Friday, October 26, 2007

The Top Fifteen Liberal Horror Films

At Libertas, you can be amused and scared at the same time at what passes for intelligent discourse on film in Conservative circles - specifically, their list of the top fifteen Conservative horror films. William F. Buckley, this is not. I mean, some of these are jokes, right?

Horror has been called an inherently reactionary genre, because so often it's typically about our fears and the quest for 'normalcy' in a world gone mad. And some movies are inherently 'conservative' - Libertas is correct about Fatal Attraction and Friday the 13th - they both espouse a Conservative perspective. (They're also both bad films). But the list is also indicative of what Conservatives are afraid of - women, sexuality, science, the Social Contract. (The fact that Libertas doesn't include any Cronenberg movies, who is loathed as a reactionary by Robin Wood, is indicative of a basic lack of film-criticism literacy, and even though I love The Brood, it's more than a little misogynistic.)

At the same time, there are plenty of progressive horror movies and TV, because fears can run the political spectrum, and because the genre is also about exploring the realms of possibility - physical, mental, and spiritual. Anything written by Rod Serling counts, to the extreme of several obnoxiously liberal Twilight Zone episodes. Any movie by George A. Romero counts, visualizing the hypocrisies and hollowness of modern society with scathing wit. Plus, there are great liberal horror movies on Libertas' list. Craven's Last House on the Left, while expressing the reactionary fears of a post-60s generation worried about the basic collapse of civilization, still shows that revenge is a horrible thing, damaging to the soul and basically unproductive. And then there are the movies which are so great as to transcend politics, including The Exorcist, which spouts some deeply reactionary ideology within a structure that nonetheless is one of the scariest and most effective horror movies ever made (credit goes to William Friedkin for translating William Peter Blatty's nonsense into art). And I don't believe in organized religion, but the final scene in the church at the end of the original War of the Worlds gets me every time.

So with all that in mind, here are the Top Fifteen Liberal Horror Films:

15. Deathdream (1974)
A young man returns from the Vietnam War transformed into a bloodthirsty zombie - but the prevailing mood is sorrow and anguish. A much better version of the same basic story that was told in In the Valley of Elah.14. The Blob (1958 & 1988)
The teens are the only ones who can save the town from the spreading evil when the authority figures are too full of themselves to listen.

13. It's Alive (1974)
Unregulated environmental toxins start turning perfectly normal babies into killer mutants.
12. Candyman (1992)

Our history of slavery refuses to stay buried as residents of Chicago's ghettos pay the price.

11. 28 Weeks Later (2007)

Military groupthink proves inadequate to the threat of mass chaos, and actually makes things worse despite the best efforts of individual soldiers. See also George Romero's The Crazies (1973)

10. The Shining (1980)
Your standard story of patriarchal-power-run-amok.

9. Street Trash (1987)
Chaos reigns supreme under the poverty line in Reagan's America, where homeless and mentally ill Vietnam vets go crazy and murder each other.8. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956 & 1978)
Individuality-stealing monsters seek to impose their will on everyone else.

7. Audition (2000)
Take that, Salaryman! This is what you get for objectifying women!

6. The Devils (1971)
Corrupt politicians team up with the Church to destroy a man through slander, fanaticism, and torture. This one's almost too easy but the film isn't out on DVD, and is therefore slipping into obscurity even though it's brilliant.5. Carrie (1976)
Repressive religious sentiments team up with pathological fear of female sexuality to explode into a mass bloodbath. The perfect 'return of the repressed' movie.

4. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
The terminal stage of capitalism is reached - cannibalism. (See also The Texas Chainsaw Massacre II, where the victims are turned into chili.)

3. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Civilization crumbles and The Man doesn't know how to deal with it, from the bureaucrats in Washington to the bald guy in the basement.

2. Psycho (1960)
The tyranny of the dead past, in the form of Mother.
1. Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Consumer society as a necropolis, a magnificent epic horror movie in which society's basic ills implode in on themselves.

Happy Halloween weekend to everyone.


frankbooth said...

That site scares me more than any of the movies listed.

cjKennedy said...

I'm afraid to click there in the same way I get the willies every time I surf past the PTL channel on TV.

Also...what the crap kind of world do we live in where a Ken Russell movie slips into obscurity. That's just wrong.

Winston said...

Hahaha, GREAT list. You left off "Frankenhooker" though. What could possibly be called more liberated than that... :)

Jeff McMahon said...

I enjoy Frankenhooker, but I think as Henenlotter movies go, the best one is Basket Case. It has all the scary and gory elements of his other films, plus there's a genuine beating heart of emotionality underneath the horror veneer. And as a 'sympathy for the underdog' film it could easily go in an expanded version of this list.

Jay said...

Excellent list, good sir! Liberal horror flicks really are the best. Primarily because they are smart and have an important message to convey.

I'm rather surprised that John Carpenter's "They Live" is not on your list though. That could be more in the Science Fiction vein but then again "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" is as well. Anyway, that is a film about mass consumerism and propaganda blinding gullible people to the evil corruption of authority. And that is happening here in America right now. And that destructive, fascist force is called the "TEA PARTY"! They wish to eradicate education, free thought, tolerance, responsible regulation that protects the public, unions, the minimum wage, financial aid that people need to survive, and everything else that makes America great. These people masquerade in patriotism and freedom but are in actuality working for their own self-benefit and corporate interest. And they expect people to buy into it. And the horrifying thing is this...many HAVE bought into it!