3 Non-Traditional Horror Films to Watch This November

We can all admit that horror is a great genre. There is something for everyone; haunted house stories, slasher flicks and even monster films have captivated audiences for years but it is a genre that seems relegated to calendar specific viewings but I am here with a selection of “horror” movies that can be watched anytime outside of October.

Jaws

I have previously written about Jaws as a perfect summer movie but I bet horror does not immediately come to mind for this classic from 1975. The plot is ubiquitous but the elements of it are ripped right from a horror movie. For starters, the seemingly mindless shark that has staked a claim to the waters of Amity Island is a monster ripped directly from prehistory as gigantic sharks once roamed the ocean. There is also the fact that the original novel by Peter Benchley is based off real shark attacks in New Jersey during the early 20th Century. The setting of Amity Island must also be considered in our evaluation of Jaws; an isolated island community where the most anyone has had to worry about is rowdy teenagers or a poor tourist season but also features a leadership group that is desperate to hide the truth and where help is not immediately available as Chief Brody is literally and figuratively out of his depth. Brody and biologist Matt Hooper do what they can to avoid further deaths but are hamstrung at every turn until the threat suddenly becomes personal for those involved. Jaws then veers into adventure and hoor as the surly Captain Quint hauntingly recounts his time a survivor of the USS Indianapolis but the most enduring legacy of the film is the music of John Williams. Jaws infamously suffered from numerous production setbacks due to mechanical failures of the shark puppet and these failures led to the creative decision to not showcase the shark as much as was expected. The music operates as the shark as it builds toward a kill and descends as the shark swims away. The third act of Jaws truly showcases the shark’s strength and cunning as it appears to toy with the crew of the Orca and leading it into a final confrontation of man versus beast.

Get Out

While writer and director Jordan Peele will likely argue that his directorial debut is more of a social thriller, Get Out is a horror film through and through. At first, the movie is set up like a fun family film in the vein of Meet the Parents, if Meet the Parents was mashed up with Gone with the Wind and The Human Centipede but the prologue should serve as a reminder up until the Armitage’s party that we should be expecting something horrific to happen. Daniel Kaluuya gives an incredible performance and serves as the audience’s gateway to every awful moment inflicted upon him; we feel his sadness and guilt when he recounts his mother’s death and we cheer when he dispatches every member of the Armitage family. After having watched it recently, it is amazing how the film can be misinterpreted in regards to Lil Rel Howery’s character. While Rod can be seen as a trope of the cautious friend who comically warns his friend to be wary and to leave, his concern comes from genuine affection for Chris and we should all want a friend who will drive to the middle of nowhere to rescue us from a spooky ass house or a murderous family. Ultimately what makes Get Out so horrifying is the erasure of one’s identity at the hands of others. The thought of someone else’s brain being forcefully placed in your body should terrify anyone but the additional thought that this has been going on for years, that there are countless victims and that you were carefully targeted is a horrifying thought process. Get Out has many elements you would find in a horror film; monsters who don’t see themselves as monsters, an isolated home where help is far away and seemingly innocuous events designed to put one at ease. Get Out was a revolutionary film that reminded us that horror should be a reflection of society’s fears and will remain a triumph of the genre.

Zodiac

David Fincher has quietly made some huge contributions to the idea of a non-horror yet still very much horror film. Do yourself a favor and watch Se7en but think of it in the context of a slasher film and it is a completely different experience. While Se7en is a fictional story, Fincher decided to look at the very real and very terrifying Zodiac Killer, who stalked California during the late 60’s and early 70’s. Zodiac does well as a film to not revel or glorify in the murders perpetrated by the mysterious killer but instead focuses on the years long investigation that consumed not only law enforcement detectives but also reporters and even influenced pop culture. The fact that the identity of the Zodiac Killer remains unknown helps to make Zodiac a truly disturbing film. It is likely that he has passed away but given that there is hardly any physical edivence and a large amount of circumstantial evidence implicating dozens if not hundreds of suspects, it is even more likely that the murders will never be solved. During the film, the Zodiac is cloaked in darkness both literally and figuratively. He is filmed with no clear lighting so it is impossible to see his face and it leans heavily into the characterization of those investigating the murders. The first to fall victim is Robert Downey, Jr’s character, Paul Avery, as he reports on the Zodiac’s crimes and even geos as far to suggest that police are not even investigating a potential first victim of the Zodiac. The final straw comes when he writes a letter to the Department of Justice requesting to be placed in charge of the investigation. This leads to his dismissal from his prominent newspaper job and a descent into alcohol and drug abuse. This obsession then transitions to police detectives as they chase leads and bogus tips that all lead to the case growing cold. The final act then features an almost unhinged performance from Jake Gyllenhaal as his amateur investigation costs him his family, his career, creates friction with public officials and puts his own life in danger as his need for an answer goes unfulfilled. In an era where society’s obsession with true crime stories infects every aspect of culture, Zodiac should serve as a chilling warning that there are more victims that just those in the morgue.

Regardless of whether you are more of a traditionalist in your horror consumption or prescribe to the idea that real life is scary enough, we are in a golden era of filmmakers pursuing non-traditional stories to give them that horror touch. Just remember that even the most wild, crazy and terrifying films have a grain of real life inspiration.

Featured Image Credit: Rotten Tomatoes

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