The monstrous politics of horror

Since, as happens every two years at least, Halloween coincides with a crucial U.S. national election, a selection of scenes from a few politically themed horror/monster films feels right. We’ll start with the obvious.

In some ways I think a little overrated, John Carpenter’s science-fiction/action/creepy alien monster flick from 1988 ,”They Live,” seems to me a thorough-going and obvious from-the-left savaging of the Reagan years and the consumerist, bland cultural mentality that went with it. Yet, oddly enough, it’s imagery has been picked up online by some Reagan-worshipping teapartiers. Well, history probably isn’t their favorite subject.

More clips and  commentary after the flip

Moving on, via Cinematical, we have the first quarter hour or so of a subtler and less strictly partisan commentary from the Jimmy Carter era (it was short, but he had an era), 1978’s “Dawn of the Dead.” Regular readers know of my rather fraught relationship with this zombie splatter classic and while I’ve only been up to watching the first five minutes or so of this clip recently, I can say that this one has it all: our questionable media, police attitudes towards minorities at the time, and NSFW head shots, language, and cannibalism, not to mention the scariest carpeting in film history and George Romero’s genius for pacing, intensity, and making the most of a not very experienced cast. Even if you’re a cinema chicken like me, try to watch the first few minutes. (Scaredy-cats and fellow gore-phobes may want to think about stopping after Romero’s credit appears and they leave the TV station.)

And, finally, I’d love to present a clip from my pick for the greatest of politically themed horror films, Guillermo del Toro’s remarkable “Pan’s Labyrinth,” which is also more than a political film, or a (possible) fantasy film, it’s real art. On the other hand, it does shine a light on the shameful bit of history in which the late-World War II-era Western Allies sold out the people of Spain to a brutal fascist dictator in preparation for the coming Cold War.

However, for whatever reason finding embeddable videos — even of relevant videos with del Toro, is next to impossible. I am therefore forced to show a brief reenactment by the ingenious Brandon Hardesty not because it’s particularly relevant to the discussion, but because it’s hilarious and seems to shown that Hardesty might have paid attention in Spanish class, which these days is itself a political act.

Oh, and please vote this Tuesday.

  

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