Good Old Horror, Now Elevated
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In the everchanging horror landscape, a group of recent horror films labelled as “elevated” has become commercially and critically successful. Critics and audiences alike praise them for the ‘reinvigoration’ of the genre. This thesis undertakes an analysis of two elevated horror films, Hereditary and Midsommar, comparing them against traditional and mainstream horror tropes and techniques. This paper observes the nuances of the films as they fit into the horror genre, as well as the nuances of elevated horror itself with its contribution to the cinema landscape. The analysis breaks down the films into narrative and aesthetic elements, analysing them based on traditional and mainstream techniques. Notably, few distinctions in narrative functions were found between elevated and traditional horror, and aesthetic elements are the biggest differentiators. Overall, elevated horror presents familiar storylines, often focused on family drama and character psychology, but packages them into appealing visuals and symmetrical framing. The aesthetics of the films are broken down in various ways, outlining that, while generally following an arthouse direction, they also utilize a few elements from traditional horror aesthetics, like disorienting camera movement. Music and sound elements also play a large role, acting similarly to traditional horror, but, again, taking liberties that mainstream horror doesn’t take. The repercussions of using the word ‘elevated’ as a descriptor for this subgenre are also explored, reflecting on the elitist perspective that film critics praising the genre undertake. The elevation of this genre, therefore, comes from the aesthetics-focused visuals and character-focused storytelling, that are not necessarily new to horror, only differentiating from contemporary mainstream films that are focused on scaring and shocking the viewers.