films of this age, taking in the subgenres, the world variations and influences, as well as the evolution of the traditional scary movie. This is not simply a commentary on plot and splatter but an analysis, film and series at a time, of meaning, motivation and perception. So genres and subgenres are analysed, a broader definition making this essential for both the horror aficionado and the academic seeking wider interpretation of these works. These are in-depth studies which cover films right up to recent examples such as The Babadook (2014) and the gloriously sumptuous fashion giallo horror The Neon Demon(2016).
Of course recent films have not been without criticism, not only from those for whom the horror genre is anathema but also for devotees who have felt some of the re-inventions to be unnecessary or facile. Keesey explores many of the remake areas that have caused the most consternation for fans, that of the Asian horror reworked into English and the remakes of classic seventies horror. Horror films have been endlessly reinvented for decades (Dracula, Frankenstein and the ilk) but there is a notable frustration about certain types of remake in an age where you can watch the originals easily at home (or on your phone should you so desire) in a way that would have been unimaginable last century. Interestingly, the focus on the different aspects of the two versions of Halloween (1978) and I Spit On Your Grave (1978) make for essential reading as they explain perceptions and interpretations in an insightful manner. The consideration of Rob Zombie’s Halloween (2007), particularly, frames John Carpenter’s original in the context of its themes and the later film is analysed from an intellectual viewpoint. There is, of course, a link to the emergence of ‘torture porn’ as a marketable trend in the films of Eli Roth and the distinctly variable Saw films (amongst others), which also blend nicely with examples from across the globe, such as the French Canadian Martyrs (2008) or Australia’s Wolf Creek (2005). This careful categorisation of subgenres and international films and influences offers a broad appeal, as does the examination of technical innovations, such as the 3-D trend, recalling its popularity in the 1950s and re-emergence in the early 1980’s, as well as the distinctly modern variations on technology and ‘found footage’ films. After all, internet horror wasn’t much of an issue pre-internet. Additionally there is a fascination discussion of the popular supernatural teen-romance franchise Twilight (2008-2012) which reinforces the intellectual subtext of the PG-13 series. A large portion of the analysis is given emphasis from the opinions of the makers of the films and franchises.
Essential reading for newbies and aficionados alike, with a detailed exploration of the genre that may make you reconsider your interpretation of familiar films and provide an interest in seeking those that may have escaped your attention. Frightfully good.