There is nothing more delightful than a terrible shock in a beautiful place.
The last 5 minutes of CARRIE (1976)? Iconic.
The titular Wicker Man from 1973’s WICKER MAN burns to the ground with a dude inside while the uniformly attractive villagers sing in front of a spectacular vista? Glorious.
Literally every single moment of MIDSOMMAR (2019) gives me a sense of aesthetic pleasure while simultaneously filling me with dread. It’s a marvelous cognitive dissonance, and an underutilized strategy by horror filmmakers.
Horror as a genre is really into being Gritty And DarkTM. But when something looks like it’s going to be horrible, and then it turns out to be, in fact, horrible, it can feel sort of…expected. Obvious. Like, sure, SAW (2004) is scary! I would be scared just doing a crossword in that dirty basement! But think how much more surprised you would be if someone asked you to cut off your own foot while you were vacationing in your rich uncle’s ski loft?
Another huge upside to idyllic horror is it’s almost always well-lit! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: darkness is no substitute for menace. When I can’t see what’s happening onscreen I get squint-headaches and then I get crabby. I can’t be optimally terrified of something if I can’t see whatever’s supposed to be scaring me.
Frame your murders in broad daylight, you cowards!
Starting off idyllic and ending elsewhere is also a strong choice that I love. READY OR NOT (2019) and THE CHANGELING (1980) both make fabulous use of beautiful settings to 1) scare the crap out of people (me), and 2) say something more than just: “what if you get murdered?!?” It’s easier to create an entertaining anti-capitalist screed when you set the whole thing in a rich person’s house and then burn it the fuck down. What starts off lovely becomes menacing by the end. The story arc and the aesthetic arc match! It’s so satisfying!
Do you have a favorite horror that I haven’t mentioned above? Tell me about it and I will watch it immediately!