By Nicky Reid aka Comrade Hermit
Exile in Happy Valley
I usually love this time of year, the fun size candy bars, the colorful leaves, and especially the gore. But in 2023, Halloween has simply gotten too goddamn scary to celebrate, even for a macabre chaos-binging lunatic like me. Mankind seems to be surrounded by demons far more atrocious than Count Dracula or Freddy Kreuger. These new monsters aren’t so new, but they have grown far too monstrous to wink at on the silver screen. Genocide. Artificial Intelligence. Nuclear war. Climate change. These are the beasts stalking humanity this Halloween and I am not ashamed to admit that I’m afraid.
These outspoken fears of mine have led to me being accused of being everything from a doomer to an anarcho-primitivist amongst other ideological pejoratives, but watching the news, with world wars on the horizon in both Europe and the Pacific, a holocaust brewing in the Gaza Strip, and nuclear warheads involved in all three crises, I strain to see how anyone fails to reach the same diagnosis that I have, that civilization itself has become a terminal disease with no cure in sight.
But this is actually where the cinema of horror becomes more relevant than ever. Civilization has carefully groomed its victims for generations to look away from that which terrifies them most because the systemically ignorant make for docile prey. Provocative art serves to wake mankind from this stupor and forces us all to confront the heinous and we as a species have never lived in an era fraught with more existentially heinous things to confront than we do right now.
It is for this reason that I have decided to return to my annual list of Scary Movies for Anarchists to Watch in the Dark with a new mission in mind. A mission to provoke the stateless into confronting the fact that the state has dragged us to the end of the world and that our only hope for defeating it is recognizing that the odds are stacked against any species that has become the monster in its own horror movie.
So, I have chosen ten movies, some of them new, some of them old, some of them horror and some of them just plain horrifying, but all of them demanding questions to the answers of progress that have brought us to the brink of oblivion on this dying rock. By all means, be afraid but investigate your fears before they can devour you whole.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) by James Cameron- The scene opens with a single mother watching her son swinging higher and higher on a swing set from behind a chain-link fence. It’s a sunny day at a boisterous California playground with the Los Angeles skyline glimmering brightly in the distance. Everything feels postcard perfect down to the last detail. Then something goes wrong, and the single mother seems to be the only one to recognize the impending danger. The shadow of a missile appears, a flash of light follows, a mushroom cloud rises high above the skyscrapers, and that fence becomes a cage restraining the mother from shielding her child from an unstoppable wave of death. In the blink of an eye, all is reduced to ash.
I firmly believe that this is still the most terrifying scene ever captured on film and it both amazes and horrifies me that even after Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Chernobyl and Fukushima, it just keeps becoming more startlingly relevant with each passing nuclear crisis. In 1991, Terminator 2 was a pulse-pumping action thriller. In 2023, it has become a horror film, an impoverished cry through the chain-link fence to a species swinging closer to the flames. We have all become Linda Hamilton and this movie isn’t exciting anymore.
Come and See (1985) by Elen Klimov- War is a spectacle that defies all logic so there exists no logical way to film it. Too many great directors have failed to grasp this basic truth and have inadvertently found themselves shooting propaganda in the process. At a time when humanity has seen fit to return to the bloodlands of the last world war in order to provoke a new one it seems only fitting that one of the few films to truly capture the surreal perversion of mankind that is mass warfare takes place on those very same battlefields.
A young boy decides to leave his village on the Eastern Front of Belarus to seek glory and adventure in the Second World War, but his small battalion of poorly armed partisans doesn’t get far before that war engulfs the young boy’s own village and turns it into a nightmarish hellscape of senseless slaughter. To this day, Come and See is one of the most heart blisteringly horrific things that I’ve ever witnessed, and it should be mandatory screening at every army recruitment center across the globe.
Irreversible (2002) by Gaspar Noe- Most war is big business marketed as revenge but most revenge itself is little more than a pointless cycle of self-indulgent nihilism that only serves to reduce those who seek it to the beasts that provoke them. No film has ever captured this grotesque riddle more abrasively than Irreversible and Gaspar Noe achieves this feat quite simply by telling a classic rape-revenge narrative in reverse, revealing the hideous palindrome of every revenge story in the process; they all begin and end in savagery. This movie could just as easily be called Israel-Palestine/Palestine-Israel. Time really does destroy everything when we sacrifice the clock to raw emotion.
Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989) by Shinya Tsukamoto- I have good friends involved with the transhumanist movement. In fact, my best friend and occasional love interest is a former AI prodigy who still dreams of uploading her consciousness to the cloud. This all sounds charming until you remember that human beings still haven’t evolved past the point of bashing each other’s brains out with broken bones and the advances in technology of late have only served to make this practice easier to achieve on an industrial scale.
Tetsuo is a horror movie about the harsh reality of transhumanism right in the heat of the here and now. Typical consumers find themselves spontaneously sprouting machinery on the black and white streets of Tokyo and respond by doing precisely what typical consumers have been carefully programmed to do for centuries; fuck, kill, conquer, repeat. The only clouds rolling by the time the credits come are clouds of smoke and blood. All of which just goes to show that just because it feels like the future doesn’t make it evolution.
Categories: Arts & Entertainment