Getting tired of movies about the usual machete-wielding maniac, zombies, and vampires? What if I told you that La La Land‘s director Damien Chazelle has something to offer that can be just as suspenseful as your usual favorite horror movie? Whiplash, a 2014 Academy Award-winning psychological drama caught the world’s attention for its brilliant musical jazz scores and beautiful cinematography.
Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash may be a “hidden” horror movie after all
Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) enrolls in Shaffer Conservatory aspiring to become a drumming legend, following the example of his idol Buddy Rich. However, in doing so, he needs the approval of Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), the conservatory’s respected conductor and leader of the Studio Band. Determined to fulfill his dream, Neiman proceeds to get Fletcher’s attention and becomes an alternate drummer for the band. Unbeknownst to Neiman, Fletcher is a tyrannical instructor that is a firm believer in the bend-or-break style of teaching.
This movie has resulted in a showdown that rivals Halloween, Friday the 13th, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre combined.
Teller and Simmons, an unlikely horror duo
Teller’s performance as Neiman made us witness the unraveling of a man drunk on his own journey. He desired nothing more than to have his name etched in the hall of fame, which remains evident in his acting. His emotions jump out of frame in a tightening chokehold.
All his determination, frustration, and sheer obsession speak loudly, paired with the score’s banging snares and progressively increasing the tempo of the drums. Neiman’s transformation from being a receiver of Fletcher’s music-induced misery into his very own worthy adversary becomes a road painted crimson (literally!) and social sacrifices, down to the very depths of isolation.
Then, we have J.K Simmon’s Fletcher, the movie’s very own Vorhees, Krueger, and Myers. Simmon’s portrayal of Fletcher is strong from the get-go. Simmons imposed his character effectively that every time he is on the screen, you will often turn your eyes away. Fletcher’s character is all about power, able to command his students with his mere presence and even make them kneel with his voice.
He throws chairs as much as he throws tantrums, and he has the ability to get under your skin and tear it from the inside out. Simmon’s demeanor as the domineering, manipulative, and sociopathic Fletcher was so incredibly performed that he was able to bag the Academy Best Supporting Actor. As much as Neiman was ambitious and optimistic, Fletcher is twice as discouraging and conniving.
Whiplash, a movie made to scare.
Chazelle’s camera work transforms the world around it into tense, gritty sequences that if paired with the musical score, create tension you wouldn’t expect from a musically-inclined film. These shots are often close-ups or over the shoulders, making the viewers active participants sucked in the action, the rhythm, and the tempo. They clearly convey the casual focus on Neiman’s struggle and strain and Fletcher’s disappointed glances and facial expressions. The music is the movie’s blood and conduit to deliver a chilling tale that aged well and will likely be a modern classic.
Overall, Whiplash is a horror/suspense movie worthy of the upcoming nights of terror and frights. Granted, the film is not something that you would expect on Halloween, but the ending of the movie will make you wonder well enough to have a very chilling realization: The one who wins loses. And that is precisely the kind of horror adults like us need.
What about you, what movie do you think is an underrated or an accidental horror staple? Want to read more stories like this? Click here.
Milo is the living embodiment of his hobbies: gaming, public speaking, and writing. As an extroverted entertainer, his writing is usually flavored with humor and creative descriptions of his chosen topic. Despite this, he has the discipline to write compelling tales and hard-hitting facts with ease. As a public speaker and a journalist, he loves nothing but the pursuit of the objective truth.