Horror writers, directors and fans I would say won’t back down from any sacred cows. It’s one of the most admirable aspects of the genre.
If you have a scary story, with compelling characters and a genuine threat, people will read or watch it. You can tackle whatever issue you want as long as it doesn’t turn into a soap box moment and detract from the horror. In several interviews, Wes Craven said exactly that, as long as it’s scary, you can talk about whatever issue you want really. That always stuck with me.
I don’t mean the false, safe we will take on anyone. Wow, that film is so edgy, it said corporations/politicians can be bad. That’s a shocking image, I bet people will be up in arms about that.
I mean really going for the jugular in a way that if it was a mainstream drama, they might not be able to get away with.
- The Green Inferno takes on shallow leaders
In this, the main villain isn’t really the cannibals, they are more of an environmental threat. It is the shallow, arrogant leader of the environmentalist protesters who really sees the movement as a way to stroke his own ego. That’s quite a shocking character to include, to call out some of the leaders of these movements as narcissists who don’t really care about people. He was even prepared to let one of his followers die if it got more attention for the movement, and most importantly him. Imagine a drama where the main villain is an environmentalist leader, it would be so controversial, it would be trending everywhere. But it sits there in the background of a gory story in The Green Inferno.
- The Blob 1988 takes on children
One of my favourite films, the Blob 1988 shocked audiences when a child is killed, brutally. While trying to escape through a sewer, the blob seizes him, and painfully dissolves him. You even see him try to escape with most the flesh on his head gone. My jaw hit the floor. I thought the adult might be fair game, but the kid? Well played Blob, you knocked the wind out of me there.
Normally in games, films, novels, kids are safe (the movie Feast inverted this as well). Even the kids aren’t safe in horror.
“Wont someone please think of the children!?” – Helen Lovejoy
- Scream takes on the horror genre
Horror doesn’t even consider itself beyond reproach. Scream was intended to be a mocking but still affectionate goodbye to the slasher genre (it ironically rejuvenated it). None of the horror icons on a pedestal were safe, not Jason or Michael Myers, the movie is ruthless in how it exposes how formulaic these films are. Wes Craven loves the genre but he didn’t hold back here.
- Babadook takes on realistic single mothers
I think the flip book scene will stick with us all for a long time. But beyond the horror terrorising this woman, the film takes a close, realistic, all too human look at the resentment a single mother may have towards her child. I hadn’t seen that before. In most fiction, single mothers were portrayed as total saints or disinterested monsters, I hadn’t seen a mother who did have darker feelings but wanted to resist them. Babadook took it on.
- Nightmare on elm street takes on mob justice
I admit when I hear a story about some scumbag serial killer or child molester, my gut reaction is “execute them, do the human race a favour.”
However, Nightmare on Elm Street shows that acting out of hatred can incite more hatred. It doesn’t shy away from it, especially in later films, the parents who embraced mob violence didn’t create any justice, it was vengeance and hatred, which in turn leads to even more suffering as Freddy returns time and time again. Could they have represented the case to the court? Or pulled together enough in the town to hire an ace law firm? Instead they decided mob rule was the way to go which only leads to more death and pain.
I need to nip this post in the bud before it becomes a sprawling essay but horror will take on anyone.