The absurdly good year for horror, especially claustrophobic slashers, continues unabated thanks to Fede Alvarez’s astounding Don’t Breathe. This film does all the right things, and manages to be both super creepy and genuinely scary. It twists the accepted formula of the slasher into something fresh, and is capable of generating extreme discomfort through mood as easily as it executes wonderful jump scares. The film relies on only a small collection of actors, but is able to provide them with justifiable back stories, motivations, and actions throughout the story. Don’t Breathe is the complete package, a dreary gem of a film which is sure to terrify and delight fans of horror – and recruit many, many more.
Sexual interpretations of Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) abound, but few tie the overt sexuality of the film to its professed objective, which is to be scary. Alien is a horror film (specifically, a slasher; Ridley Scott excitedly explained the film to his cast as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in space). So then, why the sexual imagery and themes? Sex can be scary. Even when consensual and enjoyable, it can adopt an air of fear, anxiety, and discomfort. Scott’s brilliance with Alien and its sexually-charged themes lay in the way it transitions from our quaint hang-ups with sex to the terrifying violence inherent in the act of rape. Visual symbolism in the film initially reminds us of both male and female sexual anatomy, but transitions piecewise into the aggressive sexuality of the rapist. As the film proceeds, the male aspects of the sex begin to dominate until the unbridled Xenomorph literally rapes its final victim. These sexual characteristics serves to disturb the audience in two fashions: first by suggesting the anxiety and the scariness of the sexual organs and sex itself, and second by perverting sex into a primal violence and forcing the audience to experience it firsthand.
Slasher flicks structured around a home invasion are nothing new, but in Hush, Mike Flanagan has managed to craft something quite original through a collection of limitations on the characters and story. By maneuvering around these limitations and using them to his advantage, Flanagan imbues novelty into this oft-tired subgenre and keeps our attention frozen on the screen as a horrible scenario unfolds: a psychopathic killer with no need for ulterior motivations discovers that his next quarry is deaf.
Craig Zahler’s Bone Tomahawk was a surprising hidden gem from 2015. Starring Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Richard Jenkins, and Matthew Fox, this Western horror film takes its time to get rolling. In the interim, the film establishes an almost survivalist tone, but is still comfortable with its own brand of humor. With a title derived from the preferred weapon of the insane savage antagonists, Bone Tomahawk offers much more attention to detail than your standard slasher flick, and by placing the action in the Old West, we also get to see Kurt Russell’s mustache in its full glory.