By Jessica Barnes
Can a horror movie have a political agenda? Well, that was the question I asked myself after reading '15 Horror Movies Socialists Could Love''. So as I started to think back to all the hacking and slashing I'd seen over the years, I looked for some some pattern or connection between what I choose at the box-office and what I do at the polling station -- and what did I come up with? Well, I'll get to that, but first I wanted to take a moment to look back at some of the films that have gained a reputation with critics and fans alike as movies with a so-called conservative or liberal state of mind:
'Red State Horror':
Friday the 13th (1980)
Conservatives supposedly love this movie because it's all about no-good kids getting what they deserve. Sexy teens don't stand a chance in this franchise from the moment they take a drink, get high, or get naked. Plus, it's one of the few horror films with a moral about the importance of a good work ethic.
It's science vs. religion in the story of a man who presumes to know more than God...and I think we all remember how that turns out.
Family values are all over this one, and when a divorced mom pays more attention to a her love life than her two sons, look what happens. So even with a pot-smoking grandpa, plenty of critics agree that this film is all about Regan's America and the triumph of family over no-good, rock n' roll loving, motorcycle-driving youth gangs.
2nd Amendment fans praise this tale of a band of locals fending off giant worms and the gun-toting survivalists that help save the day -- Take that Brady Bill!
Cape Fear (1962)
Maybe more of a thriller than a pure horror movie, but conservatives like to champion the story of a morally compromised lawyer and his family being terrorized by a paroled rapist. This one isn't an easy sell, but maybe it rings a bell with hard-line fans of justice when the police seem to be more interested in protecting the criminals, and it's up to Gregory Peck to take the law into his own hands.
'Blue State Horror':
Drag Me To Hell
As if the economy wasn't already scary enough, here's a horror movie where the decision to deny an old lady a mortgage extension is enough to condemn a middle class climber to everlasting torment.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
The story of pod people from another planet out to strip us of our humanity has been adopted by the left as a metaphor for the evils of conformity. Over the years, the story has stood for everything from paranoia about the Red Menace and HUAC to post-Watergate political mistrust.
When a former hippie couple abandon their roots and move to the suburbs in the go-go 80's, all hell breaks loose thanks to evil real estate developers and some disrespected aboriginal burial grounds. I guess the moral of the story is that the suburbs are much scarier than you think.
OK, this one is more of a category that one particular film, but it's worth mentioning because the walking dead are frequently snapped up by the left as parables of community in the face of the system breaking down. In zombie movies, all of our usual safety nets (like governments and military) fall away and it is up to the collective to survive. Zombie movie survivors are people of different races and socio-economic backgrounds who put aside class, money, and race to work together for the survival of humanity -- I guess it's like a commune, but with shotguns.
Last House of the Left
Despite a story line seeped in family justice and murdering hippies, Craven himself has said that the film was "'...really a reaction on my part to the violence around us, specifically to the Vietnam war. I spent a lot of time on the streets protesting the war, and I wanted to show how violence affects people. " Although funnily enough, equal amounts of conservative critics has also adopted the film as their own as a message of 'vengeful family values'.
Now earlier I promised to tell you if I thought that any political affiliation could claim a film as their own, and here goes: the answer is nope, sorry, not buying it. Horror is a genre that is ripe for us to project our own hang-ups onto it because it picks up on our most basic fears (the dark, the unknown, or our own mortality) and exploits them -- leaving an audience to project all sorts of ideas or feelings onto those primal concepts. It's possible that if you were a snobby urbanite afraid of 'rednecks', you might watch Texas Chainsaw Massacre and recoil from those inbreds because it confirms your own prejudices about small town folk. But, if you happen to be one of those small town folks, you might watch the same film and see comeuppance for spoiled city kids who do nothing but get high, get it on, and treat small town America like dirt. But, if you are like me, you don't see either. Maybe you just see a wack-job with a chainsaw, and maybe that's all we are supposed to see.
Now, what do you think? Is there such a thing as a political horror movie? Sound off in the comments below...