The movie world often goes through generational cycles – as the current trend for ’80s and ’90s related remakes, reboots and belated sequels seemingly proves.
Interestingly, the alternative horror scene seems to be going through a particularly vivid period of re-discovery at the moment, with some of the most talented and eye-catching up and coming filmmakers drawing on influences that go back decades, and often include slightly niche or ‘lost’ inspirations.
Here are six directors who are helping re-invent forgotten horror genres for the modern age.
Eli Roth is bringing back the ‘video nasty’
Perhaps most famous for his controversial 2005 film Hostel – a grisly tale of pay-to-torture tourism in Eastern Europe – Roth has long had an appreciation for the gory, provocative and slyly funny low-budget ‘video nasty’ flicks of the ’70s and ’80s (as his affectionate spoof trailer in Grindhouse clearly demonstrates).
Blending elements of exploitation and subversive satire together, the latest results this year are Roth’s students-kidnapped-by-cannibals flick Green Inferno (which takes clear inspiration from Ruggero Deodato’s notorious Cannibal Holocaust), and his upcoming Keanu Reeves starring movie Knock Knock, about a family man violently tormented by two attractive young women who invade his home. Should be interesting.
Adam Wingard is bringing back the ‘retro slasher’
Wingard made some modest waves with 2010’s A Horrible Way To Die (which was likened to ’80s shocker Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer), but it was festival circuit hit You’re Next – a smart, funny and novel spin on the slasher flicks of the ’70s and ’80s – that really made his name. Many of us haven’t stopped singing ‘Looking For The Magic’ since.
More recently, Wingard’s explosive The Guest wowed critics with its stylish, synth-backed story of a mysterious, deadly stranger who takes up residence with an ordinary suburban family. Steeped in the influence of John Carpenter, its vivid shades of Halloween in the final act and drool-inducing retro soundtrack strike a chord with anyone who grew up on old-school slashers.
David Robert Mitchell is bringing back the ‘teen nightmare’
There was a time, way back when the late Wes Craven was first plying his trade, that engaging B-movies mustered an almost dream-like sensibility over their suburban settings; with surreal imagery creating horror flicks that felt both strangely familiar and eerily outlandish.
David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows resurrects that same kind of existential dread; embedding its creepy ever-pursuing-demon concept in a world populated by confused teenagers and almost completely absent of adults, where the whole thing has the feel of a relentless, disorientating nightmare.
Ben Wheatley is bringing back ‘folk-horror’
Evoking a strong sense of the rural, religious paranoia that runs through some of the most atmospheric British horrors of the late ’60s and early 70s, Wheatley has created two recent films that hark gloriously back to that uncanny era of disturbing masterpieces.
With its pagan cult imagery and glimpses of mask-wearing fanatics engaged in unspeakable mysteries, the brooding, gritty Kill List is at times like a more visceral and intense Wicker Man; while the civil war set A Field In England musters extraordinary scenes of fearful brutality, witchcraft and the diabolical that echoes both Witchfinder General and Blood On Satan’s Claw.
Kevin Kopacka is bringing back ‘giallo’
With his atmospheric short film Hades – which has been screening at festivals around the world, including Cannes – Austrian creative Kopacka offers clear tribute to Dario Argento’s Suspiria (among others) with a nightmarish ordeal that captures the mood, colour-palette and style of Italian ‘giallo’ movies in all their glory.
Mysterious, abstract and unashamedly artistic, his interest in shifts in reality and dimensions perfectly complements the timeless themes and approach of Argento and his ilk.
Peter Strickland is also bringing back ‘giallo’ (and ‘Euro arthouse’)
Speaking of Argento, Strickland’s own ode to ‘giallo’ is his highly original and compelling Berberian Sound Studio, which opts for the production of a highly Suspiria-esque Italian thriller called ‘The Equestrian Vortex’ as its backdrop – against which an irritable, repressed English sound engineer gradually loses his mind.
Strickland’s extremely intelligent Duke Of Burgundy is also a glorious throwback to artistic Euro offerings; in this case offering an erotic trip that is equal parts unsettling, strangely sweet and darkly funny, as the complex sadomasochistic relationship between two women is explored.