Save horror, Wes Anderson

By Griffin Brammer, Staff Writer

The camera cuts close to the face of our main character. He gives a look of equal parts shock and intrigue before the scene quickly cuts to a cramped, dim elevator painted the color of fresh blood. He speaks an ancient poem to the pale-faced, velvet-clad woman who grabs his arm tight, insisting she will never leave the palatial, snow-capped hotel they reside in. 

Upon describing the scene, what movie comes to mind? Perhaps The Shining, or at least some horror thriller you don’t know the name of… but you’d be wrong. The scene in question is Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel and is quickly followed by Ralph Fiennes berating Tilda Swinton for her choice of nail color.  

Anderson is the horror genre’s last hope. In an era of done-to-death remakes and Blumhouse mediocrity, no one has unintentionally shown their worth to the genre with their directorial style and troping than Anderson. 

Anderson’s obsession with the American vintage aesthetic builds the perfect setting for the next big thriller. His reliance for old technology and transportation like rotary phones and bus stations, in the context of a horror movie, would be the perfect mechanism to instill a feeling of dread in the characters and audience alike, as the old world technology symbolizes unreliability, isolation and helplessness (especially if anything were to go wrong, say, an escaped killer?)

The cramped, industrial submarine of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou beckons memories of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The Grand Budapest and The Overlook’s empty lobbies and sprawling mountains isolate their main characters. For every Anderson endeavor, there’s a perfect parallel to a classic horror film.  

However, this may be because, location-wise, the antiquity of Anderson’s worlds lends well to the slightly eerie aesthetic. Landmarks like lighthouses and sprawling, moss-covered forests (à la Moonrise Kingdom), evoke the unsettling feeling of stepping into the long-forgotten memory of a vintage scrapbook.  

Even the pastels that the director has become famous for implementing in his films aesthetics can bring about the feeling of unease if he intended. Pastel interiors are old. Age is scary, as it represents a resilience to time and, in a much more supernatural sense, a refusal to decay. Anderson’s settings have massive potential to be scary for the simple fact that they are the very symbol of a ghost. They refuse to stay dead. 

However, it is not the director’s art style that leads me to my conclusion; it is the directing. Perhaps more famous than the pastel-washed landscapes of Anderson is his signature perfectionism in framing and dialogue. Every shot is washed with perfect framing and precise symmetry. I’ve seen some online film buffs argue this perfectionism is to make the absurdity of his films more natural, but for our purposes, I couldn’t agree less. 

 Humans are not perfect. Not even close. So when we see someone standing straight as a pin, perfectly positioned to stand in the exact middle of a room, we know something’s wrong. That little tick in our brain goes off and our gut sinks into the uncanny valley. And when someone takes abnormally long pauses between each floral sentence, it’s as if they have to plan every word carefully at risk of getting caught in a lie, and we feel someone is pretending to be normal (or maybe even pretending to be human). There’s something off but we, the audience, just don’t know what. 

This rigid perfectionism could even bode well for a horror stop-motion endeavor similar to Isle of Dogs or Fantastic Mr. Fox. Movies like Coraline have proven the terrifying effect stop-motion can instill in audiences. This concept mixed with Anderson’s unnatural symmetry and slightly-too-realistic stop-motion dolls… the uncanny valley would turn into the uncanny Mariana’s trench. 

Ultimately, the only thing stopping Wes Anderson from becoming the biggest name in modern horror is his own personal preferences. I could write an extra 25 pages about why Anderson could be the future — my favorite genre needs to stay afloat — but the man just likes writing heart-felt stories on the importance of family and friends too much. However, if Anderson ever wants to dip his toes in blood-soaked water, the blush pink-painted door is always open.