by Eric J Baker
So how about Zachary Quinto playing Chad, the flaming bottom-bitch ghost on American Horror Story, in the same week he decided to publicly out himself? I think Quinto has an intense, camera-friendly face and is a pleasure to watch, so let’s hope his career is not damaged by the recent bombshell (it figures, though, that the guy who got to make out with Zoë Saldana in Star Trek is the one guy who wouldn’t want to in real life). Oh yeah, American Horror Story…
Regular Sunday readers know I’ve been covering FX’s lurid new haunted house series for the past month, and the show continues to push basic cable boundaries. Before this week’s opening credits ran, Quinto’s on-screen lover (Teddy Sears) boasted about cheating on him with a “power bottom” at the gym… then both of them were killed by the vinyl-suited fetish phantom that looks like a shiny version of The Gimp from Pulp Fiction. The two dead men returned to haunt the house’s current occupant, Dylan McDermott, throughout the episode, including a sequence in which Sears grabbed McDermott’s crotch and offered him head (Spoiler Alert: He declined).
Meanwhile, over on NBC, the new horror series Grimm premiered just in time for Halloween. This show centers around Nick (David Giuntoli), a cop who sees what others cannot: The beings among us who appear human but are actually monsters. So when a little girl in red is kidnapped on the way to her grandmother’s house (or something), only Nick realizes a werewolf is on the prowl. Then, he must enlist the neighborhood wolf man, Eddie (Silas Weir Mitchell), to help him track down the deadly pedovore before it’s too late!
The contrast between American Horror Story and Grimm exemplifies how basic cable pisses all over network TV when it comes to scripted shows. Grimm plays like an expensive version of a Goosebumps episode, with its almost bloodless violence, corny one-liners (the wolf man sidekick is painfully unfunny), and narrow storytelling parameters. It’s simply a cop show with werewolves, and not a good one at that. Modern TV viewers are pretty savvy about police procedure, and we know cops don’t search people’s homes without a warrant or probable cause, and cops can’t shoot a fleeing suspect in the back without committing to a substantial amount of paperwork.
Many people on the internet (which, I understand, is a series of tubes used to share information) were raving about the pilot episode, which leads me to believe that internet users are all eleven years old. The script was witless—the cop asks the wolf man where the girl is hidden, the wolf man points to the house, the cop shoots the werewolf and rescues the girl. That’s some deft police work, mate! The hero is a blank who is always ten steps behind the audience and seems to have studied the Keanu Reeves Face Expression Method. Ah, well, perhaps the set designer and DP will get more work. The show looks pretty.
You can forget scripted shows if you want to be truly terrorized, though. The scariest series of the year, by far, has been the series of GOP presidential debates where frightening freaks like Michele Bachmann and hellish hypocrites like Newt Gingrich get to pretend they will ever get within an alternate universe of the presidency. Despite being a godless, pro-gay marriage, anti-death penalty, east-coast elitist, I can still get behind some Republican ideals. Deficit reduction seems like a worthy cause. People should certainly have the right to bear arms (with sensible regulations in place). And I don’t think it’s the government’s place to tell people not to smoke or what to eat.
However, the GOP power players have dragged their Christian fundie base around for too long without paying attention to what they were doing. Well guess what: The inmates are now running the asylum and will probably put Obama back in office for four more years by nominating an unelectable fruitcake like Herman Cain or Rick Perry to run against him.
I call these folks Prime Conservatives, not because they are transforming robots (though they might be), but because they vote in the primaries. These are the people who force Mitt Romney to pretend he’s anti-choice and pro-small government, when we all know he only cares about consolidating wealth on behalf of his country club golf partners. The Prime Cons also make Cain and Perry espouse creationist hokum, a topic that will conveniently be forgotten once the nomination is secure.
But there is one thing the Prime Cons and I have in common, and that’s horror movies. I like them for their unapologetic, punk-rock sensibilities. Christian fundamentalists may not approve of such entertainment, but horror flicks sure approve of them.
Let’s consider the Prime Con platform: Low taxes, Jesus, family values, gun rights, and immigration “reform.” Though I can’t recall a movie inspired by the U.S. tax code, the other issues are well represented in cinema’s terror oeuvre, usually with a conservative point of view. Religion is affirmed regularly and definitively, from Max von Sydow chasing the devil out of Linda Blair in The Exorcist (1973) while shouting, “May the power of Christ compel you!” and splashing her with holy water to all the Dracula movies in which the deadly vamp is warded off by a crucifix (one wonders why Dracula doesn’t just move to China or India). Hammer Films’ colorful monster movies were considered decadent trash in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, but watch them now and it’s like spending an hour and a half in church, what with all the crosses being thrown around (usually accompanied by inspirational music). Curiosity: Shouldn’t Jesus be the one who recoils from the sight of a cross?
Family values (i.e., gheys and women who enjoy sex should die) are the heart of most modern horror films. In Jennifer’s Body (2009), life is simple and happy in Devil’s Kettle – Amanda Seyfried says so in the voiceover – until a Satan worshiping rock band from the big city comes to town to peddle their perversions, decimating the football team’s starting line and ruining the prom for everybody! And when it comes to dirty, vile, wretched sex, no one was done more to enforce morality than Jason Voorhees.
I don’t buy the misogyny argument about Friday the 13th movies. After all, everyone dies, not just the fornicating females, and the Girl Who Lives At the End is seldom the virginal princess the movie critics claim. Still, if you give into temptation, the big, retarded goalie will make you pay.
Gun rights and anti-immigration themes are often woven into the same tapestry of terror (sorry, I couldn’t resist) displayed both in alien invasion and zombie films. The ultimate true-to-American-values example is James Cameron’s Aliens (1986), in which a bunch of bad-ass soldiers use their firearms to wipe out the aliens that invaded a human settlement on a remote planet that the aliens found first. Does it remind me of Americans kicking Mexicans off land that used to be part of Mexico? Maybe. To the film’s credit, it also advocates for responsible gun ownership. Characters who discharge their weapons in an unsafe manner (for the shooter, this is. It’s never safe for the target) often get splattered with alien blood that dissolves flesh on contact.
Let that be a lesson to you kids. Never shoot an acid-blooded monster at close range.
But zombies are where it’s at for the pro-gun set. You’ve got to shoot the damn things in the forehead if you want to stop them. Everyone knows that. It’s why you spent all that time at the shooting range and chewed through so many rounds… So you’d be prepared for the apocalypse. Undead movies also endorse the true hunter’s credo: Don’t kill something unless you plan to eat it. Ask any zombie.
Well, it’s been fun touring horrorland with you this October. I could go on with the Republicans and Horror Movies motif for hours, but now I’m thinking I’ll turn it into a book just in time for next year’s election. Since no one is rushing to offer me an advance for such a project, I have decided to accept donations. Note: I’m willing to take leftover Reece’s peanut butter cups in lieu of cash.