The role of horror movies in society remains to be one of the most controversial issues nowadays. Not many people are able or eager to understand a true worth of horror films as a separate genre.
As a rule, the main purpose of such kind of a movie is to awake the feeling of fear or disgust among viewers, and its classification is based on the menace that is depicted in the film (Shary 40). And some people cannot understand why such movies are necessary in the world where violence and cruelty spread fast. It is hard to define the quality of a good horror film as each country offers its own ideas and visions of horror in modern life.
For example, the movie Dogtooth is an example of how Greece understands the essence of horror genre and uses everyday problems and living principles as the main idea in the horror genre. Its director, Yorgos Lanthimos, introduces a family with its own rules and truths. There are no definite monsters or bad guys in the movie, but, it is still regarded as a horror movie due to its tone and ideas as well as the emotions elicited.
Dogtooth is classified as a horror film due to the presence of certain horror elements such as intense atmosphere, sex relations, uncanny concepts, and violence; still, in comparison to a number of horror movies, the attempt of Yorgos Lanthimos to define family relations and care as the main threat for society is regarded as unique and even educative as it provides the viewers with a chance to understand better the worth of family and not to turn this type of relations into a horror of everyday life.
Many critics and experts in the film industry underline the fact that it is not an easy task to give a concrete definition of a horror film because “the film industry itself is not especially consistent in the way it defines and promotes horror cinema” (Hutchings 3). Horror genre is characterized by unpredictability and a kind of amorphousness, this is why people like watching such kind of movies. They do understand that something scary should take place, still, they cannot predict the development of the events.
This is what excites many viewers in horror genre: on the one hand, they may control the situation and realize that it is just their imagination; on the other hand, they are under the power of fear and are not able to overcome panic as soon as they want it. Such reactions and attitudes to horrors provoke a number of disputes, the main purpose of which is to define whether horror films are necessary for society or not.
The peculiar feature of the Greek film Dogtooth is that not all people define it as a horror movie. Someone may call it a thriller or even a drama. Still, Dogtooth has to be considered as a movie of horror genre because of the horror elements observed and the themes discussed.
If a person accepts Dogtooth as something scary, unpleasant, and even disgusting, such movie should be connected to the horror genre. The point is that “characters and scenes from horror movies permeate our cultural consciousness” (Worland 2), and the characters and ideas of Dogtooth make people understand that family relations are not that perfect. Much depends on how parents understand their duties and try to bring up their children.
The way of treatment used by the father of the family is impressive indeed and makes him the main scary creature in the movie. The director wants to show that it is not always necessary to have an ugly face, horrible habits, or wrong understanding of the reality. To become a monster, it is enough to define control as the main weapon in family and use imprisoning as the main method of child education.
There are many different ways that can be used to classify Dogtooth as a horror movie. Hutchings offers to apply the theory of Freud about the uncanny in order to identify the main approaches of the horror films. Freud defines the uncanny as “an aesthetic or cultural dimension… beliefs, ideas or experiences that have been repressed or surmounted but which still linger inside us” (Hutchings 69). The father from Dogtooth is a perfect example with a number of uncanny qualities.
First, he introduces the conception of a “dogtooth” according to which his children are able to leave house in case they lost a dogtooth. Second, he makes his children believe that planes in the sky are nothing but toys. And, finally, parents find it normal to use wrong definitions to different words.
For example, when the older daughter asks what cunt means, the mother says that “a cunt is a large lamp. Example: the cunt switched off and the room got all dark” (Dogtooth). Such attitude to child education is weird or even “uncanny” in regards to ordinary norms and rules.
Alternation of sex and violence scenes in the movie is another important element of a horror movie. At the beginning of the film, it becomes strange and disgusting to watch the father, who brings a young girl, Christina, to his son in order to pleasure him, or who uses fake blood to show that a cat mauled to death their older unseen brother in order to make his family kill a stray cat cruelly.
In fact, such development of family relations is not only strange but, what is more important, horrible. Intense atmosphere, inabilities to trust family members and the desire to create own rules, which contradict social norms, are the factors that make the viewer believe that he/she is watching a horror movie.
In fact, Dogtooth is one of the movies that helps to realize that people are able to create hell at any possible place, at work, home, etc. It is a horror film as it opens many people’s eyes to simple truth: any person can make mistakes and wrong conclusions. And it is necessary to find powers and admit personal weaknesses; otherwise, human life may become miserable and similar to a real horror.
In general, Yorgos Lanthimos may be considered as a real genius of a horror genre. He does not use too scary settings or ugly images. He focuses on everything that surrounds people in everyday life and use family as the main source of evil. Dogtooth is a work with a clear moral value that underlines the role of family and defines absence of freedom and free will as the element of a horror movie.
This film contains a number of lessons for the viewer, and one of the most crucial ideas is that people are not always able to control their desires and use logical explanation of the events. It is really hard to create a good family, and people are free to experiment and rely on personal interests and preferences. Still, when the desire to protect a family grows into an obsession, a person is not able to define where something good or something bad is. That is when a true horror begins.
Dogtooth. Dir. Yorgos Lanthimos. Perf. Christos Stergioglou, Michelle Valley, and Aggeliki Papoulia. Feelgood Entertainment, 2009. Film.
Hutchings, Peter. The Horror Film. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited, 2004. Print.
Shary, Timothy. “Course File for ‘Film Genres and the Image of Youth”. Journal of Film and Video 55.1 (2003): 39-57.
Worland, Rick. The Horror Film: An Introduction. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.