I am a person very cautious of holding up anything as speaking to a moment or a generation. I believe it takes reflection in concert with introspection to find the critical mode where we can do that. Surely we can create things in the moment and it is important to do so. We need to create a historical record of creative output as much as we need to record simply what happened. All of that being said, David F. Sandberg is…onto something?
Sandberg is the director of movies like Annabelle: Creation and Lights Out. I’m not going to sugar coat it, those two are fine at best. What’s more interesting is what Sandberg was up to before he became a Hollywood director, creating zero budget horror shorts. It’s what enabled him to book Lights Out, a movie that seems uncomfortable at its full runtime but based on some seriously cool moments. That version of Sandberg is back. Collaborating again with his wife, Lotta Losten, Sandberg has reinvigorated his YouTube account “ponysmasher” and posting some pretty compelling minimalist shorts.
Shadowed was posted almost a month ago, well into the global pandemic. Not Alone in Here was posted on May 17th. Together, they paint a portrait of the anxiety of living by one’s self during a time of global social isolation.
I don’t think its any grand secret that “horror” to any generation is designed to speak to an anxiety or a discomfort. The difference here is that usually this process takes a while. Film itself kind of takes a while so automatically there’s a significant bumper put in place. But the landscape is different now. There is no film industry to speak of in the West. With no major releases since February filmmakers have had to find new outlets. Enter David F. Sandberg.
Going back to his roots, Shadowed and Not Alone in Here speak to the kind of specific anxieties of the moment. In a year that will forever be defined by isolation and distance the things we’re most worried about is perhaps what if we are not so isolated and distant. What if we have unwanted company? Who could come to help? Would they?
We’ve entered into a new era of social suspicion. I cannot help the instant calculus that happens in almost every interaction I have with a person. Are they wearing a mask? Are they wearing it properly? What kind of mask is it? Was that a cough I hear? A sneeze? Why are they so close to me? Am I too close? I suspect I’m not alone in that, not even close. This doesn’t even take into account the racial anxiety I feel as an Asian appearing man in a major city who has been wearing a mask outside since March. How are others regarding me with suspicion?
People don’t trust each other right now. The more time we spend alone and isolated I wouldn’t be shocked to see that we’ll begin to stop trusting ourselves. A pandemic is an invisible threat that inhabits and possesses us. It makes sense that the baddies that Sandberg is channeling can’t be seen either. It follows that the anxiety of the moment that we’re alone but not alone. A pandemic shows us we’ve never been in control, we’ve always been at the mercy of the unseen. So does Sandberg.