Arts & Entertainment

More Scary Movies For Anarchists to Watch in the Dark

By Nicky Reid aka Comrade Hermit

Exile in Happy Valley

I’ve been compiling this twisted little list of frighteningly anti-authoritarian films for about four years now and a lot has changed during that short time for both cinema and authoritarianism. With the epoch shattering cataclysm of the pandemic and the colossal failures of both the Trump and the Biden administrations, American power has never been more naked and even the card punching normies can’t help but to be revolted by the shocking fragility of a supposedly mighty creature no longer shielded by the Kevlar cloak of American exceptionalism. The world’s most fearsome beast is wounded, perhaps mortally, and it has never been more unpredictable.

At the same time, perhaps uncoincidentally, American cinema has seen a totally unexpected renaissance in the once unjustly maligned artistic ghetto of the horror movie. After decades lost in a treacherous swamp of braindead Disneyfied remakes and PG-13 cyber slasher fluff, a small but thriving scene of uniquely inventive and thoughtfully cerebral horror movies have emerged from the mire with something far more relevant and far more terrifying to say than ‘Boo!’ While we still have a few miles left to go before we even approach the daringly guttural territory explored by auteurs in France, Japan and Korea, truly terrifying films like It Follows and Inheritance have begun to earnestly explore the guts of what terrifies Americans most in an era of unprecedented imperial decline.

Sadly though, with the possible exception of the at times overrated work of Jordan Peele, even brilliant American horror directors have largely shied away from addressing the omnicidal elephant in the room, even as its fearsome tusks drip toxic nuclear waste from Ukraine to Taiwan, but if a few good anarchists are still interested in being terrified for a cause, I still have another ten movies with something to say to keep you up at night. As usual, I tend to traffic in the strange and the misunderstood but if you really want to explore the grotesque genitalia of naked power, you should consider giving these shocking thrill rides a spin.

The Human Centipede (2009) by Tom Six– Widely maligned based largely on its impossibly appalling premise, Tom Six’s surreal story about a wealthy retired master surgeon who sews unsuspecting tourist’s lips to each other’s assholes in order to create a human centipede is undeniably a work of exploitation cinema but so was Night of the Living Dead. Sometimes it takes the tactless tenacity of the grindhouse to say something simply too unsettling to be said politely and when it all comes down to it, what makes The Human Centipede truly shocking is that it really isn’t all that implausible in the light of even recent medical experimentation.

Doctors are afforded an enormous amount of power in Western Society and all too often that power has been abused in ways both arbitrary and strange. We may never know the true role that American government facilitated labs in Wuhan played in triggering the Coronavirus but the fact that doctors like Tony Fauci continue to play God with gain of function research even after such an earth shattering pandemic should terrify everyone regardless of partisan bullshit. When any institution imbues mere mortals with the powers of gods, it’s only a matter of time before they abuse it just to prove they can. Doctor Laser’s motivations to stitch people together ass-to-mouth can pretty much be summed up as “fuck it, why not? I am a genius after all…” This same line of thinking sowed our mouth to Putin’s asshole with the nuclear bomb.

Under the Skin (2013) by Jonathan Glazer- There has been a great deal of debate in academic circles over this strange tale of a sexually tantalizing extraterrestrial leading unsuspecting male suiters to their horrific demise in her inky black underwater web before she suddenly grows a conscience, and it does appear to have plenty of things to say about feminism, gender and human sexuality but what struck me as the most fascinating aspect of this arthouse Rubik’s Cube is that it is perhaps the first alien invasion movie to thoroughly explore the ramifications of colonialism from the perspective of the interstellar colonialist.

Scarlet Johansson’s nameless temptress begins her mission with all the cold and clinical precision of a Navy Seal but the moment that she catches a glimpse of herself in one of her victim’s eyes she very quickly finds herself exposed to being scorched by the same xenophobic impulses that once enabled her to conveniently unplug her conscience. There is simply no room for empathy in conquest. You can either light the match or get burned alive. Our best hope is to simply avoid touching that book to begin with.

High Tension (2003) by Alexandre Aja- This gruesome French shocker has received a lot of guff from my fellow Queers for its portrayal of an insane lesbian antagonist willing to murder her bestie’s entire family just to possess her, but I think the more reactionary LGBTQ critics have really missed the boat on this one. What defines Marie’s psychosis isn’t her sexuality but its repression for the sake of polite puritanical society. It’s no mistake that her split personality adopts the shape of a brutish cis-het caricature of toxic masculinity. In Western society even a heterosexual beast is considered less lecherous than a “straight” girl with a homosexual crush on another straight girl.

I see High Tension as being a sort of anti-Blue-Is-the-Warmest-Color. Human sexuality is a remarkably powerful force of nature and when this force is ruthlessly suppressed it finds equally ruthless ways to express itself outside the bedroom. It’s not a coincidence that the Nazis sprang from the most sexually repressed society in pre-war Europe. To me, the most shocking thing about High Tension is that it highlights the deeply uncomfortable fact that even in our supposedly liberal modern bourgeoise society, casual violence is still considered far less controversial than the casual sexuality that could very well prevent it.

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