Natalie Erika James’ debut horror Relic is a quiet, dread-drenched slow burn that sets out to represent the creeping horror of mental deterioration. The film centres around three generations: Edna (Robyn Nevin), the family matriarch who it seems is in the early stages, her harassed and stressed middle-aged daughter Kay (Emily Mortimer), and her free-spirited granddaughter Sam (Bella Heathcote).
Robert Eggers’ new horror The Lighthouse exhibits a close familial bond with the themes and ideas explored by its older sibling, The Witch (2015). Having watched the film, it makes sense to personify the Lighthouse. It’s not simply a structure or setting, like the Witch’s lair in the woods; the lantern room represents the fleshy heart of the film, its relentless rotations setting the pace for the plot’s quiet development like a steady heartbeat (sometimes uncomfortably noticeable; most times a silent, immutable truth).
William McGregor’s feature debut Gwen is not your typical horror film. In fact it’s not really a horror film. What is terrifying about this film is its grey, trudging depiction of the harsh reality of life in the Welsh countryside of Snowdonia at the turn of the nineteenth century. Eleanor Worthington-Cox plays Gwen, a teenage girl whose father is away fighting in the army, struggling alongside her severe, exhausted mother Elen (Maxine Peake) to look after her little sister and prevent their small farm from falling into the hands of the local quarry owner, Mr Wynne.
“When I decided to write this movie I was stricken by the fact that we’re in a time where we fear The Other – whether it’s the mysterious invader we think is going to come and kill us or take our jobs, or the faction we don’t live near that voted a different way than us. We’re all about pointing the finger. I wanted to suggest maybe the monster we really need to look at has our face. Maybe the evil is us.” – Jordan Peele
Jordan Peele’s new horror film Us, the eagerly awaited follow-up to his Oscar-winning horror debut Get Out (2017), documents the terror of a terrified mother, Adelaide (played by Lupita Nyong’o), as she fights to protect her family from an uncanny band of doppelgänger home invaders. The film opens with a series of haunting quotes, one of which claims that the whole of North America is infested with a network of subterranean tunnels, directly mirroring the above-ground world. From the outset, then, Peele makes it clear that the domestic horror promised in the trailers for Us will give way to something much more expansive, a nation-wide catastrophe. Nevertheless, the cinematic gaze focuses almost explicitly on the Wilson family, for reasons that become clear in a final twist in the closing minutes of the film.
Lee Cronin’s feature debut The Hole in the Ground, which premiered at Sundance Festival in 2019, marks a recent resurgence in Irish folk-horror set in remote parts of the countryside (The Lodgers, Beyond the Woods). Despite its wider setting of an ominous and dark forest, home to an ever-shifting sinkhole which pays homage to the off-the-beaten-track caverns of The Descent (2005) and the claustrophobic woodlands of The Blair Witch Project (1999), the film’s most horrifying and violent moments are intensely domestic.