To say that the horror genre is diverse is a gross understatement. Within the horror scene, we have dozens of subgenres and categories within those subgenres. There are crossovers, standalone, and films that can’t even be placed in any box, but like, dude, you totally just have to watch.
One of the subgenres or sub-subgenres of horror is “red films” or extreme horror. You may have heard of some of the films in this category: I Spit on Your Grave, Last House on The Left, and A Serbian Film are a few. But for those who may be unfamiliar with red films, or for those who have heard of it but never ventured down that particular rabbit hole, there’s a documentary for you.
Directed by Jesse Seitz and Marcus Koch, BEYOND HORROR is a feature-length documentary about the history, subculture, and significance of red films. And, guys, this documentary is a deep-dive. Not only does the film explain what this genre is, but it also breaks down the specific types of red film, the origins of extreme horror (spoiler alert: it has roots in both Ancient Rome and late-19th Century Paris), and shines a light on the devoted filmmakers and fans who drive the scene.
Part of what really makes this documentary so effective, though, are the individual interviews with creators and experts in the field – Koch and Seitz event spotlight a psychologist who gives us a possible answer to the most obvious question: why do we like extreme horror? Who exactly are these movies for? Through these interviews, BEYOND HORROR explores the human need for fear and revulsion, as well as the concept of using horror – and extreme horror – as a way to confront, process, and heal from trauma.
I went into this documentary without any background or previous knowledge about extreme horror. I was vaguely familiar with the concept – I couldn’t define it, but I knew it when I saw it. Now that I’ve watched it, though, I have a new-found appreciation for it. Definitely give BEYOND HORROR a watch if you’re interested in this oft-overlooked side of horror. But be warned – there are some parts that may be too graphic and disgusting to watch.