It’s high time Lars von Trier tried some real horror. You know, some hardcore, blood and guts-type stuff. So what if Antichrist had genital mutilation, self-cannibalizing animals and a graphically stillborn Bambi dangling halfway out his mom? Kid gloves.
Or so it would seem, anyway, because von Trier’s latest cinematic venture is a “real horror movie.”
Danish magazine Soundvenue recently interviewed Kristian Levring, the director who’s currently showing off The Salvation, a Danish Western starring a gunpowder-charred Mads Mikkelson. But Levring had more to speak about than just Mikkelson’s ability to ride around on horseback and shoot grizzled frontiersmen with old-timey weapons. He also mentioned a little project called Detroit. Apparently, it has been Levring’s passion project for years. And he’s spent those years pestering von Trier about how awesome it would be, until von Trier finally crumbled under the pressure. For the most accurate experience, try to imagine the following quote screamed in Danish:
“I want you to stop talking about it, so I’ll write it for you instead.”
It seems the old “pester until they crumble” debate strategy actually works in real life. According to Indiewire, which posted portions of the translated interview (my Danish is surprisingly weak, except for the word “horrorfilmen”), von Trier has been hard at work writing Detroit for the past month. And he and Levring have apparently gotten as far as an extremely vague quasi-synopsis because Levring mentions the film is about a guy, some inner demons and a battle between the two. That’s as far as he’ll mention, though.
But the film will be “real horror,” which distinguishes itself some of von Trier’s earlier work by being more visual than psychological. You’ve got Antichrist, which conveniently doubles a handy how-to guide for destroying his and hers genitalia, but also had a whole lot of slow-moving art film weaved throughout the occasional nude violence. Then there’s Epidemic, which was horror-y but also super duper experimental. The film stars von Trier and his co-writer Niels Vørsel as they write the screenplay for Epidemic, but find that what they’re writing is slowly affecting the world around them. Think Stranger Than Fiction, if it was Danish and had significantly less Will Ferrell.
There’s also The Kingdom, a TV series that might be the most straightforward horror von Trier’s ever done, containing ghost ambulances, ghost pregnancies, and creepy surgeries that don’t necessarily have to do with ghosts but are spooky nonetheless. You might know this one better as Kingdom Hospital, its American TV remake. Similar in tone, yet our version contained a magic talking anteater. Take that, Danish artistry.
Detroit will still have psychological elements, mind you, but Levring cites Psycho and The Exorcist as his horror inspirations, as opposed to whatever fuels von Trier’s peculiar fires. Does that mean we’ll actually see visual representations of those inner demons? Personally, that’s what I’m hoping for. Demons or not, Detroit won’t be the first film to capitalize on the Beyond Thunderdome that is modern-day Detroit. Brick Mansions, Only Lovers Left Alive and this year’s kinda-ok version of Robocop were all set in the economically devastated city. Maybe it’ll take von Trier to show us the true horror of Detroit, and not just the true horror of things in Detroit. Robots, vampires and parkour would be just as petrifying in Ann Arbor.
There’s a lot to be afraid of in Detroit. It’s the U.S.’s only candidate for a real-life post-apocalyptic ghost town, with tens of thousands of abandoned buildings, overgrown with trash and foliage. For all we know, there’s a mini Dawn of the Planet of the Apes happening in the wilds of Detroit right now, but no one knows because we’re all too scared to visit the city.
Von Trier doesn’t have any other irons in the fire, as far as we know, so it’s a safe guess that all his current creative juices will be spent making Detroit (and Detroit) as thoroughly bone-chilling as possible. Hopefully it’s at least as scary as the real thing.