The most wonderful time of the year can typically be defined by two focuses: those who see it as a time of loved ones cherishing each other while embracing the more meaningful moments of the holidays, or those who view it as a time where sales gimmicks sending everyone into a frenzy and causing mass chaos at the mall. For the millions of sellers and shoppers, it is the ultimate time of the consumer – holiday spirit be damned. With the ability to obtain the most coveted of items found within local shopping centers or, quite literally, at our fingertips, our society indulges in a period of supreme consumerism.
The horror genre capitalizes on that theme within the following films. All seem like simple tales of terror at first glance, but while we are instantly sold on the main ideas presented, each is accompanied with some pretty fine print once the viewer opens the box only to find complex instructions inside.
This exclusive Black Friday Special list of consumerism in horror offers you two films for the price of one! It’s a deal no one can ignore and one you wont find anywhere else this holiday season!
Some exclusions may apply.
The Elite Consumers of American Psycho (2000) and The Neon Demon (2016)
When it comes to giving the holidays are a time to give a more special gift, a more expensive gift. No one is more familiar with prime brand name goods quite like American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman. Mary Harron’s adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ controversial novel details one man’s compulsive desire to fit in alongside his posh New York surroundings and the bloodlust he progressively gives into. The film depicts him as the ultimate consumer from his choice of designer wardrobe pieces down to the texture of his business card. Eventually Bateman’s wealthy lifestyle and inner obsession with vanity push him into a downward spiral of murder and paranoia.
Similarly, the focus on consumerism takes on a new shape in Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon. The theory struts itself down the runway in this visually aesthetic psychological horror. Surrounded by haute couture and competitors seriously starving for the limelight, a young woman finds herself immersed in the strange world of high fashion modeling. Refn uses beautifully intense imagery to instill the themes of narcissism, jealousy, and gore. Does she have what it takes to wear the industry’s finest works of art or will the dark underworld adorned with these elite pieces devour her entirely?
Caution: Envy and homicide are the typical side effects of wearing Armani for over an hour.
Consumed By Monsters with The Stuff (1985) and Cloverfield (2008)
Product placement is a particularly important factor that contributes to the order of consumerism. Almost everything we see around is stamped with a company’s logo. Most times that logo itself is the sole reason we purchase an item. Larry Cohen’s The Stuff is an in-your-face experience of what can happen when the precious materials we buy turn deadly.
The Stuff: a tasty, fluffy treat has become the main product of a nation’s craving. Those who eat it immediately become addicted while the parasitic ingredients eat them from the inside slowly turning them into zombies and eventual hollow shells. It’s a terrifying testament to our obsession with the goods we consume, one we become infatuated with, that ultimately consumes us. It begs the ironic question, “Are you eating it…or is it eating you? Although, a dessert with 0 calories during this holiday season does sound tempting…
More subtle in message, Matt Reeve’s Cloverfield might be the wild card of this list as its more analytical meanings are submerged deep beneath its plot. Like the many hidden clues of the Cloververse, the doom of consumerism is a major theme often missed in this explosive creature feature. Cloverfield follows a group of friends as they try to escape the total destruction of New York caused by a monster that has surfaced from the East River following an oil tanker incident. A metropolitan city taken over by an enormous being practically roars of consumerism’s negative effects on society. The clever product placement of the fictional soft drink Slusho! and Japanese company Tagruato throughout are added bonuses highlighting our dependency on manufactured goods.
Don’t even get me started on Bad Robot’s target marketing ARG campaigns… That will cost you extra.
The Consumers of Commerce Dawn of the Dead (1978) and Chopping Mall (1986)
For some, the idea of a designated center for all of our necessities is both practical and enjoyable. Although, for others, it can be an absolute hell. Malls and shopping centers dominate consumer culture, expertly showcasing all items we must have and all those we don’t necessarily need in purposefully attractive fashion. Crowds pack into shopping hotbed and lines wrap around buildings to support the more materialistic side of our yuletide joy.
As a pioneer of expressing social issues within the horror genre, George A. Romero traps a group of survivors within the confines of a mall while a zombie outbreak infects the world outside in his classic Dawn of the Dead. Jim Wynorski’s Chopping Mall presents a similar plot – exchanging the undead with murderous droids bent on killing the consumer in an effort to protect the mall against a group of teens who use it as a hangout. These messages are as clear as shop windows: The place where we express our most basic of consumerist behaviors is the one where we will be trapped and ultimately killed in.
The Seasonal Consumers of Krampus (2015) and Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)
One of the main melodies that rings throughout the holidays begins with the classic lyrics “You better watch out…”. While we all know how the rest of the song goes and are fully aware of the jolly old man who is coming to town to spread joy, we forget about those who may be coming to spread something else. Michael Dougherty’s Krampus is a chilling tale of the evil folk entity that visits and torments a dysfunctional family during Christmas Eve. Holiday cheer is easily replaced with holiday fear when Krampus turns The Engel Family’s artificially merry environment against them in hopes that they learn from the err of their ways and see the true meaning of Christmas in the end.
Jalmari Helander’s Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale is unique in its plot as well as its many meanings. With some interesting hi-jinx including the attempt to pawn an old man off as the real Santa Claus and trapping elves to sell off as mall Santas, Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale is a satirical take on business needs and ethics. It turns the Christmas figures we adore into objects of transaction making a statement of this annual celebration becoming a lucrative investment deal. Talk about supply and demand, right?
What is mostly terrifying about both Krampus and Rare Exports is that they both show that these larger-than-life beings can actually be the demise of the holiday spirit. Dougherty and Helander emphasize the negativity that that is caused by our infatuation with buying, selling, and all the miscellaneous holiday details we focus choose over the real feeling of Christmas. While Krampus, Santa Claus, and all of their holiday minions play the roles of the villains, they serve as the only salvation these selfish, struggling families have whether they learn from them or use them to turn a profit. Both remind us to mind our focus and enjoy the real people who matter in our lives during the season.
You know, ones that actually exist… like Michael Bublé.
Marketing to Consumers in They Live (1988), Videodrome (1983), and Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
Walking hand-in-hand with motifs of marketing, advancements in technology and how brand name companies utilize that power to fuel consumer culture is dreadfully present in both David Cronenberg’s Videodrome, John Carpenter’s They Live and Tommy Lee Wallace’s Halloween III: Season of the Witch. In the highly digital age we live in purchasing and marketing alike is, more instant, accessible, and dangerously individualized.
Trigger words, appealing images, scientifically produced jingles, berating emails, and exclusive sales are all just a few of the techniques corporate companies use to target consumers through social media, radio ads, and television spots. While Videodrome centers around the enticing broadcast of torture, They Live draws attention to media tactics through subliminal messaging, and Halloween III: Season of the Witch uses a specific physical product (those iconic masks), to control and destroy consumers, they all share a very horrifying underlying theme. Our society has become so blindly dependent on these media messages. All the glories offered to eager consumers are simply means of distraction from the real terrifying big picture occurring behind the scenes.
Sometimes we have to open our eyes and look beyond the screen to figure out what we really need.
That was the pitch, now here’s the catch: Be sure to learn from the lessons of these films and spread goodwill over the evils of product placement, vanity, and materialism. While it’s easy to get wrapped up in the shopping craze that befalls the last month of the year, we must always stay grounded in our morality. Should you choose to give into the various elements that promote consumerism just remember that the return policy stands firm on the consequences.
Which horror films will you be consuming after hours of shopping those Black Friday deals? Let us know your picks over on Twitter, Reddit, or in the Horror Fiends of Nightmare on Film Street Facebook group!