With news that Nicolas Winding Refn is developing a horror movie, why The Bringing is something to be excited about.
With a revolving door of directors and screenwriters pumping out films like Oculus, The Appearing, and a never-ending flood of Paranormal Activity sequels and spin-offs, it is safe to say that the horror genre has reached the point of stagnation. More specifically, the genre has tattered the reputation of films about demonic possession. The glory days of possession films like The Shining and The Exorcist are long gone. All we are left with are bland plots and cliched, stock characters. It’s not irregular for Hollywood to beat a proven film subject to death, but at some point these films will cease to be financially successful. The general public will only consume what is being fed to them for so long before they want something else.
Refn often treats viewers to chilling shots, showcasing his actors’ abilities to display emotion and/or establish mood
However, there is one filmmaker who could singlehandedly turn around this horror sub-genre and breathe new life into it: Nicolas Winding Refn. Best-known for the critically acclaimed Drive, Refn has been in negotiations to helm The Bringing, rumoured to be about a man investigating the mysterious death of Elisa Lam at LA’s infamous Cecil Hotel in early 2013. Lam was found inside the hotel’s water tank on the roof – if you aren’t familiar with the events surrounding her death, you can read about it here.
Due to his effectiveness at balancing mood and violence throughout his narratives, one could assume that Refn will utilise a ‘less is more’ approach on The Bringing, to create an eerie atmosphere while focusing on the descent of his main character, as Refn typically does in so many of his films. Anyone familiar with Refn’s work knows that dialogue is often scarce; instead, viewers are treated with chilling shots that showcase his actors’ abilities to display emotion and/or establish mood through subtle facial expressions (or lack thereof). Drive and Only God Forgives are perfect examples of this.
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Refn often juxtaposes these shots with those of extreme violence ie the elevator scene and the vicious fistfight between Julian and Chang in Drive and Only God Forgives respectively. The mood is constantly uneasy, and the audience is never quite sure when or where confrontation will strike. On top of this, Refn’s use of music is always spot-on, whether it’s the retro synth-filled soundtrack for Drive, the depressing yet beautifully horrifying tones of Only God Forgives, or even the up-tempo rock music used in Pusher.
The mood in Refn’s films is constantly uneasy, and the audience is never quite sure when or where confrontation will strike
Refn often follows the lead through internal and external struggles, to see how he may persevere or succumb to them, and perhaps the most intriguing trait that Refn would bring to a horror film is his habit of torturing his main characters.
In his feature debut, Pusher, lead character Frank’s mental state deteriorates as the walls close in around him due to his swindling ways. Meanwhile, in the visually stunning yet brutal Valhalla Rising, One-Eye, another silent character, bears the physical scars of his past, as a captive forced to frequently fight to the death.
Anything about Refn’s influence on The Bringing is speculation at this point. The events surrounding the death of Elisa Lam alone are ominous enough for a movie to be based upon, and Refn’s inclusion in the creative process could be downright nightmarish. Refn has proved through his work that he is not a one-dimensional storyteller – it is his idiosyncrasies while creating/perceiving his characters that should garner excitement about this project. His actors are not simply a vehicle to recite exposition and hold the audiences’ collective hand through the duration of the film.
Refn knows how to manipulate viewers into supporting his characters, despite their imperfections (of which they often have many). These imperfections give them depth and make them feel real. Nicolas Winding Refn has created some of the most apathetic films of recent memory and, for a film chronicling such a mysterious real life event, the depravity and lifelessness that Refn would bring might just be the spark that could revive the horror genre as a whole.
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Featured image: FilmDistrict
Inset image: Lionsgate UK