Even if you digest popular culture only via NPR and the osmotic seepage from billboards and tabloid headlines, youll have noticed the profusion of mainstream horror movies oozing out of Hollywood. Alone in the Dark, Hide and Seek, Boogeyman, Constantine, White Noise, Cursed, The Jacket, and The Ring Two have all hit the screen since the end of January. These are movies with big budgets, high production values, and A-list stars - not the schlocky B pictures of yore.
Critics have long held that our most unspeakable fears are given voice in science fiction and horror films. Where does America go to understand how it feels about communism, atomic science, immigration, AIDS, or terrorism? Where it always has - the back row of the movies. Moviemakers deal in images and metaphor, and in film they give form to the darkest of our terrors.
The vengeful ghost of some sooty-eyed child patrolling a staircase, a curtain-haired anorexic crawling stilt-legged out of an otherwise innocuous TV screen - these images and others like them are common currency in recent movies. That the screens of our multiplexes are filled with shaky footage of ashen-faced spirits tormenting the newest people to move into their house speaks to deep-seated Western insecurity in a post-9/11 world.