VIDEO ESSAY: Our Scary Summer: 1979

I’ve often been asked why I have such an affinity for the horror genre. My answer is always this: Because it reflects the fears that are currently haunting society. There is simply no other genre better at making social commentary than horror.

The film essay, “Our Scary Summer: 1979,” outlines precisely this. You should watch the entire thing, but if you can’t, you can read the transcript here.

via Press Play:

The cover of the June 1979 issue of Newsweek featured an image of Sigourney Weaver from Alien. The caption read: “Hollywood’s Scary Summer.” I was thirteen. The horror movies released that summer would form a grotesque carnival that mirrored my own and the world’s anxieties.  Earlier in the spring there was the disastrous nuclear accident at Three Mile Island. That summer, major oil spills polluted the Gulf of Mexico and the North Atlantic Ocean. This year, oil prices doubled, Margaret Thatcher was elected, and the Ayatollah Khomeini rose to power. I slowly came into awareness of the political and environmental degradation around me that year. The films I watched reflected that, as well as my own thirteen-year-old desires and fears.

As tag-lines go, George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead sports a pretty good one: “When there’s no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the earth.” I stared for weeks at the lurid poster bearing these ominous words. It hung in the front windows of the Maplewood Mall multiplex.  Looking back, I think a more fitting tag-line might have come from a speech given by President Jimmy Carter later that same summer: “Often you see paralysis and stagnation and drift. What can we do?”

Press Play VIDEO ESSAY: Our Scary Summer: 1979 from Nelson Carvajal on Vimeo.

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