Not Quite Horror: “Safe” (1995)

Not Quite Horror contains reviews of films not traditionally considered horror films. By analyzing them as horror films (identifying the monster, discussing the shared worry for the audience and the main characters, and understanding the depth of horror available to the viewer), who knows? There more than one way to watch a movie.

Safe (1995)

The Monster: Safe draws a line between protagonist Carol White (Julianne Moore) and the rest of the world. In this film, everything that isn’t Carol White is the monster.

The Horror: Carol’s problems begin with health problems dealing with allergic reactions to the world around her. Carol becomes more sensitive and her symptoms become more severe. Before long, Carol is an alien to the world she used to live in. Her only relief comes from complete isolation in a sterile, clinical world.

The Shared Fate: Allergies themselves are common, and who hasn’t gotten sick from something they’ve eaten or been exposed to in the world outside of their comfort zone? It’s hard to watch Safe without memories of past nauseas creeping into your body.

Psychologically, the anxiety and fear Carol experiences are just as common. Who isn’t scared of the world around them at least some of the time?

When Carol accepts her sterilized cell as a home at the end of the film it is a sad and horrifying conclusion to her trip. So why is it also somewhat appealing?

Not Quite Horror contains reviews of films not traditionally considered horror films. By analyzing them as horror films (identifying the monster, discussing the shared worry for the audience and the main characters, and understanding the depth of horror available to the viewer), who knows? There’s more than one way to watch a movie.

— I am indebted to Noel Carroll’s The Philosophy of Horror for his ideas on defining horror, as well as John Skipp and Craig Spector’s article “Death’s Rich Pageantry, or Skipp & Spector’s Handy-Dandy Splatterpunk Guide to the Horrors of Non-horror Film” in Cut! Horror Writers on Horror Film for a similar idea.–

–Axel Kohagen