Top 10 Techno-Horror Films

Feardotcom

Feardotcom is incredibly stylized and fierce

List by Jordan

Each generation has something to fear; a point not lost on the horror genre which mirrors the paranoia and trepidation of society. Unlike atomic bugs, possessed automobiles and the threat of communism though, the technology minded chiller has been assaulting audiences for an elongated period, morphing from TV and radio to the ever present and labyrinthine internet.

We fear new technology because it holds an immense power and control over our everyday lives, from work to leisure, but as much as we pretend to and ought to, we don’t truly understand it.

These are five memorable, and more importantly scary examples of why we should be afraid of mankind’s advancements in computing.

Afraid, very afraid… (I promise they’re not all Cronenberg films).

Plot summaries from IMDB

10. Untraceable (2008)

Untraceable movie

Kill With Me? The dreaded website in Untraceable

Written by Robert Fyvolent,ย Mark Brinker & Allison Burnett. Directed by Gregory Hoblit

FBI agent Jennifer Marsh is tasked with hunting down a seemingly untraceable serial killer who posts live videos of his victims on the Internet. As time runs out, the cat and mouse chase becomes more personal.

The technology? Computers and the internet, most notably webcams and message boards.

Scary stuff? Nasty, certainly, and mildly scary. The untraceable killer plot seems increasingly far-fetched with so many trained FBI agents on the case (although that doesn’t stop a number of TV series from constantly milking this type of concept), and there are simply too many deaths so maintain suspense, but the race against time adds an element of excitement and Diane Lane provides a protagonist to invest in.

9. Cry_Wolf (2005)

Written by Beau Bauman & Jeff Wadlow. Directed by Jeff Wadlow

Eight unsuspecting high school seniors at a posh boarding school, who delight themselves on playing games of lies, come face-to-face with terror and learn that nobody believes a liar – even when they’re telling the truth.

The technology?ย Email and text messages mainly.

Scary stuff? This surprisingly clever and unappreciated slasher flick from Jeff Wadlow won’t raise much of a sweat or call into action the hairs on the back of your neck, but its view on social manipulation through cyber intimidation ring even truer now than upon release, making it an interesting watch.

8. Feardotcom (2002)

Written by Josephine Coyle. Directed by William Malone

Want to see a really killer website? It’s the last site you’ll ever see.

The technology? The internet in general; this was quite early on in the online boom.

Scary stuff? Based on the vast majority of reviews, you wouldn’t think so, but there is some nightmarish imagery and frenetic techniques used in William Malone’s best film that will disturb and unnerve most viewers. Having seen what the visitors then suffer, this is one website I’ll continue to stick clear of.

7. Altered States (1980)

Written by Paddy Chayefsky. Directed by Ken Russell

A Harvard scientist conducts experiments on himself with a hallucinatory drug and an isolation chamber that may be causing him to regress genetically.

The technology? Isolation/flotation tanks

Scary stuff? Ken Russell’s film, an adaption of the Paddy Chayefsky novel, shows man unraveling and decomposing in a literal sense as the mind is exposed to psychoactive drugs. Eventually saved from his degeneration at the death, Edward Jessup would’ve otherwise met one of the strangest of fates at the hand of this technology.

6. Pontypool (2008)

pontypool movie

Pontypool boasts a fantastic tagline

Written by Tony Burgess. Directed by Bruce McDonald

A psychological thriller in which a deadly virus infects a small Ontario town.

The technology? Radio

Scary stuff? With the excessive banter, opinion and advertising clogging up the airwaves every second of every day, if the English language did indeed become infected with a virus that turned it’s victims into crazed killers, we’d be doomed…

5. Demon Seed (1977)

Written by Robert Jaffe. Directed by Donald Cammell

A scientist creates Proteus–an organic super computer with artificial intelligence which becomes obsessed with human beings, and in particular the creators wife.

The technology? Artificial intelligence of the very advanced variety

Scary stuff? Very scary for Julie Christie, and relentlessly creepy for the rest of us. This is a sleazy sci-fi horror film apparently without aspirations of greatness, but even with less-than lofty goals it unsettles, due largely to the fact that the villain is created and ultimately unstoppable.

4. The Fly (1986)

Written by Charles Edward Pogue and David Cronenberg. Directed by David Cronenberg

A brilliant but eccentric scientist begins to transform into a giant man/fly hybrid after one of his experiments goes horribly wrong.

The technology? Telepods. Never heard of them?

Scary stuff? The Fly is arguably the greatest body horror film of all time, with makeup effects to rival the most accomplished of all time and a tragedy off desperation and loss at the heart of the story. Needless to say, this is classic because of these elements among many others, and not because it’s technology foretold actual advancements to come.

3. Ring (1998)

Written by Hiroshi Takahashi. Directed by Hideo Nakata

Ruthlessly murdered by her father, the ghost of a seer’s daughter kills all those who watch a wired video after 7 days; unless the viewer finds the escape clause.

The technology? Videotapes and Television. Also, the phone. Don’t answer the phone.

Scary stuff? The Western remake is scary enough, and still doesn’t come close to Hideo Nakata’s Japanese original, which sears itself into the memory of all viewers for an indefinite period. The Video Nasties movement wished for us to fear video tapes, but thankfully as there are none like that which features Sadako, and no TVs from which she can emerge.

2. Videodrome (1983)

Written and Directed by David Cronenberg

A sleazy cable-TV programmer begins to see his life and the future of media spin out of control in a very unusual fashion when he acquires a new kind of programming for his station.

The technology? Cable TV, Video tapes and VCRs

Scary stuff? Indeed. There is some brain-dead stuff on the box right now that would influence the minds of the masses who tune in hoping for sensationalism, which visionary Cronenberg realized early on and portrayed in his renowned visceral fashion.

1. Pulse (2001)

Pulse 2001

It doesn’t get much scarier than Pulse

Written and Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Japanese university students investigate a series of suicides linked to an Internet Web cam that promises visitors the chance to interact with the dead.

The technology? The internet. Do you want to meet a ghost?

Scary stuff? The original Pulse is one of the scariest, bleakest and most ambitions horror films you’ll ever see, and weaves a cautionary narrative on the loneliness created by our venturing online, despite the Internet’s best intentions to bring us together. Now close to 15 years old (a lifetime in computing), its quite remarkable that it can still be so relevant.

pulse japanese poster

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17 responses to “Top 10 Techno-Horror Films

  1. Did you ever see the ’80s movie Pulse? That scared me to death as a little kid but I wonder now if it’s even a decent movie. I barely remember the details but the electricity in a family’s house go bonkers and tries to kill them. I also remember being afraid to get in the shower after seeing it so there’s gotta me some bathroom havok in there.

  2. Love the list, Jordan! The Japanese Ring and remake are great. Ever see the Japanese horror Tetsuo The Iron Man? Does that count? It really freaked me out. Also, 1st Terminator, Lawnmower Man, and Cronenberg’s Existence. My favs here are the old school cult classics like Videodrone, The Fly, and Altered States. Oh and bonus points for Canadian indie, Pontypool. I remember Mel from Creative Fox Den has a great review online.

    • Cheers man, I haven’t seen tetsuo but was always intrigued by it when I worked at a movie shop. When I watch it I might have to revisit this list! This could’ve been mainly Cronenberg ha but I had to resist.
      Jordan

      • Haha I don’t know if seeing Tetsuo will change your list, but it will change you. Totally disturbing… I wish I had it when I owned a videostore. I could have shocked a few people. You’re Cronenberg equipped, so I’m sure you can handle it though ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. In 2005 Cry Wolf felt, in a great way, ahead of its time with the tech approach (for an American film, that is). I was strangely drawn to it and, at the time, couldn’t figure out what was so captivating. In hind sight, it did a fantastic job of creating its own urban legend, and presented itself in just that way. I’ve always loved it.

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