Sunday, November 15, 2015

Catch Up Elements of Horror: Technology Gone Wrong

Technology gone wrong, as a topic, blurs the lines between science fiction and horror even moreso than alien monsters. If the heart of horror is dealing with something that frightens us, then I would argue that technology run amok is a definite source.

Think about your daily life and how frustrating inanimate objects can be. Think about the copier in Office Space or that one red light that lasts a few seconds less than all the others. All technology horror is really a magnification of that frustration. There are these man-made devices that are supposed to make our lives easier but there is no reasoning with them when things go wrong. Stephen King, in particular, likes to make machines into villains well before we was even run over. Christine and Maximum Overdrive are two examples from his work where hapless victims are attacked by cars. You can't talk a car out of killing you and punching it will only get you so far.

Everyone will tell you that technology anxiety comes from the fear of being replaced by machines. People are afraid that we will become so dependent on machines that any sentience they gain will automatically screw us. Having lived through the Y2K scare, I can say that I am not particularly worried about machines going nuts. And I don't worry about being replaced by them. I think any fear I have of machines come from their failure to function. A faulty brake is scarier than a terminator to me.

One interesting wrinkle I have found is in the combination of horror and technology. For example, in the haunted submarine movie Below, you take the tension of a war time submarine mission and add in the technological threat that this complicated underwater boat can go wrong and kill you in a million ways. If a ghost can only slam a door shut or bump into something, that is enough to kill dozens of people in a submarine situation. Sometimes technology can create situations that are even more frightening.

Mostly, technology is the enemy of horror. Cell phones alone can provide maps, communication and flash lights in one small package. Every modern horror movie or story has to overcome this huge obstacle to being cut off from information or other people. Again, leave it to Stephen King to turn a flaw into a strength. In his novel, Cell, it is all about phones turning people into raving maniacs.

Fear of the future, fear of are starting to see a pattern here, right?

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