Dark Musings: MUMBLEGORE

I’ve already expressed a deep love for indie horror, and praised what seems like a Renaissance in the area. It’s difficult to fully encompass the indie scene, though, without acknowledging a rather controversial subgenre that actually makes up quite a bit of the selections. This is not a category that Netflix would acknowledge, but I think it encapsulates the general vibe of this type of film. We will call it MUMBLEGORE.

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What the hell is that? you say. I laughed pretty hard when I saw that phrase first, too. It references a movement in indie film – ‘Mumblecore’ – used to describe a movie that is basically just people talking. Well-known examples include “Frances Ha,” “Drinking Buddies” and any film involving the Duplass brothers. These films tend to be the subject of some ridicule because the characters are usually over-hip and a bit (or a LOT) pretentious. Regardless of personal preference, this is a substantial area in low-budget filmmaking, and the pool of collaborators (the Duplass bros, Joe Swanberg, Greta Gerwig, Lena Dunham) have a considerable amount of talent.

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And how does this relate to horror? Well, I think it’s easy to acknowledge that horror and comedy are the two easiest genres to produce successfully on a low budget. Thus, these filmmakers switch between both, and take their mumbly-hip style with them, to give birth to Mumblegore. The earliest example is probably the Duplass brothers’ “Baghead,” released in 2008. I saw this film a few years after it came out, and honestly, it ended up frightening me quite a bit.

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Following in its footsteps, the scene welcomed the likes of Ti West and Adam Wyngard, who have both slipped solid entries into the genre canon – “The House of the Devil” and “You’re Next,” respectively. Other efforts include “Silver Bullets,” “The Innkeepers,” “The Sacrament” and, arguably, this year’s “Creep” (starring Mark Duplass as a horrifically creepy motherfucker).

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Films like these have sparked some pretty intense hatred, because of their slow pace and dialogue-heavy openings (though they tend to conclude in a glorious amount of viscera). I agree with some of the criticism, particularly that the characters are a bit too sharp and snazzily dressed to pass as fully realized people. But horror has always been imperfect, especially the characters, who are usually not even fleshed out beyond their name and the way they die. What matters is the story, the style, and the honesty of the filmmaking.

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These three reasons, among others, are why I celebrate the filmmakers involved in the mumblecore/gore movement. They have built a pool of talent that works together constantly and successfully outside of the studio system. Regardless of anyone’s personal opinion on this content, it’s encouraging and exciting to see that such a community can actually exist and thrive in today’s industry. The films that come out of this movement have created their own space in the genre and expound a vision that, while perhaps not everyone’s preference, is undeniably unique. I’m sure some will disagree, but I see this as a beacon of hope for aspiring filmmakers like myself. There is still a space for creators who want to be their own brand.

So, I personally dub the prolific and energetic producers of mumblegore films a group of talent to watch closely. There are quite a few horror projects in development now, including a comic-based television series called “Outcast” (pilot directed by Adam Wingard of “You’re Next”) and a classic-sounding stalk-and-slash flick “The Woods.” Other surprise releases can always be discovered in the Park City at Midnight section at Sundance.

Well, horror fans, what’s your opinion on this rising genre? And what’s your favorite mumblegore film if you have one? Comment below and let the grave know.

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