'Nocturnal Animals' Is Scary & It's All In The Art Of The Suspense
Tom Ford, perhaps known more widely as one of the world's most talented fashion designers, is also a film director — he did 2009's A Single Man — and he's back this fall with his second directorial work, Nocturnal Animals. The (naturally) very stylish film stars Michael Shannon, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Amy Adams, who has had a very busy year as she's also the star of the much-buzzed-about sci-fi film Arrival. Though Arrival, an alien invasion film, isn't exactly a lighthearted frolic, it's a bit more straightforward in tone than the mysterious Nocturnal Animals. Adams' role in the latter film is a woman who become increasingly worried for her safety as she reads a manuscript of a novel written by her estranged ex-husband. The trailer for the film is intense, and it appears that Nocturnal Animals is definitely scary. Sorry, scaredy cats.
The movie's official website calls it a "haunting romantic thriller," and many critics, including The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline, have compared Nocturnal Animals to works by Alfred Hitchcock, which should tell you most of what you need to know about the film's overall tone. Hitchcock was so well-known for his suspenseful and psychological thrillers, perhaps best exemplified in The Birds, Rear Window, and the movie many people consider the ultimate horror film, Psycho, that he was dubbed "Master of Suspense." The director turned every moment of his films — no matter how seemingly innocuous — into an opportunity to make viewers feel uneasy, worried, and ultimately scared, and it appears that Nocturnal Animals emulates that style.
Stylight Magazine put the film in a genre it called "super-suspenseful neo-noir" and compared it to other recent movies such as Match Point, Basic Instinct, The Black Dahlia, and The Neon Demon, all of which are grounded in reality despite their thrills. They play on the possibilities for terror that exist in every human, without influence from Satanic forces, mythical monsters, or other supernatural elements. These films, the psychological thrillers, noirs, and psychodramas, are scary because they create a mood where everything, big and small, is perceived as being threatening to a character and where no person's motive, or even perspective, can be completely trusted. The result, then, is a viewing experience of heightened sensations: paranoia, tenseness, and ultimately fear.
So Nocturnal Animals, which seems to fit solidly into the canon of psychological thrillers, isn't really a horrific gore-fest with guts, or a freaky monster movie, or a traditional exaggerated slasher flick. But if it's a successful psychological thriller, it will manipulate and challenge your sense of safety and keep your heart rate higher than you might want to admit.
Images: Focus Features