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