Horror comes in many sub-genres. Wikipedia has a list of categories, but I think horror can be broken down into fewer categories, and one such category is the serious horror such as The Shining, the Others, and Get Out. These movies take themselves seriously and are usually well received by both audiences and critics alike. They tend to explore parts of our psyches that actually terrify many people, being alone, being dead, being used and treated like an object as opposed to a human being. These issues are explored through horror and monsters be those monsters actual beasts, humans, or just the unknown.
Take the Shining for example, here are a couple who seem happy as the take on a job in an isolated lodge that they are unable to leave. No break for many months, not even a trip to the grocery store. The only faces they see are each other's and a caretaker who brings supplies occasionally on a snow mobile. The area is scenic, they have warmth, plenty of room, and the people they love, but that isn't enough to save them. It is the loneliness that starts to tear at Jack's mind, and the ghosts feed upon that, but maybe the ghosts were his loneliness the whole time? It brings out psychotic behavior in a man who at first was a loving husband and father and a dedicated writer, but then he becomes a man who breaks down doors with fire axes and chases his wife and child in an attempt to murder them, and in the end, he is consumed by the ghosts. The symbolism is obvious in the end, and Jack shows up as a party guest in a picture taken in the 1920s. He has ultimately lost himself to his loneliness.
The Others also to some extent explores loneliness, and fear. In this iteration it is a mother dealing with her disabled children alone. The constant fear about her children's well being, but also her frustration. She has no help. We see this in society frequently, women who are the sole carers for their children, and how it wears on them no matter how much they love their children, and there are few outlets for that. Grace's fear for her children, her fierce love, and ultimately her breaking are the themes of the movies. ***SPOILER*** If you have not seen the movie, move to the next paragraph. In the end, she takes her children's and her own life, and the whole movie actually is about her regret, her anger, her frustration, and her unwillingness to confront this horrible act, and ultimately forgiveness. Her children forgive her, and then the fog that surrounded the manner through the whole movie is lifted and the children and she are able to enjoy the sun.
Get Out explores racism, and what happens to people who are not the predominate skin color or of European extraction. It explores how a person with a life, friends, pets, lovers is turned into an object to be used. His life wasn't important to the people in the movie, and often, we can be duped by the ones we are closest to, in this case his girl friend. It also explores how people stay in situations that are uncomfortable and attempt to put a good face on it even though it is unpleasant. How you ignore the digs, in this movies the racism, both subtle and overt, that are thrown at the protagonist. He smiles, accepts the behavior, and doesn't run although we, the audience, can see him squirm through his smiles and his attempts to fit in. Get Out explores what happens when those subtle racist behavior is allowed to slide. The horror, the terror, the utter feelings of helplessness. Although in the end of the movie, we see the protagonist, Chris, drive away safe with his friend. In the alternative ending, Chris ends up arrested and spending his life in jail.
Ultimately, in these types of movies the real monster is our fears and ignoring those fears until they take over your life. In The Shining Jack ignored his loneliness; in The Others, Grace ignored her frustration and loneliness; in Get Out, Chris ignored his discomfort and fear. The only one of the three movies that had a resolution to the actual problem in the movie, is The Others. Grace find forgiveness and happiness again with her children. While Jack disappeared into a fantasy world were he would never be alone, and we don't know how Chris dealt with his issues as he rode off into the sunset.
Other sub-genre's explore other themes, and I am hoping to discuss those in other posts. It is a interesting thing, this post is not the post I started writing, but within a few sentences my whole thesis changed. I realized that what I meant to discuss as part of a larger post turned into the post.
- The One With the Hump.