Art horror or arthouse horror (sometimes called elevated horror) is a sub-genre of both horror films and art-films. It explores and experiments with the artistic uses of horror.
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Art-horror films tend to rely on atmosphere building, psychological character development, cinematic style and philosophical themes for effect – rather than straightforward scares.
Art-horror films have been described as "a fascinating byproduct of the collision of art and commerce, of genre convention and personal vision". Historically, the genre was loosely related to J-horror and Italian Giallo. In the 2000s, a movement of transgressive films in France known as "New French Extremity" has been described as an arthouse horror film movement.
Although commentators have suggested some horror films have exemplified qualities applicable to "art horror" for many decades, the term became more widely used during the 2010s, with independent film company A24 credited with popularising the genre. The term "elevated horror" was first used in the early 2010s, and subsequently has been the subject of criticism and debate among film critics as it became more widely used.
In his book Art-Horror (2023) Adrian Gmelch identifies 4 aspects that can be an orientation for the definition of art-horror (no claim to present a universal definition): (1) Film historical and artistic imprinting, (2) horror as a message vehicle, (3) recurring motifs and stylistic elements as well as (4) unique visual identity and aesthetics.