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Dennis Perkins

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives on the West End with his lovely wife Emily, where they watch all the movies ever made. When not digging up stories about the Maine film scene, he can be found writing for the AV Club and elsewhere. The rest of the time, he's worrying about the Red Sox.

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Posted: November 17, 2015

The Internet will kill you! (And other horror-movie trends that scare the holy hell out of grownups)

Studio horror films have long been a reliable indicator of just what scares the hell out of American adults.

Written by: Dennis Perkins

Horror movies are a deceptively reactionary genre. Sure, there might be naked co-eds, blood, gore, machete maniacs and the like, but it’s always interesting to analyze just who’s holding the chainsaw, as it were. Made as they are by corporations, and marketed as they’ve largely been to young people, studio horror films have long been a reliable indicator of just what scares the hell out of American adults. And there’s always been a surprisingly conservative undercurrent in American horror, especially when it comes to parents’ fears of their own children’s safety. Those darn kids of today—don’t they know that that current fad their aunt read about in a Facebook forward will kill them?!

With the Friday release of the trendily titled scare flick “#Horror” (about some dumb kids who get systematically murdered for playing an “online social media game”), it’s worth looking at other horror trends when those foolish youths got interested in things that just scared the holy hell out of their parents.

122903_978572-Mazes-Monsters-2

Your kids will die if: They play Dungeons & Dragons!

Tom Hanks got his big break in the 1982 TV movie “Mazes & Monsters,” where his “troubled teen” (lots of those coming up) got a little too into that new role-playing fad—you know, the one with the dice, and the math, and the kids using their imaginations? Well, turns out all that stuff’s pretty dangerous, as Hanks’ dungeon master can’t tell fantasy from reality and stabs a guy. Look for your 20-sided die in the trash, kids—mom and dad watched TV again.

122903_978572-NightmaresYour kids will die if: They play video games!

While video game technology has advanced to new heights, this horror trope has remained exactly the same since the days of Pong. In 1983’s “Nightmares,” Emilio Estevez breaks into the arcade to beat an impossible video game, only to get sucked into the game itself! In 1994’s “Brainscan,” Edward Furlong gets obsessed with a new game on his home system—only to get sucked into the game itself! And, in 2006’s “Stay Alive,” Frankie Muniz gets obsessed with a new online computer game—guess what happens! Waiting for the “Evil Flappy Birds” movie any week now.

122903_978572-the-gate-3Your kids will die if: They listen to heavy metal music!

Oh, that Satanic heavy metal—when will the kids learn? In 1987’s “The Gate,” young Stephen Dorff listens to a heavy metal album backwards—because that’s where all the good demonic messages are—and opens, yes, a gate to Hell. The mid-eighties were a great time for Satan to ply his evil trade through power chords (at least according to parents’ groups), which led to a spate of similar movies like 1988’s “Black Roses” (where the band were actual demons!), and 1986’s “Trick Or Treat,” which featured roles for real-life heavy metal gods/minions of the Dark One, Gene Simmons and Ozzy Osbourne.

122903_978572-fear-dot-comYour kids will die if: They use the internet!

Sorry, kids – if you’re reading this online, it’s probably too late for you already. At least that’s the most recent trend that Hollywood’s latched onto. Back in 2002, “Feardotcom” posited that that newfangled internet all the kids were talking about had a dark side, where you could click on the titular link and then be dead 48 hours later. And “The Gate”‘s Stephen Dorff was right at the center of the mayhem again! (Maybe Stephen Dorff is who parents should be afraid of, come to think of it.) Last year’s “Unfriended” explored the certain doom awaiting teens who use chatrooms. And, with today’s release of “#Horror” (note the similarly scary computer-talk in the title), the message stays the same. Anything kids are into that their parents don’t immediately understand will be immediately transformed into a bloody cinematic teachable moment.

Dennis Perkins is a Portland freelance writer

COMING TO LOCAL SCREENS

State Theatre, Portland | statetheatreportland.com
Saturday, Nov. 21: “Warren Miller’s Chasing Shadows.” Sure, most of us would like winter to hold off as long as possible, but for those of you snow enthusiasts who just can’t wait, here’s the newest, stunningly photographed ski film from genre legend Miller.

Nickelodeon Cinema, Portland | patriotcinemas.com
Wednesday, Nov. 25: “Trumbo.” “Breaking Bad”‘s Bryan Cranston stars in this biopic of legendary, controversial writer Dalton Trumbo (“Spartacus,” “Johnny Got His Gun”), whose outspoken political ideas saw him fall victim to the infamous Hollywood blacklist, and being banned from movies and jailed for refusing to cooperate with the government’s witch hunt against artists.

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