From It Comes at Night to A Ghost Story, a new spawn of fright is slithering into the multiplex, replacing jump-scares with existential fright. We talk to the auteurs break-dance all the rules

DO NOT GO SEE IT COMES AT NIGHT, ITS SO NOT WORTH WATCHING, WORST MOVIE EVER HANDS DOWN. Twitter was filled with countless such berths after the US release of It Comes at Night last month. Mainstream moviegoers get in expecting a straight-up repugnance; they came out unsure about what theyd realise, and they didnt like it. Critics, and any particular area of onlookers, have adored the cinema, but its Cinemascore rating determined by moviegoers opening-night actions is a D.

You can understand the confusion. The entitlement alone strongly intimates It Comes at Night is a horror movie. As does the movies trailer, whose parts include a post-apocalyptic scenario, a hut in the woods, gas masks, shotguns, hostages, a stern patriarch( Joel Edgerton ), and admonishings never to leave doors opened or go out at night. Its by no means inaccurate publicize, its only that this tense, minimal movie doesnt to be followed by consented rules.

I didnt set out to make a repugnance movie per se , says Trey Edward Shults, the cinemas 28 -year-old writer-director. I exactly set out to clear something personal and thats what it turned into. I placed a lot of my own fears into it, and if fear equates with horror then, yeah, its fright. But its not a conventional fright movie.

Considering that horror is the place where we explore our mortal and societal horrors, the genre is actually one of the safest spaces in cinema. More than any other category, fright movies are governed by rules and codes: ogres dont have thoughts; the final girl will prevail; the informs of the gas station assistant/ supernatural Native American/ creepy old woman will go unheeded; the cruelty will ultimately be defeated, or at least interpreted, but not in a way that shuts off the possibility of a sequel. The regulates are our flashlight as we project into the unknown. But in some respects, theyve obliged horror a realm of what Donald Rumsfeld would describe as known unknowns.

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Regret startles me Trey Edward Shults It Comes at Night. Image: Animal Kingdom/ REX/ Shutterstock

No wonder some film-makers are starting to question what happens when you switch the flashlight off. What happens when you digress beyond those cast-iron conventions and wander off into the darkness? You might find something even scarier. You might find something thats not frightening at all. What could be rising here is a new sub-genre. Lets call it post-horror.

To its love, at least, It Comes at Night is all the scarier because you dont know exactly where the fright is going to come from. Theres a civilisation-levelling cataclysm and a contagious virus and a Blair Witchy grove, but the film is more interested in the repugnances within. Edgerton and his family organizes a nervy confederation with another in a similar situation, and with shotguns to mitt and trust in short supply, the threat of violence is never far away. There is grief, remorse, regret and paranoia. There are family bonds, which turn from protective to constrictive. The teenage son is plagued by nightmares. And then theres plainly the darkness, which the cinema visuals represent extraordinary give of. Its amazing how unsettling it can be just watching person with a lantern straying around in the coal black night. Its easier to identify whats not terrifying.

Im is conscious that the claim sounds like a drug ogre movie or something, but it speaks to the movie thematically , not in the literal appreciation, says Shults. He turned off all the suns in his Texas home and strolled around with a torch to get a feel for the movie, he confesses. He also researched genocides and societal hertzs of violence. But the floor genuinely stanch from his personal anxieties. Shults talks of his estranged parent, who had a record of addiction, and expired shortly before he wrote the movie. He acknowledged his regret to his son on his deathbed.

Death is the unknown. We dont know, he says, And thats always terrifying. But then more so is regret. The practice you resulted your life, their own decisions you realized. That frightens me all the time. As a former business-school student who ceased college against his mothers advice to engage film-making, the fear of manufacturing the incorrect decision was clearly present for Shults. What emboldened him to swap occupations was territory a responsibility with local auteur Terrence Malick, working on The Tree of Life. I dont know if he knows, but he changed the course of my whole life, says Shults. What I was inspired by is just how unorthodox you can be just think outside of the box and find the right way to make a movie for you.

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Low plan, mass plea Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out. Photograph: Allstar/ Blumhouse Productions

Thats not a feeling fright creators certainly want to hear these days. Horror is the most profitable category in the sector and its din. This year is set to be horrors best ever, led by entitles like Get Out( which has obligated $252 m globally on a budget of $4.5 m ), and M Night Shyamalans Split ($ 277 m on a$ 9m fund ). As a ensue, theres a market for frights with low-spirited budgets and mass plea. Which basically makes discrepancies on well-established themes: supernatural owned, recurred residences, psychos, zombies.

This is the market post-horror is reacting against. Shults quotes the influence of Roman Polanski, whose celebrated apartment trilogy Repulsion, The Tenant and Rosemarys Baby are very similar workouts in refashioning fright tropes with an auteur insight, as were Nicolas Roegs Dont Look Now and Stanley Kubricks The Shining. But those were in the epoch of well-resourced studio horror , now young film-makers like Shults must make a distinctive impression on an indie fund.( It Comes at Night has already remunerated its budget many times over, incidentally .)

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Refashioning tired horror tropes Nicolas Roegs Dont Look Now. Photograph: Moviestore Collection/ REX

A number of other recent cinemas could fit into the post-horror category. Last years The Witch, for example, which went into the New England timbers with a devout 17 th-century family. Again, the title and trailer advocated a straight fright movie, but while it was immersed in genuine demonic lore, The Witch was short on jump-scares and frantic chases, and explanation of votes. It did, at the least, have a sorceres in it. But again, it was marketed at mainstream audiences, who felt like theyd been conned, and took to Twitter with WORST MOVIE EVER sentiments.

Taking a different tack was Olivier Assayas Personal Shopper, which knit supernatural elements into its understated contemplate of a Parisian fad helper, played by Kristen Stewart. Shes striving a signal from her dead twin friend. She believes in specters, and from what we look, shes not making it up either, so when a stalker starts texting her, were not sure if theyre alive or dead. Technically, its a repugnance movie, but nothing would perplex Personal Shopper with The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2. In a same vein, so to speak, Nicholas Winding Refn raised bloodthirsty lesbian vampire supermodels to LAs fashion world in The Neon Demon a variation on a well-worn horror tropes, but in no way traditional.

The movie that could really seal post-horror is A Ghost Story, an extraordinary, exploratory film that goes on the release in the US this week( and comes to the UK in August ). Again, its a entitlement that creates certain expectations. There is a ghost, but its Casey Affleck covered in a white sheet with two eye flaws cut out of it. Hes mostly a human emoji of a phantom. Having been killed in a car gate-crash, he haunts the members of this house of his grief-stricken young widow, played by Rooney Mara, but she cant actually find him. When she moves out, hes stay there. Forever. New renters come and go. The construct itself eventually get. Time loops in on itself, and the legend expands from personal trauma into the realms of planetary speculation.

I wanted to engage with the archetypes and iconography of soul movies and haunted home movies, without ever crossing over into actually being a repugnance movie, says writer-director David Lowery, who became A Ghost Story with the proceeds of his previous movie, a remake of Disneys Petes Dragon. Search at any horror film and you can trace it back to a particular social or personal anxiety, and this film is no different in that thought: I was having a big-picture existential crisis about my region in the universe, and at the same season I was having a very personal conflict with my spouse about where we were going to move to. And wrapped up in all of that was my longstanding desire to make a movie with a guy in a sheet.

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Rooney Mara in the exploratory A Ghost Story Photograph: Andrew Droz Palermo/ Sundance Institute

Lowery is no snob, though: I go and discover most horror cinemas that come out, but Im typically watching with my hands over my eyes. He speaks with praise of The Conjuring 2. But Lowery too draws on a more east-Asian belief of intents and the supernatural. Tsai Ming-liangs Goodbye, Dragon Inn, for example, set in a recurred cinema where phantoms and the living sit side by side. Or the cinemas of Thailands Apichatpong Weerasethakul, in which the phantom of a dead wife can casually turn up at the dinner table or a son can be transformed into a forest-dwelling wookiee and nobody bats an eyelid. Weerasethakuls entire vocation is basically post-horror.

It is telling that It Comes at Night, The Witch and A Ghost Story were all put under by A24 Films, a young company that have so far been learnt Oscar success with the likes of Moonlight and Room. If anyones pushing fright into new realms, its them, but isnt it about duration? There will always be a plaza for movies that reacquaint us with our primal horrors and frighten the bejesus out of us. But when it comes to address the large-hearted, philosophical themes, the horror framework is in danger of being too rigid to be submitted with new reacts like a expiring religion. Lurking precisely beyond its cordon is a immense black nothingness, waiting for us to glisten a light into it.

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