All week and through next Monday, the Woot writers are sharing the movies that make them crap their pants in terror - figuratively, we hope. Here are five movies that give Jason Toon the willies - because they seem like they could actually happen...
(WARNING: Some of the following trailers may be slightly NSFW. Watch... but at your own risk!)
By the time my voice dropped, movie monsters had lost the power to scare me anymore. Not only were the likes of, say, Freddy Krueger just so ridiculous, I also knew too much about the moviemaking behind it to suspend my disbelief. "Hey, if you look right, you can totally tell he's the guy from V." The movies that have kept me up nights in the last couple of decades are the ones about horrors that could be all too real: nuclear war, dictatorship, ecological catastrophe. If viewers use horror movies as a means of escape from reality, these terrifying scenarios leave you nowhere to run to.
Children of Men (2006)
"Day 1,000 of the siege of Seattle." Those are the very first words you hear in Alfonso Cuaron's brilliant future shocker. 18 years after humanity stopped giving birth, the all-grownup world is torn by fascism, terrorism, disease, and a general nihilistic anomie. Clive Owen sleepwalks through a Britain even grimier and more depressing than the real thing. This is what the V for Vendetta movie should have felt like.
Soylent Green (1973)
Global warming, food shortages, pollution, blackouts, drab khaki clothing: the future of Soylent Green would be a major bummer even without the famously monstrous ending revelation. It's the oldest movie here, but its particular vision - a chaotic, sun-blasted New York populated by barely-human rabble living in stripped cars, ruled by a vicious, effete, utterly corrupt elite - rings as true as any of them.
The Day After (1983)
If zombies and slashers don't scare you anymore, try this: there are still thousands of nuclear weapons around the world, any one of which could go off at any time! While the Cold War context of The Day After is a historical relic, the most relentlessly grim TV movie ever made in America has lost none of its power to shock. This deeply disturbing picture of post-apocalyptic life has nothing in common with your favorite first-person shooter. (If that's still not enough to freak you out, try Threads, the even bleaker BBC take on nuclear aftermath. But trust me: you really probably shouldn't.)
If I had to bet money on any of these movies essentially coming true, it'd be Mike Judge's criminally underpromoted look at a future America that's somehow even dumber than today's. Everything is covered in flashing corporate logos, the main form of artistic expression involves guys getting hit in the nuts, and big-box store greeters mumble "Welcome to Costco, I love you." If you haven't seen it, you might be part of the problem.
The Running Man (1987)
The thing that horrified me the most when I first saw it: in the future, a can of Pepsi costs seven bucks! There's also global economic collapse, food riots, totalitarian dictatorship, and an absolutely cynical, vicious mass media that makes game-show entertainment out of what are, essentially, extended public executions. On the last count, at least, reality is starting to catch up to The Running Man.
What favorite dystopia of yours have I left off? Mad Max? The Handmaid's Tale? Minority Report? What movies make you scared, not of what lurks in the shrubbery, but of what lurks in humanity's future?