There’s no question that 2017 was the “year of horror” – not just in politics and the news. While The New York Times Magazine film critics AO Scott and Wesley Morris did laugh about the scary things happening at The White House during the gala event held in Hollywood at the Neuehouse, it’s actually no joke. Statistics have shown, time and time again, that when our world is going through tumultuous times, our movie viewing turns to the cathartic experience that genre films offer: the chance to vicariously experience something scary, knowing we’ll get out of it in the end.
During the Q&A, Scott and Morris singled out the 10 Best Performances of the Year, lavishing perhaps the most praise on Daniel Kaluuya, the star of Get Out. They discussed the sociopolitical currents running throughout Jordan Peele’s sleeper hit, but also just how good Kaluuya is as an actor. Later on, after the discussion, we were treated to a frightening flick featuring Kaluuya as “The Psycho Killer” which really showed his range.
We got to see snippets of all the shorts: As part of the magazine’s multimedia production, each selected star appeared in his or her own tableau in which they depicted some of the genre’s classic archetypes, such as “The Ghost Bride” (Cynthia Nixon) and “The Demented Clown” (Andy Serkis). On hand for the festivities were two of the stars, Nicole Kidman (singled out for her 2017 performance in The Beguiled and appearing in the short “The Possessed”) and Timothee Chalamet (singled out for his 2017 performance in Call Me By Your Name and appearing in the short “The Cannibal”).
In addition to 2017 being the year of horror at the box office, it’s also the unofficial year of the woman. From Patty Jenkins directing one of the biggest blockbusters (Wonder Woman) to Greta Gerwig’s helming of indie-darling Lady Bird, it’s been a good turnout for the ladies. So, it’s only fitting that The NYT chose Floria Sigismondi to make these special shorts.
Sigismondi is a lauded photographer and director (“Handmaiden’s Tale” and “American Gods”). Apart from her art exhibitions the Italian-Canadian auteur is best known for directing music videos. Her trademark dilating, jittery camerawork, which came to fore as early as her video for Marilyn Manson’s “The Beautiful People”, has been replicated by a great number of directors since. Her quick-cutting techniques, on display in her vignettes directed for the likes of David Bowie, The White Stripes, and Katy Perry, were very much in evidence in the quick “creepypasta” style horror flicks shown at The Year of Horror event. (Watch all the artistic shorts here.)
Unfortunately, Sigismondi was unable to attend the party and screening. Fortunately, she’s in the UK working on preproduction of a horror feature. It’s called The Turning and is inspired by the 1898 Henry James novella “The Turn of The Screw.”
One thing that struck me about the event was how chic and swanky it was. As a longtime horror journalist (for roughly 16 years), I’m used to attending gore-galas held in small, dark, Goth rooms festooned with fake corpses and skull décor. The NeueHouse, which is located in the heart of Hollywood, is the furthest thing from a dive bar you can imagine: It’s open, bright, airy, upscale, and very expensive. Another thing that struck me was the fact that in all of its 15 years in publication, The New York Times Magazine has never had an issue devoted to the horror genre.
What do you think of mainstream media embracing our favorite genre? Do you say “it’s about time,” or do you think horror should “stay weird?” Weigh in our comments section.
Photo Credits: Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for The New York Times