Making a horror movie is tough. So is making a romantic-comedy. Horror romantic-comedies can often feel very forced.
Because both genres frequently feature exploitation, a combination of the two can seem like the worst of both worlds. However, when both genres work in conjunction, they can create a magical experience.
The secret formula is utilizing the atmosphere of a horror film and the chemistry of a romantic-comedy. Obviously it’s a little more complicated than this, but within the world of the film, the romantic-comedy elements need to be content related, and the horror elements need to be tonally related. When these two are mixed up, things get fuzzy.
Despite potential claims of it being “genreless” (shhhhhhhhhhh), there is a distinct claim for The Lobster being a horror romantic-comedy. It is literally a movie where characters have two choices: find love or die.
The film takes place in a dystopian world where adults are expected to get married. Not just expected, required. After his wife leaves him for another man, David (Colin Farrell) is checked into an isolated hotel where he will have 45 days to find a romantic partner or be turned into an animal.
This hypothetical scenario is the movie’s biggest selling point, and it is employed to its fullest extent. The film is essentially one large exercise in world building, as the audience watches with morbid curiosity as the rules of the game are laid out. And these rules are incredibly well thought-out. While there is certainly room for ‘plot-holes’ (uggggghhhhhhh), the bubble the movie exists within is defined and complex.
With an eerie atmosphere borrowed from the horror side of the equation, The Lobster completes the formula with strong characterizations worthy of the best romantic-comedies. The plot gives everyone a singular ‘defining characteristic’, which is taken incredibly seriously by the film. However, each character remains unique at a much deeper level.
This becomes even more impressive when realized that all of the characters are disconnected from the audience’s reality. The world created within The Lobster is one where the characters get straight to the point. With a universal deadpan delivery, few words are spoken and they all serve a very direct purpose. Essentially, it’s the opposite of a presidential debate. The intentionally awkward delivery and dialogue, combined with the all-encompassing silence makes the film very quirky.
Unfortunately, due to the disconnect presented within each of the characters, it is hard to get emotionally involved with the film. The movie is never boring, and it is often engrossing but it is often hard to get past a level of fascination while watching it. The film often has to engage in emotionally manipulative imagery in order to keep stakes raised.
That said, the actors all do a phenomenal job, and any lack of a connection is largely due to the movie’s insistence towards quirk and world-building. Farrell is incredibly invested throughout, and goes the extra mile by developing a beer gut, to create an out-of-shape, tired man, but not to draw attention to himself.
The supporting cast serves as an arsenal for the film, featuring fantastic performance after fantastic performance. Naming all of them would be frivolous, but there isn’t a weak link to the chain.
Many people have hypothesized what would happen if Wes Anderson made a horror film. The answer would probably be something along the lines of The Lobster. There are definite similarities in the styles of Anderson and The Lobster director Yorgos Lanthimos. Both feature static blocking, absurdist dialogue and a controlled color palate. The main differences involve a lack of symmetry and tracking shots in The Lobster. That said, the photography is still stunning.
While the point the film is ultimately trying to make is a little convoluted, the experience of watching it is consistently captivating. There is a superb amount of control that Lanthimos has over the movie, and while the film is weird, it’s weird in a good way.