Study Guide

Requiem for a Dream Genre

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Psychological Drug Drama; Horror

We bet you've never seen those three words in the same phrase before, aside from that one really weird episode of Wheel of Fortune that ended with Vanna getting electroshock, Pat Sajak having an arm amputated, and the wheel engaging in some really seedy acts for drug money.

Talk about hitting bankrupt.

Aronofsky uses his intimate narration style with fast-paced editing techniques to show the effects of drugs. Do we need to say drama ensues? No, we don't.

But we will: drama ensues.

But why is this a horror film? There are no masked killers, bloodthirsty zombies, or malicious poltergeists. What's truly frightening in this film is human nature, and our tendency to self-destruct. Film critic Christopher Runyon says Requiem is "actually more unnerving and horrifying than most actual horror films." (Source)

The film uses a lot of horror tropes. Things start off sunny, yet there's foreshadowing that things will go wrong. Characters are unable to escape the movie's threat—in this case, it's addiction. And Aronofsky literally uses light and shadow to show the characters' descent into madness and destruction.

The whole film pivots in the scene where Harry visits Sara and discovers she is on diet pills. The two characters literally move from light into shadow. This would be the scene where the killer's revealed, or the zombie apocalypse happens in a "true" horror movie. It's the point of no return.

Instead of killing its characters off one by one, the film brings them almost to the brink of death. In many horror movies, one character remains standing at the end, but in this one, all four characters are shown lying down, broken beyond repair. More people survive the Saw movies than they do Requiem. Good luck sleeping at night.

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