When you’re friends with a lot of film students like I am, you tend to absorb movie fun facts, which remain fun because you — unlike them — won’t be tested on them later. Thanks to my film friends, I’ve learned all about how Leonardo DiCaprio actually cut his hand in Django Unchained, how the famous sword/gun fight in Indiana Jones was done because Harrison Ford had a stomach ache and didn’t want to do the sword-fight choreography, and how the sound of the velociraptors in Jurassic Park is a slowed-down sound clip of turtles mating.
I swear, sometimes I feel like I know more about random movies than I know about the thing I actually went to school for.
The latest fun fact rattling around concerns The Simpsons. I’ve heard it repeated since Trump first announced his run. The Simpsons predicted it, back in 2000!
Homer’s face says it all.
It’s the old saying again: life imitates art, art imitates life. Another place you can see this phrase come true is in horror movie trends over time. Frankenstein was published during the industrial revolution, when many people feared new technology and “creations.” During the Bush years, slasher films took center stage: we were afraid of a bloodthirsty man with too much power preying on the weak everyman. The connections are obvious, when you think about them. Successful horror movies tap into what the public is afraid of at the moment.
Remember the zombie craze from a few years back? I interpret it to be reflective of the emergence of the smartphone. As people withdrew further into the internet and away from human connection, we began to fear becoming mindless slaves to our base desires. Subway rides full of silent, somber people still remind me of The Walking Dead.
Wanna know why dystopian movies never go out of style? Because we are always afraid of the future. There’s never going to be a time when we are not afraid of the future, so they’re always profitable.
So, the question is: what do today’s horror films say about us?
The most popular horror films coming out right now are what this QUT blog post calls “atmospheric,” meaning a lot of haunted house, what-goes-bump-in-the-night sort of movies. The Descent, Mama, The Conjuring, The Witch, the list goes on. They’re the kind of movies that make you press your neck against the back of the chair so nothing can sneak up on you; the kind of movies that make you afraid of going to the bathroom late at night because something might be hiding in your bathtub.
I interpret this trend to mean that we don’t know what to be afraid of right now, we’re just afraid. Something may be lurking in the shadows, but we’re not sure. Something may be after us, but we don’t know what it is, if anything. Many of these movies deal with the occult or supernatural — we don’t know their power, their intelligence or their intention. We know it doesn’t look good, but we don’t know how to stop it.
Right now, the cultural consciousness is afraid of the unknown, and that’s what Trump is: unknown. He is vague, he is powerful, and we don’t know his limits or, many times, his intentions.
Want more proof? The newest horror hit, still in theaters, is Get Out, an atmospheric horror surrounding themes of race relations, where the haunted house belongs to an upper-class white family, and the victim is their daughter’s black boyfriend.
He falls victim to inexplicable horrors, people possessed by some unknown power, and seemingly insane people attacking him for no reason — and he cannot escape. Need I explain more?
Horror movies imitate the fears of the people. They know what we are afraid of, and they prey on it. They profit on it. They are a mirror of our subconscious, and the successful ones show us what scares us. The Simpsons thing is a fun coincidence, but this isn’t. Listen to your fears — they don’t come from nowhere.