When Is a Horror Movie Not a Horror Movie? – The New York Times

For some directors, positioning the word horror anywhere near a film they dont consider a horror movie would be erroneous or provocation. Not Karam. He was riveted by horror movies as a child in Scranton, Pa.; his gateway drug was the Disney ghost story The Watcher in the Woods (1980), with Bette Davis as the owner of an English mansion whos mourning her missing daughter.

Now 42, Karam remains a devout horror fan, citing Kubrick and Polanski as inspirations for The Humans, which he directed and adapted for the screen from his 2016 Tony-winning play. Karam takes pride in the films horror elements because they help viewers visualize how people are conquering or coping with their fears in a story thats scary.

Its important for me to think of a film or a play or any story Im telling as having a strong, confident personality, Karam said in a video interview. I dont get bogged down by whether its a horror film or family drama because the definitions can upset people who take ownership of what a horror film is.

The Humans takes place in a seen-better-days duplex newly occupied by Brigid (Beanie Feldstein) and her boyfriend, Richard (Steven Yeun). Visiting from Scranton are Brigids working-class parents, Erik and Deirdre (Richard Jenkins and Jayne Houdyshell); and Momo, Eriks mother (June Squibb), who has dementia. Also joining is Brigids sister, Aimee (Amy Schumer), who lives in Philadelphia and is fresh off a breakup with her girlfriend.

At the family table theres turkey and good-natured ribbing, but also difficult conversations about work, love and depression. This is a family filled with love, but also resentment and heartache. Typical Thanksgiving drama stuff.

But from the start, theres an uneasy feeling, as if something terrible is on its way. Parts of the walls ooze and bubble with pustules like growths on a David Cronenberg mutant. There are eerie portraits of spooky people, like the art from a possessed castle in a Hammer Film. Jump scares, loud sounds, darkness, stillness: Theyre all heart-pounding. Horror movie stuff.

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When Is a Horror Movie Not a Horror Movie? - The New York Times

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