With the limited release of It Follows this week, many people are discussing how the film brings a “figure” to sexually transmitted diseases. This isn’t a new concept. Most horror films I grew up inspired by were a warning of real life danger. Jason kills those that smoke, fornicate, and aren’t resilient to their duties not because he wants revenge, but because “bad” kids are the ones that partake in those activities, he becomes a living metaphor. But, what are some other symbols or concepts from other films that we may have missed?
(11) APRIL FOOLS DAY – Who doesn’t have a friend that just gets a little too much into April Fool’s Day? Well, the 1986 slasher film asks this question. (Spoiler) Despite the events of that film being just a “joke”, it was based on serial killer’s Elizabeth Bathory mode of operation. She would lure people into her estate with promises of lessons, great meals, and sex. Once inside, they never reemerged. She is rumored to be found eating her victims’ flesh when she was finally apprehended.
(10) Nightmare on Elm Street – In the early 1980s, the USA Today ran a series of articles regarding a group of Asian refugees. The group suffered from severe night terrors and refused to sleep because the nightmares they were having “were different”. The most famous of the articles described a 21 year old man that stayed awake for 7 days. On the seventh day, he fell asleep amongst his family and was carried to bed. That night, his family was awakened by screams and crashes coming from his bedroom. They found him dead, and autopsy could not find a cause to his death. His prophecy was right: A nightmare had killed him.
(9) Child’s Play – If you’ve ever been to the Fort East Martello Museum, you’ve stumbled your way across Robert the Doll. Robert once belonged to painter/author Robert Otto until “Neighbors claimed to have seen the doll moving from window to window when the family was out. Sometimes the doll would emit a terrifying giggle, and the Otto family caught glimpses of it running from room to room”. When Otto died in 1974, the doll was placed in the attic of the residence. A few years later, the house was sold to family with a 10 year old girl. She found Robert, but soon began experiencing severe night terrors. According to her, the doll moved around her room at night, spoke to her, and attacked her.
(8) Cabin in the Woods – Before the Avengers, Joss Whedon was known for the Buffy the Vampire series. According to an interview in early 2000, season 4 of Buffy was one of his most interesting (and terrifying) concepts to date. The series follows a teenage girl (Buffy) that protects the world against horrible creatures. In Season 4, Buffy enrolls in college only to discover that there is a secret government organization there that not only captures creatures…but experiments on them. According to Whedon, not long after production ended for that season, he was contacted by the US government and questioned. According to him, “they said I shouldn’t know about Project Adam” but has never elaborated since. He has given us Cabin in the Woods, which may just be his “Kubrick moon landing” moment.
(7) The Shining – Both the novel and the film adaptation of The Shining were commercial and artistic successes, but many people say that Stanley Kubrick departed from key elements of the book in order to confess of his involvement and cover-up regarding the Apollo moon landing. If you search the internet, you’ll find videos and entire sites regarding the symbolic confession. For example, the most haunted (and dangerous) room in the hotel is room 217…in the book. In the film, that room is mysteriously changed to room 237. Why? Because the moon is 237,000 miles from the earth. In this scene, Danny is also playing on a carpet pattern that resembles a launchpad while wearing a sweater with the Apollo spacecraft on it. The film is supposedly filled with code, and while “adapting the novel to film” may seem like Kubrick was merely adopting King’s themes, Kubrick departed from the book so far that the film takes on an entirely different meaning.
(6) The Strangers – Have you ever been alone at night when you’re suddenly surprised by a knock on the door? That was the simple premise to the The Strangers, and it was based on a series of robberies that terrified writer Bryan Bertino as a teenager. Robbers would knock on doors saying that they were experiencing car trouble. According to an interview, Bertino opened the door slightly to talk to one of these robbers. According to him, the only thing that saved his life that night was that he had forgotten to unchain the door. The intruder was stopped in his place outside , but his arm flailed violently inside. As Bertino, who had fallen down at the force of the initial push, got his senses back, he kicked the door repeatedly until the would be intruder retreated.
(5) The Sixth Sense – M. Night Shyamalan’s film The Sixth Sense was easily considered one of the best films of 1999. However, it wasn’t the dead people that scared the writer in the film. It was a completely unrelated scene early in the film where Bruce Willis and his wife come home from dinner to find an intruder sitting on their bed. According to the writer, this happened to him as a child. His family was out to dinner, and upon returning home, saw a window wide open in their house. His father told the family to stay in the car. His mother rushed to the neighbors to call the police, while his father investigated and found that a distraught and mentally disturbed man was sitting on Shyamalan’s bed “just staring blankly ahead”.
(4) The Blob – Surely the government couldn’t cover up a giant gelatinous substance devouring everything in its path, but mysterious events much like what was depicted in the film did take place. After witnessing an object falling from the sky in 1950, four Philadelphia police officers found a hole with “space jelly” in it. One of the officers touched the substance with a stick. The stick became lodged and could not be removed. As the officers watched, the stick was drawn into the jelly until it was gone. Supposedly, government agents cleaned up the “spill” once it was reported.
(3) Hard Candy – While most horror films did not shed a tear for the antagonist in the 2006 film Hard Candy, the real life youngsters were not innocent victims looking for revenge. According to 20/20, Japanese businessmen were being lured into traps set by young girls. Once vulnerable, these girls would beat, torture, and rob the men only to disappear into the night. This inspired Hard Candy writer Brian Nelson to wonder “What if the predator is not the predator?”.
(2) Primeval – Why should you be scared of crocodiles? Well, according to the lead character in Archer, “Gee, I don’t know, Cyril. Maybe deep down I’m afraid of any apex predator that lived through the K-T extinction. Physically unchanged for a hundred million years, because it’s the perfect killing machine. A half ton of cold-blooded fury, the bite force of 20,000 Newtons, and stomach acid so strong it can dissolve bones and hoofs.” But, movie portrayals are quite inaccurate…right? Well, according to authorities in Burundi, there is a 65 year old crocodile that has been implicated in 300 people’s deaths. It has long evaded capture, and rarely leaves witnesses.
(1) The Possession – Demons don’t only attach themselves to people, but they also can be attached to objects. Just ask the the Tallmans. They were featured on an episode of Unsolved Mysteries in 1988 when they purchased a bunk bed via a second hand store. Shortly thereafter, the kids began getting sick all the time and youngest daughter began seeing a “witch”. After being attacked several times, the family moved to a different house and had the bed destroyed. They have not been bothered by paranormal activity since.
BONUS: Sometimes, horror movies say they aren’t based on real events, but very much may be. Last year, a very astute viewer noticed something strange regarding the opening events of the film Jeepers Creepers and a recounting of an encounter with Michigan killer Dennis DePue. Check out this clip from Jeepers Creepers and the events (as depicted on Unsolved Mysteries)