There’s a thrill to being scared, an almost drug like high that lingers once the threat is gone. We’ve all felt it, but the taint of powerlessness that accompanies it in real life makes it hard to enjoy. That’s the glory of horror, it has the ability to reach into our collective subconscious, draw out the worst of our unspoken fears, show them to us as a reality, and let us thrill to them. But it doesn’t stop there. It forces us to face our own mortality, but it also allows us to live vicariously through the most depraved and evil of characters. We get to be victim and violator, to feel impotent and powerful simultaneously. It’s a dual catharsis unlike any other.
Yet something about it feels wrong to most of us. So we dress it up in story, we give our monsters motivations and heroic opponents who will ultimately best them—even if it’s only by surviving. We feel more comfortable this way. We’re allowed to get our fix of fear and power, but while we’re relishing in being Hannibal Lecter, we get to safely hide away in Agent Starling.
For all our story though, it’s the money shot we’ve come to see. It’s the murder that drew us in. And that’s just what David C. Snyder has given us with Still, a distilled, refined telling of the classic horror tale.
In the scant six minutes the film runs we get it all.
We’re introduced to our murderess but we’re given no concrete motivation. Sure she seems depressed, maybe even clinically, but we don’t really know for sure. She could be just an everyday housewife, but it is just this ordinariness and lack of reason that make her so wonderfully monstrous.
Our victim tells us everything we need to know in the first second she walks on screen. There is no greater symbol of helplessness and innocence than the pretty young mother. She is exactly what a victim should be.
That’s why her ordeal is so gruesome. Snyder shows very little in the way of actual gore, but what is hinted at is so vile and wrong it feels like watching a snuff film.
The ending stays true to genre, restoring society to quiet normality, but it does so in a way that prevents the viewer from truly feeling that the killer has gotten their just punishment. Our murderess steals that last joy from us. The effect is unsettling, making us powerless again, and it leaves us with an unquiet dread as we’re shown that these things do actually happen, and we can do nothing to stop them.
-Douglas Allen Rhodes