Horror film fans and creators, myself included, generally delight in turning people on to the much-maligned genre. But as high-profile projects such as Get Out and A Quiet Place - which just made US$50 million ($68m) domestically in its first weekend - reach mainstream audiences and awards voting bodies, we've been watching through our fingers this sudden widespread embrace of the macabre. Can prestige film-makers, and their Hollywood backers, market their horror films to a mainstream audience without alienating already devoted horror fans?
Those fans' fears would be more assuaged if Hollywood would cease using the qualifier "elevated" to describe new horror releases, as actor-turned-director John Krasinski did when describing the types of films that convinced him a couple years ago that horror was a worthwhile genre to explore. Just last week, Netflix announced it would be releasing an "elevated horror" film starring Jake Gyllenhaal, directed by Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler, Roman J. Israel, Esq.).
Get Out earned its "elevated" moniker when critics realised the film was full of frights, as well as cutting social critiques on race and liberalism. So it went from horror to "elevated horror," and then upgraded to "social thriller" the closer it came to awards season. (Paramount is already billing A Quiet Place as a "thriller".) But the movie's director and writer, Jordan Peele, still says it's a horror movie.
Adding "elevated" to a movie's description seems an attempt to distance the film from its lineage, signalling to contemporary filmgoers that a horror film isn't a "slasher", the type of blood-and-gore fare that proliferated from the 1980s through the noughties. But even that subgenre offered more than cheap thrills: It offered roles to then-unknown actors such as Tom Hanks, Jennifer Aniston, Leonardo DiCaprio and Charlize Theron, because horror films will make money at the box office whether or not there's a star attached.
Slashers also trained the next generation of coveted effects artists. For instance, Jim Doyle, who broke ground with chill-inducing effects on A Nightmare on Elm Street and Prom Night II: Hello Mary Lou.
The practice of distancing a horror film from this lineage negates the majority of horror history - from The Phantom Carriage and Nosferatu all the way up to Insidious: The Last Key. Serious cinephiles, though, have always known that horror has been a driving force for cinematic innovation and experimentation.
Kathryn Bigelow, for one, broke out with the bloody vampire flick Near Dark. And Avatar helmer James Cameron cut his teeth writing and directing Piranha II: The Spawning, having apprenticed under low-budget genre king Roger Corman, along with Martin Scorsese, Joe Dante and John Sayles. Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby, William Friedkin's The Exorcist and Steven Spielberg's Jaws all got Oscar nods. All of these directors owe their careers, in part, to the freedom of genre cinema, which allowed them to experiment with writing, camera techniques, makeup and special effects - born from cheap budgets and little oversight .
And then there's another Corman protege, the late Jonathan Demme, whose The Silence of the Lambs was the only horror movie to win best picture. Writer Ted Tally called the movie a "psychological thriller", while Demme was adamant that he was making a horror film, inspired as he was by Psycho and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
At the 90th Academy Awards, horror was honoured once again, with Peele's win for best original screenplay. And Guillermo del Toro won best picture and best director for romantic monster movie The Shape of Water that is at the very least horror-adjacent. At this year's Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards, del Toro thanked the audience for giving horror a chance by giving Peele a best screenplay award.
So, with such big names such as Peele and del Toro giving their blessings, what's the point in studios distancing films and film-makers from the horror lineage, especially as horror is enjoying such a "moment"?
Horror film-makers have always been reaching their hardcore fans, but with the advent of streaming distribution, there's never been a period of history that's proved to be so fruitful for horror cinema hitting the mainstream, with big breakouts such as The Babadook, It Follows, The VVitch, and It Comes at Night, and gems that are just under the radar: Karyn Kusama's The Invitation, Issa Lopez's Tigers Are Not Afraid, Alice Lowe's Prevenge, Mattie Do's Dearest Sister, Nicolas Pesce's The Eyes of My Mother, Babak Anvari's Under the Shadow, Sophia Takal's Always Shine, Lucile Hadzihalilovic's Evolution, Marcin Wrona's Demon, Michael O'Shea's The Transfiguration and Jeremy Saulnier's Green Room.
That list of recent releases could go on and on, but so, too, could a list of great films from years past that just didn't get the digital distribution deal.
Although horror fans have little incentive to keep this genre to themselves we fear that with its wave of popularity, horror might become too safe and averse to the experimentation that made it special.
But history proves that the moribund mavericks will continue finding a way to make their films, whether "elevated" by a studio or not.