The New Horror Movie Trend: Rich People
There’s a commonly held theory favoured by horror fans and film academics alike. The horror genre provides a barometer to what fears are felt by the society that created it. It’s the reason why The Invisible Man has been turned from a tale of a mad scientist who can destroy the world to a more intimate story about domestic abuse. It’s why Jordan Peele broke out from the standard horror audience with his racially charged Get Out and Us.
If you start breaking it down by decade you find more evidence in support of this idea. During World War I our cinemas were filled with perverted yet seductive foreigners in the form of Dracula and The Wolf Man. In the years following the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki we had monsters grown from radiation, such as Godzilla and giant ants in Them. The Cold War focused on the insidious Invasion of the Body Snatchers while the consumer driven 1980s turned us into zombies for Dawn of the Dead. Controversy around government sanctioned torture gave rise to the Jigsaw Killer in Saw and sadistically powerful men in Hostel.
Let’s bring us forward to 2020, and there’s a clear emergence of a new horror movie trend, a new sadistic killer with the cold, emotionless drive as Michael Myers and the glee of Freddy Kruger. A group of murderers who don’t do it because they’re compelled to, or even because they want to. They are out to kill us simply because they can. These new horror movies are taking a gang of unfathomable psychopaths from the headlines and hashtags and taking them to the logical conclusion.
That’s right: the 1% are coming to get us. They want to hunt us for sport and they know they can get with it.
This year, the rich and powerful are literally hunting us for sport in The Hunt, by Craig Zobel. Last year they hunted us for fun in Ready Or Not, by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett. In the past couple of years we’ve seen the class divide become the basis for terror in You’re Next, Would You Rather, The Purge, High-Rise, Snowpiercer, Stoker and more, with additional examples from the sub-genre of movies where the wealthy bet on the lives of the poor, such as Escape Room and even The Hunger Games.
To have a grasp on why this trend has been gaining ground in recent years we only need to take a glance at the headlines. Wanting to take the ruling class down a peg is hardly a new concept. ‘Eat the rich’ is a (mangled) quote from as far back as the 1700s. As long as there has been an upper class there’s been a revolutionary element wanting to burn it to the ground. Thatcher’s England spawned the punk movement that expressed themselves through haircut and song whilst France went straight to the decapitations. It is, however, only in the past ten years that we’ve seen the rich become soulless villains in the scariest movies we can come up with. Heck, it was only 30 years ago that the wealthy and successful were celebrated in the emerging Wall Street sub-culture.
The answer could be relatively simple. The rich have been getting richer while things have been getting tougher for the poor. This is especially evident in the US where people are forced to work multiple jobs often just to scrape by, or to avoid prohibitively high medical and insurance costs. There’s an increased perception that the 1% of the population care little for the lives for the majority, or the damage done to the environment or any other wider societal issues as long they are making a profit. This rally against the state of play could have peaked with the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011, but it would seem as though things haven’t changed.
Perhaps the tipping point came with the boneheaded elite who have become powerful world leaders. Boris Johnson and Scott Morrison are certainly smug pricks in their own right, but the crustiest member of the upper crust is certainly Donald Trump. This spoilt brat of a president is no political mind, but a petty and angry narcissist who is more than willing to sell out his country and put lives on the line to cement his personal fortune and brand. His election to the White House, and the mounting evidence to suggest his co-operation with Russia, clumsy attempts to use his office to gain personal favours from foreign states, a moral baseline lower than a puddle of piss and plenty of women accusing him of rape, proves that enough money can get you off the hook for anything. The United States and New York City have become the new epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic with a death toll in the thousands and Trump is denying any responsibility.
No matter how low Trump stoops, no matter how revolting his behaviour, and no matter how many people die due to his greed, he just can’t be held responsible. Trump keeps his money, his status and his power and he even keeps a base of fans who should know that he doesn’t give a damn about their best interests or needs. Trump is also closely tied to Jeffrey Epstein, a notorious figure at the centre of a ring of pedophiles who kept a private plane to fly them to an island used to imprison their victims. Epstein died under highly suspicious circumstances while in custody and the widely held belief is that he was silenced to protect other members of his revolting club.
In summary, the most prominent and visible rich people in the world are a gang of monsters. They lie as easily as blinking and will happily sell out their friends and allies to protect themselves. No doubt there are a number of wealthy figures who provide charity and advances in technology, such as Elon Musk or Bill Gates, but they’re not writing the laws. The wealthy elite have started to genuinely scare people because they surround themselves with equally morally corrupt figures who protect them from the repercussions that they will never face. The US President was born into wealth, bailed out of every mistake he’s ever made and now tries to gaslight a population of millions into believing that a pandemic isn’t on their doorstep for fear of it making him look bad.
Jeez, I can run my mouth when we get onto this topic. It’s time to bring it back to the point.
Taking a closer look at Ready Or Not, we see Grace (Samara Weaving) expecting to marry into a wealthy and powerful family out of love. Her wedding night is turned on its head when she finds herself the target of a hunt by her new, rich in-laws. What becomes increasingly clear throughout the movie is that she is trapped. Even if she could escape, there’s no-one willing to help her for fear of the repercussions themselves. In Get Out we see the same dynamic, now with a minority class being the target of the upper class. You’re Next features a powerfully wealthy family turning against each other in order to secure the largest slice of pie. The Purge franchise is always keen to feature a sub-plot of rich people insulated against the crime-spree through expensive security and gated communities who literally buy poor people to murder or (again) hunt for sport. If you want to get niche with your upper-class anger you can check out Velvet Buzzsaw and see the pretentious art community being destroyed by the pretentious art.
The 99% of the Western population who work for a living have become convinced that the people in the silver towers are a hair’s breadth away from killing us for fun. Find the right conspiracy nut and you might be convinced that they’re already doing it. They are, at the very least, buying us for sick power fantasies, as in the Hostel series and Would You Rather? Sometimes they just want to place bets on which of us will die first.
We’ve recently seen the trends of found footage and retro-hauntings come and go in modern horror. The start of the new decade will be marked by a trend of psychotic rich people getting their kicks by killing us. In the meantime we’re stuck living in a world where the rich let the desperate get evicted, go without medical care, lose their jobs and become the victims of their pedophile friends so long as it doesn’t cost them anything. Fuck those guys.