Technology has brought much joy to us humans throughout the years. Without technology, we wouldn’t have movies, the internet, phones, cars, and other things that make our daily lives that little bit easier. In that sense, yay for technology. At the same time, let’s not forget that technology has the power to obliterate us. Comforting thought, right?
Naturally, horror has explored the dark side of technology and created beautifully frightening cinema in the process. Whether it’s robots or home media systems instigating people’s downfalls, technophobic horror comes in many forms, but its purpose is to keep us one our toes. By all means enjoy technology, but be conscious of the effect it has on our world and our lives.
With this mind, Film School Rejects’ resident Boo Crew — Brad Ghoulickson, Chris Coffin, Jacob TrussHELL, “Mystic” Meg Shields, Rob “Zombie” Hunter, and Kieran “Big Wolf” Fisher — have assembled a list of the 10 best technophobic horror movies ever made. We hope you enjoy reading this from the phone or desktop screen that will destroy you someday.
10. The Stepford Wives (1975)
Aspiring photographer Joanna has moved to the unnervingly idyllic Stepford, Connecticut with her family. While her husband enjoys the validation of the men’s association, Joanna can’t believe the Stepford women, whose entire lives seem to revolve around to cooking, cleaning, and being sexually available for their husbands. There must be something in the water. Based on the novel by “Rosemary’s Baby” author Ira Levin, The Stepford Wives taps into a fear that is less to do with an anxiety about automation, than a suspicion that men don’t really see women as people, but as service-providers. One of the creepiest moments in the film is when Joanna, wise to the ruse, tearfully turns to the leader of the men’s association and asks why they are doing this. “Why?” he replies. “Because we can.” – Meg Shields
9. Shutter (2004)
Cameras capture a moment in time, and while we typically use them to document the good times we can’t always control what the lens sees. Here a group of friends are haunted by images capturing not just what was before them — but also what rests in their past. “Your perspective is critical,” says one character, and while it relates simply to the photographer’s eye it refers more directly to the reality that we don’t always see the same thing. Our sins are our own, and they color how we see the world around us. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but here it’s only about one. Revenge. – Rob Hunter
8. Ringu (1998)
Is there anything more enticing to a horror movie fanatic than a cursed VHS tape? Growing up stealing films off the TV, and passing bootleg Argentos around the neighborhood, we understand the power a tiny rectangular tape can hold over a person. Wound upon its wheels is magic waiting to ignite. The sights it contains have the ability to delight or terrify. Press play, and let’s find out which one we’ll experience. Hideo Nakata’s Ringu preys on our voyeuristic desire to witness the forbidden. Don’t tell us the stove is hot, will singe our fingers to determine that pain for ourselves. What the tape reveals is ultimately less interesting than the danger it suggests, as well as the hero’s failure to resist temptation. – Brad Gullickson
7. Class of 1999 (1990)
In 1990, the idea of machines taking over schools seemed like weird future fiction. Yet here we are in 2018, and iPads are being used in classrooms, replacing pencils, crayons, and other old tools. Eventually the teachers will be replaced by robots as well, or “tactical education units” as they’re called in Class of 1999. If your kids get out of line — like they do sometimes — they’ll be mercilessly dealt with by these units. May this be a cautionary tale to those of you who think that technology should replace pencils — or believe that teachers should be given firearms. – Kieran Fisher
6. The Ring (2002)
As is the case with many horror films, this is ultimately a story of revenge. The technological angle might seem removed at first, but it’s actually married to poor Samara’s deadly gift — she “burns” images into people’s minds, images that drive them mad or to their death — and what are videotapes but images burned onto plastic? (Not technically, but go with me on this you sons of bitches.) The imagery in the videos comes from a haunted and pained source and the medium transfers it into its victims’ heads to their detriment. Horror movies do the same, in general, but only a few of us actually go mad because of them. – Rob Hunter
5. Suicide Club (2001)
After Ringu, Japanese horror became fascinated with technophobic themes. The best movie, in this writer’s humble opinion, to explore these themes was this brilliant satire from Sion Sono. In this case, the root of all evil is the internet and mass media, which is forcing people to take their own lives in unexplainable and disturbing ways. Suicide Club completely skewers Japanese culture and its history of citizens taking their own lives. It’s a chilling movie at times, yet it’s also really funny and bizarre. Movies like this can only come be made by madmen like Sono, though. – Kieran Fisher
4. Chopping Mall (1986)
1980’s America. Nothing can keep us away from our shopping malls. Beyond the walls are a wasteland of broken dreams and unrealized ambition. Inside we wash away our misery with a large foam cup of Orange Julius and some kickin’ Debbie Gibson tunes scored at Camelot Music: “As real as it may seem/It was only in my dreams.” The true desire is to remain within, and forever sup on its panacea fantasy. Forget your store hours. The owners of Park Plaza Mall know exactly how American teens can be overtaken by their greedy and gluttonous desires. In response to their insatiable appetite for consumption, the owners install a state of the art security system to patrol their parameter. Unfortunately, on the same night as a group of horny employees sneak back into the furniture store in which they work, a lightning bolt strikes the computer system monitoring the new Protector droids. Phasers get reset from stun to obliterate. Chopping Mall lives up to its name, unleashing great bodily harm on the parasitic teenagers that routinely feed on the Park Plaza trough. – Brad Gullickson
3. Videodrome (1983)
David Cronenberg wants you to think about whether what we watch has an effect on how we act and think. He also would like you to think about what it would be like to fuck a VCR. Better yet: what it would be like to become a VCR. New flesh aside, Cronenberg’s skepticism about the coercive ideology of mass media has only ripened with age. We’re more dependent on technology than ever, and questions about what is and isn’t okay to make public have only gotten fuzzier. The truth about media, and its ability to beguile us couldn’t possibly be more relevant, or more horrifying. – Meg Shields
2. Pulse (2001)
Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Pulse is a philosophical statement on loneliness in a modern technological age told through the rich legacy of the supernatural in Japanese history. It’s also utterly terrifying. What sets Kurosawa’s film apart from other entries in the late 90s J-Horror boom is how it emphasizes it’s quieter moments over the shocking. While J-Horror was always about layering a story with as much dread as possible, Kurosawa sits in these moments of reflection asking larger questions about the nature of life and death and what technologies role will ultimately be in our quest for life’s meaning. This focus though then gives Kurosawa carte blanche to really lean in to the scare set pieces, which may seem tame compared to the glut of supernatural jumps that proliferate modern horror cinema, but have an unnatural profound eeriness that lingers with you well after viewing. – Jacob Trussell
1. The Terminator (1984)
Man will ultimately be responsible for the downfall of humanity. We all know this and have known this for years but there’s nothing we can do about it. Odds are technology, one of man’s many creations, is what finally does us in. Despite our demise being inevitable, movies have tried to prepare us for this eventually battle with tech and none have done a better job than James Cameron’s sci-fi/slasher The Terminator. A cyborg killing machine from the year 2029 is sent back in time to kill Sarah Connor. Why? Because Sarah will eventually give birth to John Connor and he’ll lead the Resistance to defeat Skynet, the self-aware defense network out to kill all humans. This movie not only put Arnold Schwarzenegger on the map, but it also gave us fantastic performances from Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn and Lance Henriksen. Oh and it has rad cameos from Dick Miller and Bill Paxton. If that’s not enough to take you to Bonerville you’re probably a robot. – Chris Coffel