Hemlock Books

For the best in film horror, mystery and the macabre

Books • magazines • dvds • posters • collectibles

FOLLOW US ON

Facebook   Twitter

WWW.HEMLOCKBOOKS.CO.UK

Horror
and the
Internet


 

 

Living with the internet is something that we have been dealing with as a society, and anxiety about the web is often reflected in our beloved horror films. Unfriended (2014), Friend Request (2016) and The Den (2013) show the dangers of social media going awry. Technology is advancing so rapidly that the way we consume said media is constantly changing and expanding, so much so that we barely even notice that we are reading the news in bed on our phones rather than having a newspaper delivered, and we certainly use Google far more than we’d like to think. Magazines are dropping like flies, and print media in general is going the same way. So, are we to fully embrace the immensity that is the World Wide Web, or are we to continue to fear it through the medium of film and TV?

      FearDotCom was one of the first horror movies to portray the internet as a dangerous entity. In 2002, the film posited the idea that simply clicking a button on your computer could ruin your life. The story follows detectives as they investigate a series of murders linked to a website supposedly enticing people to watch torture and murder from the comfort of their own living room. The theme was, of course, tackling voyeurism by suggesting that looking at immoral things on the web could also incriminate you and leave you partly responsible for the acts themselves. But there was a twist: if you visit feardotcom to watch, you will also die two days later. So much is - and was - inspired by Ringu (1999), and FearDotCom was no exception, with its simple switch from watching a videotape that kills x days later to a website that does the same.

      Moving on to Pulse (2009 - Japanese original in 2001), this was a film that showed the internet in a more metaphorical light, as a place of possessive demons who travel via via wi-fi and phone signals. These strange creatures are impossible to escape from as they can utilise the slightest signal, even that in a switched-off mobile. The obvious answer would be just to go MIA; no phone, no computer, and live in the woods, but that is not what happens. There is an amazing scene that is resonant of The Grudge 2: a character concludes that covering all the gaps in his walls and doors with gaffer tape will protect him from the demons. It calls to mind how difficult it would actually be to escape the all-seeing and invisible eyes of modern tech, or for our kids to avoid sexting or cyber-bullies.

      No suprise, then, that there is a horror film about cyber-paedos. Megan is Missing (2011) is one of the most shocking found-footage films to date, as a young girl documents her best friend’s disappearance only to find herself kidnapped by the same man. The film is spine- tinglingly terrifying when, half way through, the kidnapper takes control of the camera to document the hell that he’s putting the girls through, and the most distressing scene has one wonder if this kind of thing is really happening to girls on the dark web. Suddenly, a caption appears suggesting that the image we are about to see has been shared by others on a porn site, and up flashes a photograph of Megan (the original missing girl), beheaded, and with her eyes and mouth wide open. And just when you think that is the worst part, the film ends with the second girl being buried alive in a barrel with what appears to be her friend’s decapitated remains. As an object-lesson in exercising care when trawling the web or engaging with unknown 'friends' on social media, Megan is Missing sure packs a sobering punch.

      With many films exploring the various terrors that could be hiding on the web, from wi-fi demons to paedophiles, the idea that the internet can be dangerous has become an accepted fact of life - so the genre had once again to change tack. With the rise of streaming sites such as Amazon Prime and Netflix, there has been a huge boom in new TV horror series over the last few years. American channels like Fox and HBO have been striving to turn out programmes with a guaranteed audience to try to compete with the streaming sites, and with the success of The Walking Dead, mainstream channels have begun to realise that horror really can be for everyone. This year in particular, we have seen television adaptations of The Exorcist and Wolf Creek, not to mention Bruce Campbell’s own resurrection of the Evil Dead franchise, with Ash vs Evil Dead. With bigger budgets and the potential of unlimited advertising revenue, TV is coming back into its own and for the first time, we are seeing film-quality television, where there hadn’t previously been the budget or inclination from channel owners. Conversely, this has also begun to create a ‘binge-watch’ culture, where an entire series is released at one go onto a streaming site and will be watched by avid viewers in a single day. (Wasn’t the point of a series to keep you coming back week after week for the next episode?) Whatever the reason for this so-called binge watching, it has opened the flood-gates for accessible TV horror. People who have never seen a horror film before are watching The Walking Dead.

      Channel Zero is a new series, taking a slightly more progressive approach to the internet by turning the web-sensation that is ‘Creepypasta’ into television. Creepypasta is a website-turned-noun for a collection of short horror stories, mostly written in first person as a blog or a diary entry. Many of the stories read like someone who is asking for help on a forum with their 'ghost' problem, and some Creepypastas have been so highly regarded that they have ‘gone viral’ across the world and ultimately found their way onto TV screens. Channel Zero has been green-lit for two series, based on one Creepypasta per series. Series one takes on the ‘Pasta’ entitled Candle Cove, following strange disappearances in a town after its children are found to be watching a creepy television show. Series two is based on the Pasta, The No-End House, the plot of which follows a man as he ventures through ever-scarier rooms in a reputedly haunted house, but will he reach door 9?

      Taking scary stories from the web and adapting them is almost fool-proof in the sense that the Pastas already have a view-count and user rating, which is easily translatable into potential viewers. Slenderman began as a viral story-turned-video game and has since been adapted into multiple movies about a tall man with no face who eats children. The only hiccup with Channel Zero is that its advertising failed to explain that it was adapted from the Creepypastas, as if it was back-tracking on who it was aiming the show at and decided just to take the story and not the viewership.

      Once upon a time we were all watching films that made us afraid of the internet, now Channel Zero is taking stories from an internet forum about how we should be afraid of television! This change in medium points directly towards a society now almost fully accepting of the internet, its merits and its dangers. We have access to every horror story that anyone deems worthy of publishing online and soon, there will be nothing out there to scare us… at least until the next piece of new tech is developed. So I expect there will be something scary in VR to explore soon enough...