Browsing Tag


Posted on February 13, 2022

You’re Pissing on My People: Midsommar and the Revenge of the Research Subject

Guest Post

From The Body Snatcher (1945) to Black Christmas (1974, 2019), from Suspiria (1977, 2018) to The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2015), the academy serves as a common setting in the horror genre. But less frequent is the use of the academy not as a site of horror, but as a source of horror, particularly for those whose knowledges and customs the Ivory Tower simultaneously excludes and exploits. In Decolonizing Methodologies, Linda Tuhuwai Smith (2012) points to the failure of Western academic traditions to attend to the material realities of colonized peoples, all in the name of those Enlightenment requirements that research be objective, apolitical, and distanced from its objects. She claims, “Taking apart the story, revealing underlying texts, and giving voice to things that are often known intuitively does not help people to improve their current conditions. It provides words, perhaps, an insight that explains certain experiences—but it does not prevent someone from dying” (Smith, 2012: 3). Read more

Posted on June 5, 2021

Folk Horror at Home and Abroad in Ari Aster’s Midsommar

Guest Post

Upon its release, Ari Aster’s Midsommar (2019) was hailed as a new Folk Horror masterpiece. Like so many other films in the genre – for instance, The Wicker Man (Robin Hardy, 1973) and the made-for-TV movie The Dark Secret of Harvest Home (Leo Penn, 1978) – Aster’s film ends in death and with the triumph of the values of a secluded community over the members of a more modern society.

Many viewers read this violent ending as cathartic. Dani (Florence Pugh) has finally shed all the people and circumstances in her life that made her miserable. Her acceptance by the Hårga and the enigmatic smile that plays on her face as she watches her boyfriend, Christian (Jack Reynor), burn to death are seen as the hallmarks of a happy ending.

Read more

ventroloquist dummy chokes man
Posted on January 13, 2021

Uncanny Reflections: How Past Terrors Haunt Modern New Horror Cinema

Guest Post

Part One

Nosferatu reaching out his heart-stopping hand via Robert Eggers’ upcoming remake of the silent classic to grip the hearts of a new generation is not the only shadow of the past arising during the current renaissance of sophisticated scares. Movies like Ari Aster’s Hereditary and Midsommar, Jordan Peele’s Get Out and Us, M. Night Shyamalan’s The Visit, Karyn Kusama’s The Invitation, Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria or The Lodge by Austrian directors Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala testify to a macabre recurrence of morbid motifs from early European speculative films. Some referential contemporaries evoke distinct characters like Jennifer Kent’s pathologic parenting parable The Babadook did with its titular villain: Dr. Caligari’s top-hatted, cloaked silhouette overstepping from sharp-shadowed expressionist storybook-setting into a reality which might be lunatic delusion. Some reassemble structural, visual and narrative tropes like Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night with its black-and-white landscape of urban despair, preyed upon by vampiric and human bloodsuckers.

man stares at his head in a box

Vampyr (1932)

Some recreate a specific scenery and mood like Trey Edward Shults’ gloomy tale of moral breakdown in a setting of bottled-up paranoia, pain and pestilence, It Comes At Night. Or they establish similar settings where the occult, egregious parades in broad daylight like Midsommar’s world of unflinching brightness is reminiscent of the hazy sunshine in Vampyr. Others dive into the stylistic peculiarities, sinister themes and sardonic mannerisms of their predecessors, like The Lighthouse. A preliminary paradigm of retrospective attributes, Robert Eggers’ sailor’s yarn about doubles, drink and damnation marks the ever increasing immediacy of this trend. Said revival of a specific mode is not driven by fashionable revisionism or arbitrary nostalgia but outside historic forces – much like the classic canon that modern horror cinema innovators draw from. For their semblance and the feelings they triggered those classic films may be labeled uncanny. This denotation also addresses their origin in the artistic traditions of Dark Romanticism, a style period which anticipated defining tropes of uncanny cinema. Dark Romanticism’s obscure, often sexually charged imagery, exalted scenery and metaphysical subjects directly inspired groundbreaking early European filmmakers. To understand their work’s influence on the present requires a closer look at its spooky sources. Read more

passing the torch
Posted on June 20, 2020

Midsommar and Cross-Quarter Day Horror

Guest Post

Halloween has long been the basis for horror celebrations, but it was made canonical for horror films with John Carpenter’s debut film, Halloween (1978), which uses the holiday as the basis for a supernatural Michael Myers to take vengeance on naughty teenagers. The origin of Halloween is Samhain, one of four Celtic cross-quarter days. The other three, one of which already has an iconic horror film associated with it, are Imbolc (February 2), Beltane (May 1), and Lughnasadh (August 1). Cross-quarter days fall roughly midway between the solstices and equinoxes, each of which also has ancient religious celebrations. The iconic cross-quarter horror film mentioned is, of course, Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man (1973), and it is set during the time of Beltane.


Apart from seventies styles, The Wicker Man has held up remarkably well. Sergeant Howie, a Scottish police officer, is lured to Summerisle, a remote Hebridean island, to investigate a missing child. He’s been set up, however, by the islanders who need an outsider to sacrifice on their May Day celebrations. Although they never call the holiday Beltane, that is the title of the Gaelic spring festival that dates back to the tenth century. The Wicker Man has received accolades that have grown over the years. It’s been a kind of gold standard for intelligent horror.

Read more

line of cult members
Posted on May 30, 2020

So, We’re Just Going to Ignore the Sunlight Then? Aesthetic Whiteness in Midsommar

Guest Post

When we look at the history of horror and the gothic, we see that the aesthetic investment in establishing darkness as an easy visual cue for badness is largely taken for granted. That the dark is the place where monsters dwell, unseen and always threatening, is perhaps the most deeply rooted cultural and linguistic paradigm propping up the interlocking systems of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy—that is, it is among the most banal gestures of anti-Blackness in which we all participate daily. As such, horror films historically have been, well, dark.

As much as aesthetic layers undoubtedly inform the genre, real-life occasions of horror rarely arrive with packaging so convenient. That is, horror tends to be experienced as a sort of absurdity or cognitive dissonance: the feeling of suspension, of lacking gravity, of time collapsing.

My point is that horror lives in the mind, as a way of seeing.

In  Darkly: Black History and America’s Gothic Soul, a hybrid of memoir and cultural critique,  writer Leila Taylor speaks to this point succinctly: “Darkness is everywhere, even in the oppressive glare of the noonday sun.”

Read more

Back to top