There is no question about it: we have become a very technology-obsessed society. Whether it is our smart phones, our HD TVs, or our computers, there are very few people out there who don't rely fairly heavily on at least one form of tech. Be honest... how many times have you checked your phone just since you started reading this? Don't feel bad. I've looked at least twice in the last 30 seconds.
Since film became a medium for the expression of societal fears, our concern about the dangers of industrialism (Metropolis) to the eventual sentience of our machines (The Terminator) have been a dominate theme in sci-fi and horror. Realistic video games, artificial intelligence, and the increasing predominance of social media are all very modern concerns that have become fodder for some of the best scary movies.
This list features some of my favorite sci-fi/horror films that focus on the dangers implicit in giving technology too much control over us. Some are about TV, others video games, but they all tell us one thing: get off your tush and go outside for a change, huh?
This classic from David Cronenberg is the be-all-end-all of media and technology horror. Following a trashy cable programmer who introduces viewers to a new kind of show, Videodrome shows exactly what happens when we become too entangled with our technology and media. This is the kind of film where the visuals will always linger in the back of your mind... especially when you're sitting a little too close to the television.
This is the newest film on the list, and for that reason, the most timely. Directed by Cody Calahan, Antisocial follows a group of college students on New Years Eve as a rage virus spread by social media use creeps across the globe. This is probably one of the best Catch-22 horror films I have ever seen, in that the more people turn to their social media for updates on the carnage, the more likely they will be exposed themselves. This indie horror film is full of slow-burn tension, awesome gore, and an ending that will blow you away. And maybe think twice the next time you go to log into Facebook...
- eXistenZ (1999)
Of course, we meed David Cronenberg again: this time turning a sharp eye on the world of virtual reality and video games. Starring Jennifer Jason Leigh and Jude Law, this mind-bender is about a game designer on the lam from assassins who must figure out if there is a glitch in her gaming system. The system, called eXistenZ, looks like kidney with umbilical chords attached and connects to your consciousness through a port in your spine. Taking gaming interactivity to a whole new level, eXistenZ will put just a touch of fear in the head of any hardcore gamer.
I saw Brainscan when I was really young and it haunted me for years. This one is all about an eerily interactive video game in which players murder innocent victims for fun (familiar much?) at the behest of an utterly creepy game master called The Trickster. The problem is, the murders in the game begin happening IRL, and players can't seem to get the Trickster out of their mind. Starring Edward Furlong, Frank Langella, and T. Ryder Smith as The Trickster, Brainscan was a film creepily ahead of its time.
The Thirteenth Floor (1999)
This is probably the least known, but also my favorite film on the list. Starring Craig Bierko, Vincent D'Onofrio, and Gretchen Mol, The Thirteenth Floor is fascinating look at the 90s view of the possibilities of technology in the future. Set in a computer-generated alternate universe based on the 1930s, a computer programmer finds that he is trapped somewhere in between the real and the virtual, while trying to prove he isn't a murderer. The Thirteenth Floor isn't just a tech/sci-fi/horror, but it's also a gorgeously designed and paced film noir. If you haven't seen this movie, do so. Now. I'll be here waiting.
Special Mentions: Natural Born Killers (media breeding chaos), Poltergeist ("They're heeeeeere!), They Live ("Submit to authority!"), The Ring (evil arriving via TV and a VHS tape), The Matrix (the ultimate tech-based hostile takeover), and Ghost in the Machine (a serial killer travels via computer networks)...
Did I leave one of your favorites out? Let me know in the comments!
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