Mumbled Plot
The Mumblegore genre is a little-known offshoot of the American indie movie genre Mumblecore. Mumblegore, like its namesake cousin, covers a type of film making characterised by low-budget film production, emphasising dialogue over plot and naturalistic acting through often improvised dialogue. Especially in the performance of dialogue the naturalistic aspect comes in the foreground due to the delivery of script lines often interrupting or interfering with other lines of dialogue; the actors speaking on top of others, turning away from camera or into noisy environments, resulting in the form of mumbling that characterises our natural everyday forms of expression and communication. Likewise the plot of a Mumblegore movie is most often strangely side-barred by the relational interactions of its characters. In this way the plot becomes mumbled as well, not really speaking clearly about where it’s going and why, but rather lingers with the atmospheres that shape between its characters and situations. The drama unfolds in the immediately relational and strangely remains there, even as everything around these relations turn increasingly grotesque and ominous.

Antisocial Conversation Pieces
Mumblegore is inherently a Millenial-era brand of horror, reflecting the form of ironic distancing and mantras of individualism that saturated this era. An era of economical upturn, flashing its limitless positivity, nevertheless always somehow giving the impression of a bubble ready to burst. Consequently, the relations that are underscored here are often awkward, precarious, fleeting or built on false premisses. As a movie genre it employs B-Movie minimalism to maximise the limits of a small budget and in this has found ways to bend the often grave or fantastical notes of the horror genre, into more (anti)socially relevant conversation pieces portraying a specific lifeworld of a youth withdrawn from the social in the pursuit of ‘making it’. The misanthropic undertow of these lifeworlds, barring its subjects from ever entering real meaningful relationships, stems from a change in the meaning of ‘being free’; from its original meaning as being with friends to being free to make the most out of yourself as project. Disengaged protagonists roams this genre and even in the outmost grotesque and barbarian outbursts of violence, not much seem to disturb the emotionally detached loneliness of their interactions; even as they soak in pain and guts.

Survivalists Survive
Yet, as in many horror fiction narratives, the horrible reality that one finds oneself in, is one to rise above; to escape. In this way meaningful relationships also develop here; as resistance to the horror scenario of self as project or as a moving beyond the facade of an illusory social environment. A warmth develops, in the mumble of disjoined and overlapping dialogue and in the unexpected emotional outbursts that follow the natural irregularity of honest interaction. Hints of transrealism detected - a certain known world of detachment unfolding into the fantastical (and gory) landscapes of honest relations. Like in most horror tales the ending usually rips (often literally) all these relations apart, allowing only few to live, with only the memory of such relations intact. Where more conventional horror movies often allow a few to survive and through this survival experience meaningful relations, the Mumblegore genre seems to act in reverse. It builds these relations only to dismantle them again, scoffing at the gullible idea that such meaningful relations could ever exist in our contemporary society. The genre has its ‘final girls’ - but not the types starting out as outsiders and then through their act of survival eventually finding their social place in society. No, the type of ‘final girl’ that emerge on the other side of the grotesque horror, coming out completely ridden of all illusions of such a social societal space. Ready now, to flee all these simulated milieus of capitalist society and seek out true independent and sharing social relations. Survivalists survive here; those that have learned strategies of counter-action and can use these to form new collectives freed from the limitations of absolute capitalism.

You’re Next
In Adam Wingard’s Mumblegore feature ‘You’re Next’ (2011), the notion of such survivalist strategies comes into the foreground as a gory and unhinged family gathering unfolds. The Davison’s are trying to mend their broken family, by inviting all family members to celebrate their wedding anniversary at their weekend estate. Through the characteristic overlapping conversations of the genre, it immediately becomes clear that the different relations between the different family members are to say the least tainted. Especially the four children (three brothers and one sister) of the well-off couple, act spoiled and privileged in all ways possible. Crispian, the youngest son has arrived with his Australian girlfriend Erin. Crispian obviously does not like the rich-kid attitudes of his siblings and as an academic he is rather embarrassed of his wealthy upbringing. The big family dinner commences and was it not for the extremely gory prologue unfolding in the neighbour house, the film promises a classic tense family drama playing out across the dinner table and the many grand rooms of the estate. But even before the hors d'oeuvres, a group of mysterious assailants wearing animal masks suddenly attack the house. Panic breaks out as the house is attacked and everybody is separated scrambling for safety in the house. An intruder-style slasher movie sets off. But as the death toll rises and the gory evening unravels, so does the actual intentions of the assailants and a few family members. The animal mask assailants are in fact hired by two of the brothers of the family, in a ploy to kill off the rest of the family and collect the inheritance. It is furthermore revealed that the youngest brother, Crispian, whom claimed to despise all that wealth and to feel the shame of the privileged academic, is one of these plotting brothers; apparently just as greedy as his lesser sympathetic brother. Corrupted by an entire life of privilege and wealth, their individual pursuit now outweighs simple morals. But, Erin, Crispian new girlfriend, whom grew up poor in the outbacks of Australia, learning to handle herself by her survivalist father, proves harder to eliminate. She outplays the assailants, killing them off one by one. Until she finally lifts her axe on Crispian. Crispian: Why? Erin: Why the fuck not?

Mumblegore as Dyst-irony
All through ‘You’re Next’ the dialogues and plot lines follow the strange mumbled flow of the genre. The atmosphere seamlessly changes, from sheer terror to egotistical conversations about employing hitmen that don’t do their work sufficiently or annoying siblings refusing to just die already. There is an attitude of pamperedness bleeding through the entire crisis, making for awkward and detached clashes with the brutality of the situation.

When Erin finally comes out, as classic ‘final girl’, it is obvious that she did so because she has learned strategies to free herself from the dependence on a society built around a capitalist absolutism (and its haunted mansion that she just survived the night in). A final gory moment in ‘You’re Next’ has a police officer, a bit late on the scene, split by an axe-trap, put up by Erin earlier during the violent evening. It is clear, as the credits roll, that Erin is the one that will be blamed for the family estate massacre and is now on the run. Perhaps, there really is no escape from the power-structure of the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’.

As much as Mumblegore toys with the completely disillusionment and futurelessness, emerged out of the realm of hyperactive economic positivity, it is not inherently nihilistic. Rather it shapes a cynic and determined gaze at a so-called social setting of an individualisation society and insists on not just creating yet another illusion of overcoming it. Its strategy is instead closely linked to the idea of Dyst-irony; a scepticism towards one’s own assumptions and predictions, and those of others; an autonomous language where despair is not to be feared, since it does not delimit the potential of joy as a condition of proving intellectual despair wrong. Mumbling as a method of ignorance towards the limits put on our imagination.

Silent Mumblegore
There is a certain temporality connected to the mumbling of this genre, one that not merely illustrates our contemporary tempor(e)ality, but really quite effectively embodies it and lets itself be shaped in accordance to its materiality. In Oceanic Horror I have tried to rethink the genre of Mumblegore as one situated in a most contemporary setting, where the conversation has been moved to the virtual and digital realm. The mumbling is no longer happening in slurry phone calls or cacophonous hang-outs; rather it has all moved online and thus eerily silent. The mumble now exists behind touch conductive glass, conversation often including plus-thousands listening in. The sounds of dialogue are not layered and hard to extract from one another - it has been replaced by a harrowing stillness of small clicks of nails against glass or the occasional sound of suction implicating a message having been sent into the ether. The mumble now muffled, indistinct, suppressed. In the filmic reality of Oceanic Horror the social setting appears faceless. All the heads bent down, face to screen, screen in palm. A complete landscape of diverted faces. If not masked, or cut by the frame of the cinematography, then at least turned away, gaze lowered, drawn away.

It was a deliberate premise for the entire visual production of Oceanic Horror that it would deliberately avoid the centrality of the face. In practice this proved rather challenging. In the scenes, where the protagonist was not directly wearing a mask covering the face, a certain subversion of the natural strategies of a cinematic shoot had to be upheld. In cinema the gaze, the presence, the facial micro expressions of the face, is often emphasised and central to the framing, as portals for the viewer’s identification or empathy. But as the faces are removed, the gaze of the viewer has to reconsider its positioning, not finding the usual safe harbour of character identification. But our current reality looks like this. Everybody’s constantly turning their faces down into their screens. Conversations playing out silently. This is how a large part of our audio/visual reality perform. (This may also be why so many movies today are situated in the recent past, before the handheld device rendered the public and social space completely faceless, all down-cast gaze, bluish faces lit by floating device islands.) With Oceanic Horror an attempt was made to remain honest to this visual contemporary situation surrounding us, and let all characters reflect this. They look into their phones, they retreat into the reclusive closed-circuit worlds of their AirPods. The filmic scenes of Oceanic Horror were designed with this in mind; deliberately framing the shots to cut out the heads of actors; always directing these same actors to evade the camera optic; editing out the moments where the gaze of an actor is met.

At one moment, one protagonist gets to lift his gaze. He is centre frame, looks fixedly towards us, speaks. Facing the mirror, reassuringly speaking the word ‘immanent’ (or is it ‘imminent’?) five times into the mirror - reminiscent of the cinematic urban legend of ‘Candyman’ assuring the death of anyone daring to speak his name five times in the mirror. Our protagonist gets his moment of full face cinema time, only to moments later have it dispensed with, at the tip of a box cutter.

Mumblegore is in Oceanic Horror used as a certain method of narration to describe the atmospheric quality of oceanic horror, as a tempor(e)ality in which all habitants exist as reclusive islands navigating a total, yet weirdly divorced, interconnectivity. The mumbling performs the oceanic horror of our contemporary isolation in the complete interconnectedness of absolute capitalism, but the gore performs the dyst-ironic break with the normalised premise of this. In the grotesque, the ironic, the absurd, the gory, an escape hatch is offered - a place where we can stupidly jolt ourselves into new imaginations of counter-being.