Ideology IV: Horror Movies

An example might help clarify some of this stuff (you’ll recall that, as always, I’m just making this up as I go). Let’s consider horror — novels, movies, etc. And since we’ve mentioned Stephen King here before, and even have him on record somewhere as saying his late-70s novel ‘Salem’s Lot was about Nixon, let’s go with that.

Books like that rely on a key feature of small-town life, one familiar to anyone who has spent any time in one (or, really, is even close to someone who has spent any time in one): The ability of everyone in town to know, but not know. Everyone in town knows, and yet doesn’t know, that Tom is a drunk; that Dick beats his wife; that Harry is gay. When King writes (quoting from memory) that the evil was the town, this is what he means. If you know Dick beats his wife, you have a moral obligation to step in. But since you can’t really do anything, continued social existence requires that you not know. So we all pretend to believe that Sally tripped and fell face-first into a door three times this month…

That’s the horror of ‘Salem’s Lot. We all know, but don’t know, what goes on behind closed doors, so it’s terrifying, but not really surprising, when we all know-but-don’t-know that Tom, Dick, and Harry are all vampires.

But the horror of the plot — the mechanics of a spreading vampire infestation — depends on another kind of ignorance, this one total: The ignorance of communications technology as it existed in the late 1970s. Count Dracula could do his thing in 1897 because London was the biggest, most anonymous metropolis on earth. So long as his coffin cleared customs,* the Count could disappear completely. He probably could’ve done the same in 1987 (with considerably more effort up front), but by 1997 he’d be SOL, and in 2017 he’d be a YouTube star before he bit his first neck.

The potential horror of what goes on behind closed doors, in other words, is neutralized in a world where everyone compulsively broadcasts what they — and everyone around them — is up to, 24/7. #MyNeighborIsAVampire.

Which is why your modern horror movie, novel, whatever, has to be entirely exterior. The Walking Dead tv show solves the technology problem by destroying the world; movies like It Follows elude it by giving everything a strange retro-80s aesthetic, so that we don’t notice all the places a quick google search or cell phone call would’ve solved the problem. The “torture porn” movies, of course, take place in Eastern Europe, or Latin America, or someplace equally benighted. There’s no small town or suburban horror anymore; there can’t be.**

So how does one do horror in this, the most ideological age in human history? Well, here’s one all the critics were raving about. I haven’t seen it, for reasons that will be painfully obvious when you read the Wiki summary. Ready? Here goes:

Black photographer Chris Washington is apprehensive as he prepares to meet the family of his white girlfriend, Rose Armitage. Later, at the Armitage house in rural Upstate New York, Rose’s brother Jeremy and their parents, neurosurgeon Dean and hypnotherapist Missy, make disconcerting comments about black people. Chris witnesses strange behavior from the estate’s black housekeeper Georgina and groundskeeper Walter….

Chris awakens strapped to a chair in the basement. In a video presentation, Rose’s grandfather Roman explains that the family transplants their brains into others’ bodies, granting them preferred physical characteristics and a twisted form of immortality. Hudson tells Chris the host’s consciousness remains in the Sunken Place, conscious but powerless. Although the Armitages target mainly black people, Hudson reveals he wants Chris’s body only for sight and his photography skills.

Sorry for the length of that, but there it is, the least subtle agitprop for “slavery reparations” ever conceived by the mind of man. The honkies be stealing our bodies!!!!

The Sadists (see comments on the below post) have convinced themselves they’re living in a world where the KKK lurks around every corner. Whether they actually believe this is immaterial; they sure act like they do, and that’s what counts. The interesting thing, though, is that the proliferation of social media has made this a horror movie without a villain. Seriously, I ask you: Where are all these “white supremacists” to be found?

It’s not rhetorical. You know, and I know, and everyone with half a brain knows, that there are probably two or three honest-to-god White supremacist groups out there… that have about seventeen members each, nine of which are undercover Feds, and the other eight are informants. The funny thing is, every time they manage to find a real White guy killing an actual Black guy — the officers who arrested Floyd, Rittenhouse, the guys who dinged the original Jogger, George Zimmerman (“White Hispanics” count) — it soon becomes painfully apparent that the Jogger had it coming…

Much like the phantom rapists on college campuses, the phantom racists not only don’t exist, they can’t exist. They’re the ‘Salem’s Lot vampires, 2020 edition — if they really existed, they wouldn’t last five minutes without a garlic-and-stake-wielding mob showing up, courtesy of Twitter. Social Media enables witch crazes to be ginned up at a moment’s notice, but can they be extended indefinitely if they never find a witch?

Eventually all ideologies collapse in on themselves, because the whole point of ideology is to stop the unstoppable flow of time. The very tools they use to make everything public might, ironically, only hasten the ideologists’ demise.




*Which would’ve been one hell of a scene, had Bram Stoker been able to transcend the conventions of the Victorian gothic to pull it off. Stephen King actually did send Barlow’s coffin through customs, disguised as antique furniture — if he wasn’t too coked-out to remember it, I bet he had a hell of a time writing that one.

**King’s son (writing as Joe Hill), for the record, actually gives horror with modern technology a go in his debut novel Heart Shaped Box. It has some genuine scares… but y’all, there’s just no way to make emailing a ghost scary, and the story all but falls apart in the scenes where the main character is basically in a netherworldly chat room.

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15 thoughts on “Ideology IV: Horror Movies

  1. dave b

    A couple corrections – Rittenhouse shot 3 white criminals – no joggers involved. Saint George killed himself with his drug overdoes, no cops involved. The point stands, though. Joggers gotta jog and do stupid shit that brings their death on themselves.

  2. MBlanc46

    Things might be about to become interesting. Our next president claims that he has a “mandate” to eliminate systemic racism. In order to do so, he is going to have to publicly identify systemic racism, and quantify it in order to measure its decrease. I suppose that, like just about everything that comes out of politicians’ mouths, it will amount to not very much. But if he actually gives it a go, some real sparks might fly.

  3. Severian Post author

    Sorry, gang – I’m going to have to go put down my dog today. My best bud for 10 years. Time to take a little break, to focus on what’s immediately important.

  4. Southern Belle

    Severian, I am so sorry for the loss of your dog. I am caring for an 18 year old pet and will have to do the same soon. Faithful companions help us through all the stuff the world throws our way without complaint. I am a better person because of their comfort, love, and loyalty. I’m sure you feel that too.

    “Histories are more full of examples of the fidelity of dogs than of friends.” Alexander Pope

    1. DVDC

      We had to do this a few weeks ago … and, it was sad, but my overwhelming emotion was gratefulness … Grateful to this creature who was unconditionally loyal to us and to God for blessing us with this little (well, he was a 120 lb Bernese mix, so not very little) bond with His creation.

  5. urbando

    Dang, that is very tough. I’m sorry to hear of this. Do what you must and don’t worry about the 5-10-15-20; we’ll wait while you grieve.

    1. Severian Post author

      Thanks. I was tempted to say something like “2020 strikes again; could this year get any worse?”….

      … But that attitude is part of the reason we as a civilization are in this mess. He was old, sick, and in a lot of pain – I’m glad he’s gone, and that I got to be there with him when he went. Everyone and everything has its time, and not one second more. Blaming it on “2020,” even as a bitter joke, is to revert to primitivism.

      A civilized man accepts what is. He doesn’t bewail what’s gone; he thanks whatever gods he acknowledges that what’s gone existed, and that he got to share it, however briefly. I say I’ll never have as good a friend, but that’s not true – my next best friend will be *different,* but I’ll love him just as much…. And my old best friend would want nothing less.

      The same is true of human friends, neighbors, families, nations. Maybe I’ll join Sis and her kids in Poland, be Mr. Mom while teaching a few English classes. I don’t need much. A book, some sunshine, and the freedom to enjoy them. In time, another dog. FAMILY.

      The way I feel right now, I can’t even find it in my heart to hate the people who hate us. I’m crying for my dog, but I’ll put in a tear or two for them. They can’t have dogs – their lives are bitter, angry, too consumed with themselves to ever bother with anything else. I can’t stop thinking of all the times I was mean to him, ignored him, yelled at him to stop barking and go away, so that I could get back to… whatever stupid, petty, pointless shit I was doing. Sorry I skipped that game of fetch, buddy, to find out if my sports ball team managed to pull it out in the 9th inning, or answer that stupid student email I’d answered a hundred times before…

      They’re like that **all the time,** y’all. They feel the way I do right now, constantly. Nothing in the world could ever be good enough, because they hate themselves, and they’d rather see the world burn than forgive themselves.

      If I could explain all this to my buddy, he’d laugh and call me an idiot. Of course I forgive you! That’s what best buds do. Now go play fetch with someone who needs it, while you both can.

  6. Southern Belle

    All this modern technology has really taken the imagination and atmosphere out of movies in my humble opinion. For instance, I like film noir and black and white films use the nuances of shadows and lighting to create suspense rather than blood spatter galore. The plots are better too as you really are drawn into them by the characters. Examples are The Night of the Hunter, Double Indemnity, Laura, and Leave Her to Heaven. The plots are intriguing with the stories unfolding at a measured pace while the actors’ faces register the emotions you feel. In DI Fred MacMurray as a door-to-door insurance salesman gets drawn into Barbara Stanwyck’s deceptive, tangled web to kill off her husband. It starts out innocently enough and then wham! He’s stuck between a rock and a hard place. Love it! Not the same in color, though, and these plots are successful because of their time periods. Barbara sending Fred a text with a dollar bill emoji just would ruin it!

    1. mrpknuckle

      Thanks for the tip about Double Indemnity.

      Fabulous. Great Saturday night movie.

      As is often said on this side of the great divide, couldn’t make Double Indemnity today, no way.

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