Karyn Kusama Explores the Allure of Cinematic Fear

Karyn Kusama has always been fascinated by what terrifies and startles audiences. A director who has won acclaim for her fresh, surprising spins on familiar genres—from teen horror (Jennifer’s Body) to the detective thriller (Destroyer)—she has drawn creative inspiration from masters of fear like George A. Romero and Tobe Hooper, who use pulp-movie conventions to tap into the dark recesses of the American psyche. In our latest episode of Adventures in Moviegoing, she joins presenter and critic Alicia Malone for a conversation on the films that have served as guiding lights throughout her career. This excerpt from the program dives into her attraction to the extremes of genre cinema—and its sociopolitical underpinnings. For Kusama, horror and science fiction offer safe spaces in which viewers can confront the anxieties and traumas that define contemporary society. Watch the video above, then head the Criterion Channel for the complete interview and her eclectic selection of favorites, including Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark, Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali, and Akira Kurosawa’s High and Low.

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