The Fargo Noir | Kirk Hammett Blog 
Kirk Hammett shares his thoughts on the emergence of the Fargo Noir as a genre in film-making.
Fargo, Fargo Noir, Kirk Hammett, Film Noir, Genre, Blog
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Is Fargo Noir becoming its own genre?

Look, Fargo, in my opinion, was a great movie.
It’s a thriller, a melodrama, and while I don’t know if you can call Fargo a straight out horror movie, it has some key horror element; bodies lying around, psychopathic killers, more than enough drama and suspense, not to mention an overall degradation of the general situation – things going from bad to worse to the downright deplorable.

Fargo Noir


And it struck me recently that there’s something about the Fargo scenario that I believe is beginning to resemble a new genre. Like film noir was to thriller, detective and gangster movies, I see this genre forming around basic Fargo traits and scenarios. It’s interesting to see how well the Fargo TV show is able to build situations, locations and the insular nature of scenarios. As you’re probably aware, the TV series is completely different to the movie story-wise BUT very similar in certain shared key elements with the movie.

I see this as the beginning of a genre which, for lack of a better term right now, I would call Fargo Noir. Typically it would show a scenario somewhere like the Midwest, where because of the claustrophobic, oppressive weather you have scenarios where seemingly normal people get affected by ‘external influences’, and we find out just how these ‘external influences’ affect them!

It’s coming back to what I see in a lot of Film Noir, where the basic message I always get is ‘good and bad people do good and bad things.’

I think the basis of this new Fargo Noir genre is that good, innocent people have the capacity to do really bad, evil things. And maybe sometimes it takes bad people to bring out goodness from the most unlikely sources…!

Fargo Noir


The claustrophobia of the setting also amplifies the situation. The dysfunction, needing more but not having the resources to fulfill your needs, and the completely oppressive and relentless snow in that particular part of the Midwest! There are also constant references to people being observed from the outside-in; it’s really interesting to watch. I don’t know if we’ll ever see it blow up into a full-on genre, like sci-fi thriller or horror-comedy. But I think these are a pretty interesting set of ingredients to work with more often, and we have clear proof that the results can be tasty – the Fargo TV series is as compelling as it is successful. I don’t think this concept necessarily has to be locked into the geography of Fargo, it could easily happen in, say, the Scottish Highlands.

You could argue that David Lynch had a similar vision with the concept of totally run-of-the-mill average people in everyday situations, and exposing them for their bizarre traits. And Lynch has excelled at this with the whole Twin Peaks thing, as have the Cohen brothers with Fargo, The Big Lebowski, all sorts of great movies – Barton Fink’s another. Thinking about it, Barton Fink could easily pass for something that could’ve been done by David Lynch!

Maybe it’s their ’thing’ to expose and make transparent the fact this shit happens, that it happens everywhere including small towns, that it happens even if you’re ‘good looking attractive people with money’, that it happens to regular everyday people who are struggling. Which takes me to the reality of it all. Both Lynch and the Cohen brothers inject a degree of realism into their work because they work with ordinary people and ordinary scenarios that we all think we see day in day out, nothing particularly outrageous on the face of it, but the truest horror is found in the strangest places. And some of the strangest stuff happens in towns like Fargo!

Fargo Noir

So let me know what you think. Does this make any sense? Are you seeing any new hybrid genres developing out there? Let me know.

OK, that’s all for now, but I’ll be back for the Oscars with my own take on them!

Until then,

Kirk Hammett Signature

  • James Pombrio
    Posted at 15:38h, 22 February

    The ordinary always makes a story more compelling. Luke Skywalker was a farmer. So yes it makes sense. The ordinary makes us easily associate with characters and thats how films suspend our disbelief so easily. Look also at Stephen King’s Dreamcatcher, compelling regular blokes in crazy situations. It makes it that much more interesting.

  • Nick Simon
    Posted at 15:39h, 22 February

    Totally makes sense. You can easily compare the Cohens to Lynch. What works so well is their takes on small town USA and the weirdness that is hidden behind every door. FARGO is a brilliant film and when I heard that they were making a series, I was apprehensive. That said, both seasons have captured the the comedy, the horror and the violence perfectly. And getting the Cohen tone is not easy. Great topic!

  • Jim Chism
    Posted at 15:43h, 22 February

    I think Paul Thomas Anderson has the same style. Take Magnolia for example. The characters are looked at from the oustide in. Also the story lines involve people doing things they wouldn’t normally do due to circumstance. That style seems to work lets hope someone can use it to make a great horror movie.

    I got to get back to writing a wrestling picture. I ‘m having trouble getting started.

  • Camila Alves
    Posted at 15:48h, 22 February

    Kirk, what a good taste, huh?! I love this kind of movie, Fargo is one of my favorites. Your text is very pertinent, instantly remindes me “Shallow Grave” by David Fincher. It has a lot of “Fargo Noir”! – “Innocent people have the capacity to the really bad, evil things. And maybe sometimes it takes bad people to bring goodness in October from the most unlikely sources …”. – Have you ever watched it?

    XOXO from Brazil

  • Camila Alves
    Posted at 15:52h, 22 February

    Fincher no! LOL I was talking about him and opsss! Shallow Grave is a movie by Danny Boyle 🙂

  • Zach kling
    Posted at 15:53h, 22 February

    Yeah good topic I like actually love the amount of enthusiasm really makes this a great blog but idk I was very resentful to there being a TV show! but now Imy kinda starting to see the greatness in it and I belive it is truly a genre in itself! But I just would like to say I liked the movie better!

  • Robert Thoresen
    Posted at 16:04h, 22 February

    You are very insightful Kirk! The movie and the tv series were excellent. There is a nonchalant manner of bruiality in most of the characters. They return to their mild manner routines after comitting such atrocities. I find some similarties to Breaking Bad in storytelling and the circumstances the characters have put themselves in. But the characters in Breaking Bad have more normal reactions to the violence around them.

  • Cayce Moyer
    Posted at 16:16h, 22 February

    I hope it’s the eve of a surge in this type of genre. Reality will always be scarier than fiction. We put band aids of denial on the fear or go to the other extreme with slashing over the top gore and “pop up” scare tactics, each way missing out on that thrill of fight or flight gut instinct. Pseudo-reality horror gives that wonderful vertigo that makes you double check your surroundings to make sure you are still in the same dimension when you first sat down to watch the show. This Fargo Noir Horror genre excells to a great deal in part to its use of silence. We lose our nerve in the silence and start questioning, then the imagination of what horrors could be takes off and only adds to the terror as we witness something horrible happen in a setting that feels so normal. Misery, The Others, Let the Right One In, and even the remake of The Amityville Horror with Ryan Reynolds (minus the pop up scare tactics) use that silence plus the small town detachment with amazing effect that I wish more people could appreciate. Fargo adds ridiculous congeniality at a frighteningly passive aggressive degree to seal the deal. I am so in love with the movie and am excited about how the TV show goes it’s own route with the same flavor. Definitely want to see more of this!

  • Bartol Dino Dyzl
    Posted at 16:21h, 22 February

    Amen – Fargo freaked me out like Silence of the Lambs before it. I no longer fear ghosts or zombies, people are worse. The scene when Shep beats the shit out of Carl, while cracking the nosy neighbor’s skull, gave me nightmares.
    David Lynch and Cohen Bros can get into people’s heads by providing a rollercoaster of humor and fear, which can really screw in our heads. Humor gives the audience a sense of relief, only to be realised that shit is about to hit the proverbial fan. Tarantino does this as well in Pulp Fiction. In the woodchipper scene, I laughed where I should’ve been grossed out. But when Jerry Lundegaard was being manhandled and handuffed by the cops at the motel, the horror settled in my gut, visualising in my head that it was a preview for him of the prison, where he will become someone’s bitch… all of that for a little bit of money.

  • Heath Clark
    Posted at 16:26h, 22 February

    I see Fargo as a suspenseful thriller, I wouldn’t call it horror. Peter stormares character makes the movie with his mere brutality, Steve buscemis character is the typical hot headed, dumb shit and it keeps you thinking the whole time “when is he gotta get fucked up by this psycho!?”.
    Marges laid back, cool calm way of looking at the case and slowly putting it all together. It is kind of a relief to the thriller side of the movie as we are seeing her putting it all together and we know the outcome, but yes the brutal unexpected murders throughout the movie are more on the darker side of things. It’s also a bit of comedy, they play with the accents a bit and lighten the movie a bit but make it more real. Fargo is such a good movie, I studied it at school. Another work of art from the Cohen brothers!! Cheers! Come back to Torquay for a surf!!

  • Vito Saulytis
    Posted at 16:35h, 22 February

    Hey Kirk, I do enjoy The Fargo tv series, As far as it being a new genre, I would love to see more before I think We could say that. I think the new genre is more of the “Blair Witch ” “Paranormal Activities” hand held camera view movies. Im not a big fan of these. I wish the Movie “people” would make some better Horror movies, instead of remaking Texas Chainsaw 10x. Hope you are doing Great!

  • Jennifer Branton
    Posted at 17:40h, 22 February

    I think part of the attraction of Fargo, what pulls out the bad and highlights it? Was that underlying Midwestern politeness. Either coast you could believe a bad guy, the south is full crazy people (I should know, I’m one of them), but the mid-west? Man, my *Grandma* lives there. You forget about that simmering below the surface build-up, and the pressure that’s built from only having so many opportunities in life in such a landlocked area. How can people so far from a coastline not go crazy.
    Twin Peaks was similar in that it was small town crazy characters. Though it had that supernatural element. But even completely mundane characters had a creep factor to them.
    Insular communities are like that. Look how amazingly different Russian culture is from other parts of Eurpoe and Asia. Crazy beautiful differences.
    I think maybe that’s the genre your looking for. Everyday characters with a twist set in an insular community. Add some event that sets something compelling in motion. Boom! Stephen King has that setting on lock.

  • nina doumain
    Posted at 21:50h, 22 February

    Wow! I did’t know. But I will definitely look it up. Sounds interesting.
    Now about human behaviour, an old proverb says that even a stopped watch tell the right time twice a day. …that leads to symptosis.
    In reality symptosis does not exsists.
    Human behaviour is dictated by the criteria formed in the first year of our life. They are simple imprints of impessions which are as plain as a single word. Psychology calls them cassettes. Every time a human being experiences an event, in order to understand it addresses to those imprints to find a match.
    Sometimes the conclusion can be quite hm…interesting.
    This is why nice people do nasty things and vise versa.
    But thank u anyway. I’ll definitely watch the series. And I’ll be back!!

  • Sotiris Athanasiou
    Posted at 12:56h, 23 February

    Well, as much as I enjoyed the movie itself, I never got used to the series. Having said that, lots of people here in Greece are crazy about the new episodes! I IMO I believe you are right to call it ‘Fargo Noir”, but I wouldn’t go as far as to call it a “horror” series.

    P.S. —– “Where’s the money Lebowski”?
    “You see what happens, Larry? This is what happens when you [email protected]!$ a stranger in the @…Larry”

  • Jake Killian
    Posted at 15:00h, 23 February

    Great insight, Kirk. I think you’re onto something with this “Fargo Noir” thing, but wonder if enough networks or film companies will take the chance on what I consider “intelligent” film-making. For every Fargo, The Knick, and Better Call Saul, there’s a limitless amount of braindead programming on TV. I feel like films are doing even worse, with everything aimed at the lowest common denominator.

  • Todd M
    Posted at 15:53h, 23 February

    One of three movies I constantly watch long with Amadeus and Gran Torino. That guilty smile in the car dealership under questioning… artwork. Like the cars whizzing behind his head adding to the chaos in his thoughts visually.

  • Kelly Dotson
    Posted at 13:54h, 15 March

    So Mr. Hammett, I read your now writing a script. I must say I loved your horror book. Good luck with that.

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