With horror moving away from schlocky jumpscares and branching into sophisticated, elevated horror, one of the most popular avenues for directors to explore is the descent into madness trope. When a character (innocuous or not) becomes obsessed or driven to madness for many reasons.
Some of the best descent to madness stories were released last year. My personal favorite is Pearl.
Mia Goth is Pearl, a wannabee starlet capable of going to great lengths to achieve the dream she wants. Released as a prequel to the slasher homage X, Pearl revolved around a young woman destined for the big screen, or so she thought. Pearl starts as a shy, kind girl living on a farm with her sick father and overbearing mother. Soon, the farmhouse's confines and Hollywood's outstretched arms absorb her every thought. Pearl descends into a swirl of madness.
Goth’s performance alone makes her one of the best new horror names in the 2020s.
When Dani’s parents and sister all die in a murder-suicide, Dani resorts to the only remaining support system: her estranged boyfriend, Christian. Dani, Christian, and their friends all travel to a Swedish ritual on behalf of their friend, Pelle. A peaceful outing between friends and family spirals into a terrifying cult celebration.
Dani’s depression manifests into terror, but you won’t be able to peel your eyes off Florence Pugh’s masterful performance, no matter how brutal the film gets — and it gets brutal.
3. Saint Maud
Saint Maud follows a nurse-turned-religious zealot, determined to save everyone around her. Saint Maud’s release date was pushed back and bounced around during covid. The incredible film never received the official theatrical release it deserved (although it did have a limited release in 2021). Still, that didn’t stop this religious tale from searing into the minds of horror enthusiasts everywhere.
Saint Maud delivers one of the best stories about religious obsession ever. Plus, the film's final scene stays burned in your brain forever.
Gaspar Noe’s avant-garde dance is a literal descent into madness. When a group of dancers ingests LSD-laced punch, they embark on a trip that doesn’t end swimmingly. Stakes rise, and tensions run high while the troupe tries to uncover the culprit that laced the punch.
What elevates the dive into instability is that Climax begins at the end. The film starts with a credit roll before launching into video interviews with the dancers. The color schemes and editing sequences make the viewer feel like they are on the same acid-fueled trip as the dancers. Climax is definitely not for everyone.
5. We Need to Talk About Kevin
This movie is eerie for a few reasons. 1. Ezra Miller depicts a murderer that conveys a massacre at a school, and Ezra Miller has been convicted of multiple violent crimes in recent years. 2. Miller approaches Kevin with such deftness it becomes difficult to discern fiction from reality. We Need to Talk About Kevin nods to Kevin’s upbringing, how the parents tried to assuage him and give him an outlet for expression, but he is pure evil.
We witness Kevin’s actions through his mother’s viewpoint. Tilda Swinton’s character harbors a ton of internalized guilt, resentment, and shame around Kevin. This film opens up two distinct descents, Kevin’s descent into evil and his mother’s descent into incessant guilt.
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.