It's another installment of Entropist, a scifi culture column by futurist design maven Geoff Manaugh, author of BLDG BLOG. What would it be like to make horror films for the Red States? Maybe we've seen too many mutants warped by environmental damage and dioxin exposure, enough of government conspiracy flicks featuring Dick Cheney stand-ins and bad plots. Maybe it's time to make a horror film even the Red States can appreciate. Maybe it's time to unleash a Gigantic Hillary Clinton upon the streets of Kansas City. Fear so easily becomes politicized. Nightmares are the realm of unexamined scapegoats.
They Live revealed the psychological effects of late-80s Reaganism gone wild. Even Iraq War zombies have shown up on the big screen - and Cloverfield? It's the return of the repressed, the environmental effects of offshore dumping come back to tear us apart. Or something like that.
Women aren't meant to ask for divorces and move out - bad things will happen. Anthropologists should be wary of what they bring home with them; maybe they should never have left the country in the first place. After all, there are Communists everywhere. And everyone's off having a good time, doing something else, without you.
And what about The Stuff? That weird and strangely forgotten horror classic from 1985 about some sort of brain-rotting, highly addictive frozen yogurt... that turns out really to be an organism mined from the surface of the Earth by sinister retail dessert conglomerates? Edible geology. Timed perfectly for the advent of artificial sweeteners and for the arrival of frozen yogurt at your local mall, who wasn't afraid? "Are you eating it?" the film's absurd poster asked, addressing an American audience terrified less by the Cold War than by the FDA's recent approval of Aspartame. "Or is it eating you?"
More than a year ago, meanwhile, The New Yorker ran a short article about Halloween-themed haunted houses in Queens - or Brooklyn, or San Francisco, or Atlanta, I don't remember - that had been designed to provoke real fears. Not chainsaw-wielding maniacs, in other words, but tax auditors and bedroom spiders and muggers with hoods. The experience of falling from great heights. Having your in-laws round for a surprise breakfast while you're sitting on the toilet, late for work. And so on. Are you more scared of being eaten by zombies or of becoming homeless? I'm reminded of Nick Flynn's book, the unfortunately titled Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, in which Flynn, a volunteer at the local homeless shelter, finds, horrifically, that his own father has just checked in for the night.
In other words, what are we really afraid of?
The idea here is that maybe contemporary horror films only cater to one side of our world's ever-widening political divide. We've got the horrors of ecocide, of nuclear radiation, of Orwellian Christian hordes taking over the country, and robot Presidents - but what if a different sort of horror film were to come out someday in a theater near you? You're browsing Netflix in the summer of 2009 and you see Blood Rite recommended for whatever algorithmic reason. You rented something once with "blood" in the title. You have no idea, actually. But you're bored - so you click on it.
It's about gangs of AIDS-infected homosexuals kidnapping Cincinnati businessmen and forcing them to drink blood. It's directed by Jim McGreevey.
Two weeks later you see a preview for Sovereign Terrain: a lone man stands out in the desert somewhere, surrounded by undead Mexicans. There are more and more of them. He doesn't understand where they're coming from. Are they magic? They walk right through fences - and they double in number every 36 hours. What's worse, he once employed them...
Then there's the gay black couple that only adopts white boys. They watch ballet during the Super Bowl and hug quite frequently, even by normal standards. That's a lot of hugging, people mutter to themselves. That's an awful lot of hugging. Grown men shift uncomfortably in their seats. I don't like this film, they think. It's scarier than Jaws. They have their hands in front of their eyes. Women are screaming.
It gets worse.
The blacks are actually Jewish.
What's happening to this country? People literally throw popcorn at the screen. It's outrageous. We are losing control. Mexicans illegally crossing the border are just a front for an invasion by Satan - wait a minute, that was Constantine.
So what about horror for the Red States?
Sinister black athletes invade from space. Women are drawn to them.
Perhaps we've seen enough Blue State horror. Perhaps we've seen too many military coups and Fascist dystopias and suburban conformist nightmares. Perhaps we don't even know what we're afraid of anymore. Maybe we'll all live in cages, whilst endangered tree frogs rule the world. Down with these goddamn tree frogs! people scream. Humans unite!