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Showing how elevated horror stood the test of time with these five films

Showing how elevated horror stood the test of time with these five films

Elevated horror has gained significant attention in recent times. These types of horror films deviate from the typical storylines centered around killers, cheap jump scares, and excessive gore. Instead, they delve into narratives with substance and meaning, provoking discussions and debates among viewers.

To determine if a horror film falls under the category of elevated horror, one should consider the following. Whether it fearlessly tackles serious real-life issues and avoids the use of conventional horror tropes. It is also a bonus if the film possesses an arthouse aesthetic or if its narrative is intentionally ambiguous, inviting repeated viewings and analysis.

Although Ari Aster and Jordan Peele are often associated with the rise of elevated horror, it is important to note that they were not the first filmmakers to explore this style. I prepared five elevated horror films that would haunt and scratch your mind for days!

Showing how elevated horror stood the test of time with these five films

Funny Games (1997)

IMDb | “Funny Games”

Michael Haneke’s “Funny Games” is a classic example of elevated horror. The film, which has two versions, maintains a consistent plot and nearly identical scenes. Set in an idyllic lakeside vacation home, it depicts the horrifying ordeal of a family terrorized by Paul (Arno Frisch) and Peter (Frank Giering), two deeply disturbed young men. The family is held captive and subjected to nightmarish abuse and humiliation.

What sets Funny Games apart is its satirical approach, crafted by Michael Haneke as an embodiment of existential nihilism. The film confronts the audience’s conspiracy in acts of violence. It is a modern reinterpretation of slasher films that emerged in the rebellious 1980s, where excessive bloodshed often took center stage. However, the film poses an important question: Are viewers mere voyeurs, or can they actively resist and refuse to let evil prevail by engaging and taking action? The movie prompts reflection on the audience’s role and responsibility in confronting violence outside fiction and the consequences of their passive or active participation.

Eyes Without a Face (1960)

IMDb | “Eyes Without a Face”

Elevated horror, in its broadest sense, is not a new concept within the genre. An example of its long-standing existence can be found in the film “Eyes Without a Face.” The narrative revolves around Dr. Génessier (Pierre Brasseur), who grapples with overwhelming guilt after an accident disfigures the face of his daughter, Christiane (Édith Scob), who was once beautiful. In collaboration with his accomplice and laboratory assistant, the doctor kidnaps young women, bringing them to the Génessier mansion to extract their faces in an attempt to graft them onto Christiane’s.

The film delves into morality and freedom, presenting an empathetic tale. It explores the lengths doctors may go to prove their expertise while simultaneously portraying a sorrowful narrative reminiscent of Frankenstein’s monster. It highlights the harsh reality that life can be just as cruel as death. “Eyes Without a Face” is a poignant story that, despite its classification as a horror film, often feels like a non-horror production.

Candyman (1992)

IMDb | “Candyman”

Indeed, even before Jordan Peele’s acclaimed film “Get Out,” Bernard Rose’s “Candyman” aimed to address the issue of racism. The narrative revolves around Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen), a graduate student working on a thesis about the Candyman urban legend, which has permeated white suburbia. However, the legend’s origins lie in an African American community nearby, a history nearly forgotten and overshadowed, much like the dilapidated buildings that once belonged to that community.

The film delves into the trauma of slavery being concealed and overshadowed during the era of reconstruction. It presents a subtle yet impactful exploration of this subject matter. The concept revolves around a trauma that resurfaces only when the Candyman manifests himself. It creates an atmospheric blend of urban folklore and dream-like sequences. The ghostly presence of the Candyman, with his resonating voice and brutal acts of violence, symbolically represents the deep-seated longing and seething rage felt by the marginalized community.

Peeping Tom (1960)

IMDb | “Peeping Tom”

Peeping Tom is an early embodiment of found footage within the horror genre, showcasing itself as a pioneer in elevated horror. Within this cinematic masterpiece, a reclusive photographer toils away at a film studio during daylight hours while surreptitiously capturing provocative images of women under the cloak of darkness. Establishing an unlikely bond, he befriends his downstairs neighbor, the daughter of the family inhabiting the apartment beneath his own, revealing cryptic details about his eerie cinematic endeavor.

With an upsetting, disturbing, and surprisingly empathetic portrayal, Peeping Tom delves into the psyche of a voyeuristic serial killer who cunningly wields his camera as a lethal instrument. It ingeniously employs the camera as a metaphorical weapon, transforming the film into a satirical critique of the influence of modern media. In essence, Peeping Tom prompts us to ponder: amidst the pervasive voyeuristic proneness bred by the media, who truly embodies the antagonist’s role in our turbulent reality?

The Invitation (2015)

IMDb | “The Invitation”

The Invitation emerges as a contemporary gem in the realm of elevated horror, unjustly overlooked by many. It stands as a testament to the genre’s ability to captivate viewers through a slow-burning narrative, eschewing cheap jump scares in favor of an emotionally charged discourse. Within its gripping tale, we accompany a man and his new partner as they receive an invitation to a dinner hosted by his ex-partner and her current significant other. Initially exuding an air of casualness, the evening takes a sinister turn as the man’s growing disquiet disentangles the facade of their cordial host.

Beneath its surface, The Invitation serves as a scathing critique of the absurdities among the privileged bourgeoisie, highlighting their capacity to attain their desires effortlessly. Yet, it offers much more than social commentary. It serves as a thrilling journey, meticulously constructing its foundation and gradually intensifying the tension until the climactic final twenty minutes. This culmination unveils a torrent of repressed desires in a riveting and blood-soaked crescendo.

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