The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Given the title of this film, the idea that something even darker could be hiding underneath that grizzly surface might seem far-fetched. While that is understandable for a name where 4/5 of the words evoke utter terror, director Tobe Hooper’s vision for the movie was inspired by his time working as a filmmaker during the 60s. Living through the events of Watergate and the Vietnam War, Hooper felt desensitized to the horrific violence, making a film that was “reacting to life” around him.
While the Spy Kids trilogy is full of light-hearted, star-studded antics, a few pervasive questions emerge when aspects of the plot are examined a little closer. Firstly, the nature of the parent’s role as spies is never explored. Considering a lot of the wet work of real-life spies involves destabilizing countries and poisoning political enemies, it could be for the best. The film also stars Danny Trejo as his character Machete, who went on to headline two films’ worth of ripping guys to shreds. Not quite so family-friendly!
Disney’s smash-hit early entry into the modern superhero genre hit screens in 2004. Of course, it has the usual darker trappings of superhero movies: the untold casualties of crashing through buildings, and the grinding reality of a desk job. However, the most depressing takeaway happens to be the final message of the movie. Syndrome, whose master plan was to convert everyone into superheroes thus making them not special, is thwarted and the day is saved – only by those born special enough to save it, that is. The Incredibles protect their special status as being born superior.
Sex in horror movies is basically expected, but It Follows presents something different and more disturbing. It centers on a young woman followed by a shape-shifting creature out to kill her, which passes from person to person via intercourse. The final shot sees the protagonist holding hands with a friend having passed it on to them, who has then passed it on to someone else, etc. The two walk slowly as blurred figures dot the background. The horrible sense of inevitability, that eventually the horror always returns, takes a while to set in.
Nobody knows exactly how art will age, standards change constantly as society evolves, and what’s acceptable as light, mainstream comedy can quickly adopt a new tone as time moves on. 1988 comedy Big, starring Tom Hanks, follows a 13-year-old boy who wishes himself into a grown body. Fish-out-of-water stories are inherently funny and typically very upbeat in tone, and Big definitely was – until the boy has sex with his boss. Suddenly a serious crime has been committed, and what was a classic comedy gets very dark indeed.
Nowadays, we tend to be more mindful of collateral damage, but in older movies this is often overlooked. Take the first James Bond movie, Dr. No. This ostensibly ends with Sean Connery’s Bond saving the day, by sending the villain’s nuclear-equipped base into overdrive – resulting in an atomic explosion in the Caribbean. No one addresses the obvious ramifications of this in the film, but such an event this would of course have catastrophic effects on the sea life and ecosystem.
George Lucas has always been a politically outspoken person. His pre-Star Wars films (THX 1138, American Graffiti) were more overt in their meanings and symbolism, and much darker overall. With Star Wars, Lucas emulated the pulpy serialized sci-fi he grew up with, like Flash Gordon, yet his political perspective still informed his work. In a 2005 interview, Lucas revealed Star Wars was an allegory for the Vietnam War, stating, “How do democracies get turned into dictatorships? Because the democracies aren’t overthrown; they’re given away.” Later, the Star Wars prequel trilogy served as an allegory for the rise of fascism.
The world of Harry Potter is full of magical solutions to all sorts of problems. With just the wave of a wand entire structures are built, tables are covered in food and Dumbledore isn’t fired for giving a 13-year-old a time machine. Small details of the wizarding world raise questions about why they are so set on isolationism. With simple sorcery, huge, world spanning issues could be instantly solved. Famine, floods, homelessness, yet the mages’ sense of superiority seems unintentionally sinister coming from people who own elves as slaves.
Ridley Scott’s landmark 1979 horror film Alien terrified audiences with its gory visuals, oppressive atmosphere and amazing effects – yet not all viewers realize what the film’s central monster really represents. Screenwriter Dan O’Bannon, Scott and artist HR Giger all worked to create a monster that would embody the concept of sexual assault. A phallic, slimy creature that forcefully penetrates victims, leaving a piece of itself inside them that grows like a parasite. Even the alien’s ship is designed like a reproduction system, filled with tubes and eggs.
Drag Me to Hell
Sam Raimi loves nothing more than making people sit through amounts of gore and viscera that can only be described as excessive and projectile. In Drag Me To Hell, a lot of the unpleasantness that follows main character Christine is centered around food, leading many to interoperate the film as a metaphor for eating disorders. Objects are often forced in or out of her mouth, there are allusions to her former weight issues and much of the horror comes when around food, such as in a dinner table scene.