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The Horror of the Everyday

Written by George Ratliff

I’ll be the first to admit that The Exorcist has haunted me my entire life. What’s more, among my list of ten favorite movies, you will find The Shining and Rosemary’s Baby. I also revere the unholy trinity of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde. But these movies and stories are not what scare me most—they are not what make me jerk awake at night dissecting sounds within the inky blackness—no, the films that scare me most are not supernatural tales, but rather the very realistic terrors of a different branch of the genre: naturalistic horror.

Be honest now, which scenario is scarier to you: mythical ghosts coming into your house to haunt you at night (half of all horror movies), or two overly-educated sociopathic boys wearing tennis whites who will torture and murder you for kicks (Funny Games)? Naturalistic horror films get under my skin because they actually could happen, or even worse, they actually did happen.

I’ve directed two additions to this genre: Joshua, a chilling bad-seed story where a couple, played by Sam Rockwell and Vera Farmiga, discover the horror of being a parent when your ten-year-old son happens to be a jealous sociopathic genius. And my new movie, Welcome Home, where a beautiful couple (played by Aaron Paul and Emily Ratajkowski) rent a fabulous villa in Italy from a website—they were planning on a fantastic relationship-mending vacation but instead uncover all of our worst fears of renting a home you have never been to from an owner you’ve never met (who might just be extremely demented.)

Here, in my humble opinion, are some of the best examples of naturalistic horror:

The Vanishing Cover The Vanishing

A Dutch couple road trip to France, fighting along the way. At a gas station in France, the guy comes out and discovers his girlfriend missing. He obsesses over her vanishing for years, needing to know the truth of what happened, and who is responsible. He does not like what he discovers.

Buy Cache (Hidden) from Amazon US Cache (Hidden)

A seemingly happy, bourgeois couple begin receiving anonymous packages containing video shot by someone spying on their lives. The tapes keep coming and get more and more personal, slowly exposing more and more intimate details of the husband’s hidden past. Directed by Michael Haneke (who also directed Funny Games), the master of this genre.

Buy With a Friend Like Harry from Amazon US With a Friend Like Harry

About a family going to their extreme fixer-upper country house for vacation, and the father, who is struggling in every way with two small children, not enough money, overbearing parents and a frustrated wife. At a gas stop, our father meets Harry, a man he went to high school with, whom he doesn’t remember, but who is and has always been obsessed with him. Harry is rich and as it turns out, psychotic, but really, really wants to help.

Buy Psycho from Amazon US Psycho

The quintessential naturalistic horror—I recently watched this movie with my children (yes I’m a bad father) and they literally had no idea what was coming—good times.

Buy Murk from Amazon US Murk

This little-known Danish movie is a gem of contained naturalistic horror. The story is about a brother who, with difficulty, watches his disabled sister marry a large, seemingly harmless man from the sticks. The sister commits suicide within the week. The berieved brother investigates and discovers a fascinatingly dark pattern.

Buy The Silence of the Lambs at Amazon US. The Silence of the Lambs

Has a better movie ever been made? The gold standard of naturalistic horror, the film is the best possible adaptation of an amazing novel.

Horror DNA would like to thank George Ratliff for taking the time to share with us this piece.

WELCOME HOME is in theaters and available on VOD today!

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