The majority of horror movies take place at night, and for good reason: the dark is scary. Blinded by what’s right in front of us, our mind searches for whatever information it can get and often comes to the worst conclusions: the coat hanging on the door is an old man; noise from outside is a monster, and so on.
Horror plays on this universal fear to great effect, but too much of the same can get boring. Fortunately, these films have found other ways to scare audiences; keeping their fears in broad daylight, they let go of the dark while managing to keep the themes dark.
The wicker man is a popular British horror film based on the 1967 novel Ritual by David Pinner. Directed by Robin Hardy, this cult classic stars Edward Woodward as Neil Howie, a police sergeant sent to a small Scottish island in search of a missing girl. Here in Summerisle, he is confronted with claims that the maiden never existed and witnesses strange pagan rituals by the locals. A devout Christian, Howie is horrified by the island’s practices, but that’s the least of his problems. Still searching for the missing girl, on May Day, Howie finds himself at the mercy of the townspeople and their leader Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee).
Located mainly during the day, The wicker man no less frightening. In fact, the warm, sunny atmosphere makes it all the more unsettling as it conjures up dreamlike feverish visuals that mask the horrors that are happening. Something’s off, but you’d never guess what from the islanders’ good humor or Harry Waxman’s cinematography alone.
Tobe Hooper The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is another cult classic that has spawned several remakes – the most recent of which will be released later this month. The 1974 low-budget slasher centers on Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Burns) who, along with her paraplegic brother and two friends, visits her grandfather’s grave following reports of vandalism and grave robbing. On a second trip to the old homestead, they pick up and abandon an unstable hitchhiker (Edwin Neal) who, unbeknownst to them, belongs to a cannibalistic family. He, his brother Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen), and grandfather Sawyer (John Dugan), later torment the group in brutal and bloody ways.
While the film is stereotypically violent and has its fair share of scares, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre doesn’t need darkness to be scary. Stranded in rural Texas, the feeling of sinking comes from the isolation of the groups. With no one around to save them, they are only visible to those who attempt to kill them.
Good night mom is an Austrian psychological horror film directed by Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala. Set in a secluded lakeside home, it follows twins Elias and Lukas (Schwarz) who grow increasingly suspicious of their mother (Susanne Wuest) after she returns home from reconstructive surgery. Unrecognizable by her bandages, the woman also behaves strangely and treats her sons markedly differently than before.
Unlike previous films, most of the events of Good night mom take place behind closed doors. At the start of the film, it is daylight outside, but the woman has closed the blinds and only a fraction of the light is filtering through. A sense of entrapment sets in and is later confirmed when – in an unexpected turn of events – the boys take their mother prisoner in her own home.
Directed by John Krasinski, A silent place is a post-apocalyptic horror about a family desperate to survive the blind but noise-sensitive monsters that have killed most of the population. Krasinski and his real-life wife Emily Blunt star as Mr. and Mrs. Abbott, with Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe playing their on-screen children. The audience meets the family sometime after the world is ruined, where they live on an isolated farmhouse. They haven’t been found by the monsters yet, but their luck is about to run out.
With its terrifying premise, A silent place does not need to rely on scare tactics – or even its monsters – to instill fear. On the contrary, the film’s lack of dialogue encourages audiences to become hyper-vigilant and fearful of the noise itself, as the fate of the family rests in their silence.
by Ari Aster Midsommar is one of A24’s most highly praised productions. Similar to The wicker man, it’s a folk horror about a cult that further explores the effects of trauma. Following a tragic family murder-suicide, Dani (Florence Pugh) struggles with her sanity and feels her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) drifting away. When she learns of Christian’s plan to celebrate the summer solstice with his Swedish friend Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren) and co in his ancestral town, she follows and is welcomed with open arms.
Midsommar is probably the most obvious example of a horror film set in broad daylight. According to the wishes of Aster and director of photography Pawel Pogorzelski, Midsommar is distinctly dynamic, with many of its scenes bordering on overexposure. The result is a visual treat that, coupled with terror and tragedy, leaves a sickly taste.
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