So I sat down with some friends the other night to re-watch a movie that blends the genres of science fiction and horror. It does a fantastic job, using the speculative idea at its heart to draw out hidden motivations, chipping away the viewer’s assumptions until the end can’t help but leave you unsteady, less sure of the ground you stand on both with regards to the narrative and the outside world.
I’m talking, of course, about Primer.
No, really. Primer is a horror movie. Don’t get me wrong; it’s also a science fiction movie, and I can see why it could be considered solely that — not least because of how detailed it is in its consideration of time travel. And I really do love its technobabble, mainly because it never slows down for the viewer.
But even as it’s telling a science fiction story, it’s doing so in a way infused by the horror genre. In our post-movie “okay so what was up with X” conversation, I claimed that it had elements of the Gothic to it, but I’m pretty sure I’m using that term inaccurately. The horror aspect of the movie is much more than jump-scares or eldritch terrors (nothing against either of those, mind you); it’s the whole mood, from the ominous hum of the box to the repeated isolation of the two leads (emphasized by how everything but their dialogue tunes out now and then). And as much fun as it is to puzzle out timelines and failsafes and which Abe and Aaron were in which box when, I think there’s a lot to consider about this movie that has nothing to do with the big question of “what just happened?”
Spoilers for Primer below.