Post-modern Horror was what “saved” the genre back in the days when Carpenter was making In the Mouth of Madness (1994) and Hooper was making The Mangler (1995) (both remarkably weird and original films that are arguably good Horror films, in hindsight). Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson re-aligned audiences with the Horror genre in 1996 with Scream, which is the most clear representation of post-modern horror. Filmic post-modernism is characterized by empty references to past films, looser or self-aware genre conventions and generic bleed-through, globalization, and treating style as substance, among many other things which can be observed in films from directors like P. T. Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, Lars von Trier, and Wong Kar Wai, to name a few. Horror films in the vein of Scream, Slither (2006), and Behind the Mask (2006) are easiest to recognize as post-modern because they come straight out with their playful knowledge of generic tradition and an eagerness to subvert the audience's expectations; in order to evolve the horror genre to meet the sensibilities of a modern viewer, a film like Scream shows through empty citation that it is as smart as its audience. That isn't where the post-modern horror classification ends though, as more minimal and subdued films like The House of the Devil (2009), Wendigo (2001), Open Water (2003), All The Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006), Ju-on (2002), The Blair Witch Project (1999), Trouble Every Day (2001), The Sixth Sense (1999), Amer (2009), A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014), and Maniac (2012), as diverse as they are, all encompass the tenets of post-modern horror with their attention to empty citation, aesthetic preoccupations, narrative re-structuring, and generic play.
It Comes At Night, A Ghost Story (2017), and The Witch (as well as other recent critical darlings like It Follows , Get Out, The Love Witch , and The Babadook ) fall in line behind a twenty-year history of post-modern horror, and in my opinion, it's really only because A24 is behind those three films and that they have that indie artsy look to them that an article like this post-horror one was even written. A24 is doing awesome stuff and giving young filmmakers the chance to make really contemplative horror movies that are getting wide releases (which is spectacular!!). But let's not pretend that this is breaking new ground, because it's really just a base standard that we should be holding all film studios to: treating horror films like a worthy genre and allowing filmmakers to have vision. In that same breath, we should hold critics to a similar standard: please discuss horror films as a serious and deserving genre, and for the love of cinema please stop creating new elitist labels for the horror films you like. Surprise, if you like horror movies then you are probably a horror fan! And that's not a bad thing.