Horror films have evolved from superficial and scary films to more visual and artistic pieces. That’s not to say that horror is no longer designed to fit traditional structures and conventions, but rather explored through different styles. Directors take more creative liberties and invest more in a story, resulting in experimental films that can be confusing at times, but incredibly visual and deep; this subgenre is known as arthouse horror.
The genre’s popularity has only grown over time, offering a mix of void horror, artistic aesthetics, meaningful stories, and layered characters.
This article covers sensitive topics relating to mental well-being, torture, and other topics covered in these films. Please proceed with caution.
ten The witch evokes fear through Christianity and witchcraft
The hit movie A24 is set in the 1600s, before the Salem witch trials. The witch follows the story of a devout Christian family trying to start over after being exiled. As the family settles into their home, the daughter (played by Anya Taylor-Joy) is accused of witchcraft, while the satanic form of a goat named “Black Phillip” torments the family.
The film is a slow burn that explores the paranoia surrounding witchcraft before the infamous Salem witch trials, a time when Christianity ruled. Along with the commentary on strict Christian values, it artistically parallels the tribulations of Taylor-Joy’s character through the eerie atmospheric visual elements and depiction of paganism in the film.
9 Lamb is a visually stunning piece of nature
Set in the farmlands of Iceland, a married couple, Maria and Ingvar, own and work on a farm where they raise sheep in their barn. The couple discover a sheep that gives birth to a strange lamb and human hybrid, and they decide to raise the child as their own. The film ventures into the life of this new family and shows how far Maria will go to hold the child back.
Lamb is an eerie, slow-paced film focused on the stunning visuals of nature and the animal hybrid child, but the symbolism behind the film isn’t the only thing that defines it as arthouse horror. . The film depicts a message of family love, selfishness and heartbreak.
8 Raw has an incredibly raw portrayal of self-discovery
French cinema Raw tells the story of Justine, a vegetarian entering her first year of veterinary school. There, she is subjected to a hazing ritual that makes her try raw meat for the first time, something that awakens a new craving for human flesh in her. Justine struggles on her journey, trying to satisfy her hunger and needs as she discovers this new part of herself.
This film is very devoid of horror tropes and instead focuses on finding identity through Justine’s sexual urges and urges. It fits well with her journey of self-discovery through her cannibalistic behavior and her exploration of herself.
seven Midsommar is a colorful but disturbing film
Ari Aster’s Disturbing Movie, Midsommar, centers on Danny, who goes on a trip with his emotionally unavailable boyfriend to a Swedish Midsummer festival after a horrific family tragedy. There, the bereaved woman devotes herself to the celebrations and rituals of the community relating to a cult.
Midsommar takes place in midsummer in Sweden, a time when the summer solstice begins to create endless daylight. The horror of the film comes from the unease of the environment. Visually, it’s beautiful, with bright colors and non-diegetic elements not usually associated with horror. Additionally, it harbors themes of indoctrination, heartbreak, and white supremacy throughout the film’s visuals and story.
6 Black Swan tells a story through ballet
A ballerina, Nina, worked all her life to get a leading role in the company she worked for and managed to get the lead role in the ballet Swan Lake. But, as the series draws to a close, the pressures of her home life and career show through her developing obsession with newcomer Lily, who threatens to take the role Nina has worked so hard for. obtain.
Black Swan is a horror that focuses deeply on the main character’s psyche succumbing to a darker side of itself. While the film produces an interpretation of Swan Lake, Black Swan unfolds artistically in the form of a ballet, parallel to the events of the production.
5 The Babadook is more than just a children’s storybook
The Babadook follows Amelia, who is still grieving the loss of her husband seven years after the accident that took his life. Amelia is trying to navigate motherhood when a child-like book appears and promises through rhyme that “Mister Babadook” will kill the family.
The tone of the film is scary but artistically rendered. The babadook’s sinister appearance and the theatrics of her character reveal Amelia’s grief and growing resentment towards her son. The worse his depression gets, the more havoc the apparition wreaks in his home. Anyone watching will wonder if the Babadook is even real or just a manifestation of Amelia’s internal struggles.
4 The Lighthouse Explores Dark Existentialism
The Robert Eggers film stars Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson as two lighthouse keepers working in New England in the 1890s. The pair try to maintain their sanity as they spend more time together on a remote and isolated island where strange happenings surrounding the lighthouse begin.
Lighthouse is shot entirely in black and white and contains images related to sailors and seafaring folklore, two heavy indicators of experimental film. The overall artistic impulse of this film is its meaning, which borders on loneliness and existential angst. The story is a dark depiction of the search for purpose and the loss of self in the process.
3 Martyrs portrays a revenge story with a deep twist
The French film of 2008 Martyrs sees the characters Lucia and Anna embark on a journey of revenge against a cult after the abuses suffered by Lucia at the hands of this community. Women succeed in taking revenge. However, the demons Lucie faces run much deeper and Anna is forced into a depraved situation by the community she sought revenge on.
Although gore, the film focuses more on the philosophical aspects. The purpose of the cult is to torture their victims to the brink of death, causing them to reach a state between life and death in order to experience the afterlife. Themes of guilt are also artistically explored visually alongside philosophical rhetoric.
2 Perfect Blue takes a stalker story to another level
perfect blue is a 1997 animated film about a young pop idol, Mima, who leaves her band in order to shed her innocent persona and pursue a career as an actress. However, as Mima breaks into the industry which sees her taking on more adult roles, she notices that someone may be stalking her.
The film is a psychological horror that depicts, through a visual aspect, the discrepancy between what is real and what is fantastic. The lines are blurred between Mima’s movie scenes and her own life, causing her to slowly lose her grip on reality. The film’s tone also comes through through the maturity and sophistication of the 90s anime style, which reflects the character’s transition in his career.
1 The Lodge shows the effects of trauma in a terrifying way
Grace spends Christmas with her boyfriend and his family, and agrees to babysit her two children after he is called into work. Alone in the lodge, she struggles to bond with the estranged children, and things get worse when past events in her life are brought to light, forcing the woman to come to terms with her trauma.
The cottage focuses on the psyche of a severely abused Grace, who was once a cult member. The film depicts severe mental turmoil and visualizes her past trauma, but focuses more on the aftermath that traumatic events can have, especially when pushed over the edge by the mind games children play on her.
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