Scarier than a monster who wants to kill you is one who pretends to heal you, only to destroy your life in an even more insidious way. Here are ten tales of terror about doctors, hospitals, and insurance policies.
1. Harmony, by Project Itoh
We recently reviewed this incredible novel by Japanese scifi legend Project Itoh, who died after many years of hospitalizations for cancer - but not before he wrote this biopunk satire about socialized health care dystopia. Everybody is loaded up with nanotech that makes them perfectly healthy, and leaves them vulnerable to government surveillance at the cellular level. Subversives fight back by smoking, drinking - and figuring out how to hack the health nano, with apocalyptic results.
In the mid-1970s, former doctor Michael Crichton wrote and directed the movie adaptation of Robin Cook's classic hospital paranoia tale. A young Michael Douglas plays a doctor who discovers that patients who have mysteriously slipped into comas are being shipped to a private facility - where they are being strung up on wires and turned into...dum dum dum...you'll find out!
3. The Kingdom
This insanely horrific Danish miniseries about a haunted hospital was adapted in the U.S. as Kingdom Hospital. Spectral ambulances arrive late at night, people see scary apparitions, and one of the doctors discovers that her fetus is developing . . . strangely. Can the hospital staff use modern technology and science to defeat their supernatural infection? If you're in the U.S., you can watch the whole series on Hulu right now.
4. Welcome to Hoxford
In this comic from splatter-loving creator Ben Templesmith, it turns out that werewolves are running the insane asylum. Templesmith's bad-trip style is perfect for this story of monsters and mental health.
5. Our Lady of Darkness, by Fritz Lieber
One of the first urban fantasy novels, this mid-1970s masterpiece is about a curse that hangs over San Francisco, unleashed by the recent completion of the creepy Transamerica Pyramid building downtown. As a ragtag group of artists and writers try to undo the curse, they're sent deep into the history of pulp fiction for answers. The metaphor that broods over the story is a myth about a San Francisco nurse who supposedly killed her patients with opiates at random, earning her the name Our Lady of Darkness. Is she the spirit of the city itself, or is she the demon that the city's denizens must defeat?
6. Repo Men and Repo! The Genetic Opera
These two movies, unfortunately released around the same time, tie for both bringing to life - in very different ways - what happens when health insurance policies become mortgage payments on your life. Both movies are about the people who repossess organs from patients who failed to pay their monthly installments. Where Repo Men aims for a gritty, cyberpunk feel and stars Jude Law, Repo! The Genetic Opera is a musical (with a Paris Hilton cameo) that goes in the Rocky Horror Picture Show direction. Ultimately Repo! is probably the better and more troubling film, but both are great examples of the health insurance horror story.
7. V (2009 series)
Yes the show was preposterous in many ways, but one of the interesting subplots was the idea that the evil V were trying to poison human society by creating socialized medicine with their "health centers." Come in to get healed, come away with surveillance tech embedded in your DNA!
8. Horror Hospital (AKA Computer Killers)
Before Sucker Punch, there was Horror Hospital, a cheesy 1970s flick about a mad doctor who kidnaps hapless hippies and does lobotomies on them. Released on DVD last year, this is a cult fave you can't miss.
9. Jacob's Ladder
If you want to piss yourself in terror, check out this 1990 classic with Tim Robbins as a Vietnam vet with PTSD that turns out to be a lot more than the aftermath of war experiences. In a vet hospital that slowly disintegrates into a genuinely frightening vision of Hell, he encounters demons and tries to figure out what exactly was done to him to make him such a good soldier. The mind-scarring hospital scenes influenced Silent Hill's abandoned hell hospitals in both the games and the movie.
10. The Human Centipede (First Sequence) Dieter Laser will go down in cinematic history for portraying the most fiendishly demented mad doctor ever in this tale of a surgeon who dreams of connecting three humans, mouth-to-ass, and creating a single "centipede" entity. Lucky for us, his dreams come true and we get to watch the bizarre and shocking/hilarious story of three annoying people whose digestive tracts have been connected in the most disgusting way possible. How will they ever escape on their six surgically-broken legs? What happens when they start pooping? All will be answered - oh yes, it will.