Why hello, my fellow phobophiles and fear-fans. Well it’s 2020, and everything happening in the world is either terrifying, vaguely apocalyptic, or very apocalyptic. It’s positively delightful! To celebrate the horrific happenings, let’s look back at some of the scariest cinematic achievements of all time – with the added context of our modern world of course.
5) 12 Angry Men (1957)
Did the kid do it? Should a single juror have relitigated the entire case against him? Is a system where public defenders are in no way incentivized to zealously or even competently represent the people they’re appointed to defend inherently broken? Who knows? But one thing is certain. Twelve men, including a senior citizen, in a poorly ventilated room with no facial coverings for hours upon hours is a terrifying sight to behold in a post-COVID world.
4) Predator (1987)
Ok, forget about the high-tech, heavily-armed invisible alien monster with the dreadlocks who keeps on killing Arnie’s soldier friends. You can even forget about the fact that the muscle-bound cast of this testosterone-fest included not one but two future Governors – a true indictment of the state of US politics and the qualities Americans look for in their so-called “leaders.” No, what truly terrifies me about this film, what wakes me in a cold-sweat in the middle of the night, is the manliest and least socially distant handshake in the world. They were breathing each other’s air. If that doesn’t send a shiver down your spine, I don’t know what will.
3) Contagion (2011)
You must have known that a list of frightening films for the post-pre-pandemic world wouldn’t be complete without this less-than-a-decade old but ever relevant fright fest. In this star-studded spine-chiller, we see an eerily familiar situation as a novel respiratory virus spreads across the globe. While the opportunistic false-cure conspiracy theorists add an element of horrid realism and the unexpected deaths of some big-name actors creates a panicked feeling that anyone and everyone is one breath away from their untimely demise, this film loses points for somehow falling short of reality on the scare scale. If your viral epidemic movie doesn’t include public denial of the existence of the disease, people disparaging life-saving contact-tracing programs as “tyranny”, or the politicization of public health guidance because politicians gotta politic, I’m never going to stay awake at night scared that this may happen to me.
2) Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
On to more of a psychological scare: The Two Towers. Now, I know you’re probably thinking “Wait a sec, the Fellowship broke into smaller groups of 2 or 3 to keep everyone safe. It’s not a horror film.” To that I say…that you are indeed correct. This film doesn’t contain as much of the close-proximity mouth-breathing action prevalent in most modern horror films. However, who among us has not witnessed Smeagol’s descent into madness and trembled? The extreme isolation lasting centuries is something I think we can all relate to right now. Deep inside, we all know that we could be just another day away from talking to a homicidal version of ourselves in the mirror.
1) Get Out (2017)
I may be insane but I’m not crazy. Jump scares last seconds, monsters hiding in the dark may cause nightmares for weeks, and pandemics can last years. But the psychological horror elements of Jordan Peele’s directorial debut will stay with you for the rest of your life. At once intensely thrilling, uncomfortably funny and terrifyingly thought-provoking, “Get Out” cements itself as one of the best films of the decade in any genre. Just don’t try to go to sleep right away after watching it. You won’t be able to. I guess there truly is nothing more terrifying than the realities of the Hell we already live in.