Rediscovering horror

As Douglas E Winter, author of Primal Evil, noted, "Horror is not a genre, it is an emotion. It is a progressive form of fiction, one that evolves to meet the fears and anxieties of its time." But the genre has undergone a change. From Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho to Tom Harper's The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death, horror films have morphed from depicting fear as an emotion to having ghosts jump out of closets.

Yet, the genre remains popular. Every year, Hollywood churns out horror films in bulk - of course most of them don't do well. Nevertheless, the genre is still going strong. In Bollywood, on the other hand, horror films are usually looked at with disdain.

So what must a horror film aficionado do in order to be spooked out of his wits? Curated lists available online usually don't consider foreign films and most contain cult classics that most of us would have already seen.

Perhaps that is why the ongoing 'Horror in the Bylanes' film festival in New Delhi is a godsend. Hosted at Greenr, a quaint cafe-cum-store, the festival, in collaboration with Lightcube Film Society, screens a film every Wednesday. It also boasts of an impressive line-up. From M, an American remake of a 1931 German film of the same name, to Roman Polanski's The Tenant, the festival has an interesting mix of films from various decades.

Anuj Malhotra of Lightcube explains: "As such, we wanted to include cinema's diverse response to the various transformations major modern cities underwent in the 21st century. It is also important to simultaneously examine the effect on the victims of these cities: the residents. We, therefore, felt the need to erect a curatorial model which is representative - of various major cities, of different eras in time and the prevalent feelings in them. These films are set in most major urban centres of the world and feature the prevalent feelings of a city-space: the fear of exclusion, suspicion of one's neighbour, general paranoia, and a sinister monster on the prowl who mobilises all of these."

He adds that horror is historically a genre that is best watched in a group and is the most ceremonial of all film genres. Hence, a horror film festival is a great way to get fans together.

The venue, though, might come across as an odd choice for a horror film festival. But, Mohit Yadav, co-founder of Greenr, says they invite independent artists and performers to showcase and share their talent in a fun and supportive atmosphere.

The programme, however, has only two Bollywood films. Maybe because of the way Bollywood treats the horror genre. Malhotra notes: "With Bollywood, the major contention is its uncritical reception and treatment of the genre as a codified, unimpeachable structure. The unfortunate result is that most films here fetishise the presumed, tangible icons of horror such as cobwebs or black magic, in the sheer ignorance of the psychological, internal anxious aspect of horror. By attempting to make horror more visible - to the extent that they set 1920 in Victorian London to borrow its cosmetic elements - they make it more external, distant and as a result, less terrifying."

For people with an unending love for the genre, 'Horror in the Bylanes' is a great way to unwind in the middle of the week.

The festival is on till September 7 at Greenr Cafe in Shahpur Jat, Delhi. A daily pass costs Rs 350

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