Sublime Horror

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Category: Film

The universe is a haunted house – the Gothic roots of science fiction

“There could be an opening of a mental space for novelists to explore this future, not in terms of travelling at 10 times the speed of light in anti-gravity boots, but in actually looking at the human dilemmas of being close up to something that you know to be artificial but which thinks like you. If a machine seems like a human or you can’t tell the difference, then you’d jolly well better start thinking about whether it has responsibilities and rights and all the rest.” – “Ian McEwan: ‘Who’s going to write the algorithm for the little white lie?’

With this dismissive opinion of science fiction – writing that’s full of fun and gadgets, perhaps, but ultimately vapid and ignorant of more important concerns – Ian McEwan not only set the genre internet alight but also added himself to a list of hoary old authors and critics who’ve blithely dismissed genre fiction as little more than children playing with toys while the adults look on indulgently.

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Podcast episode #4, Jessica Gildersleeve on Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now

Peter speaks to professor Jessica Gildersleeve about Nicolas Roeg’s 1973 classic horror film Don’t Look Now.

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Us review – ‘maybe the evil is us’

“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.

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Domestic horror in Lee Cronin’s The Hole in the Ground

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.

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The birth of horror in seven films

The term “horror film” really wasn’t in popular usage until 1931, when Variety described Universal’s Dracula and Frankenstein as part of a “horror cycle.” But, the roots of the horror genre go much deeper, all the way to the first years of projected moving pictures. The pre-history of horror is fascinating and filled with various uses of ghosts, witches, and things that creep around in the night. There are dozens of early horrific films still available for viewing and I encourage everyone to go find some of the more obscure films. Below are my pick of some of the most interesting and influential films of the silent era that are still available for viewing.

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