Top ten techno horror films

Enter a state of techno panic with the best films about mankind's fear of the new

Arts+Culture Top Ten
Videodrome

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People have been terrified by the advancement of technology for centuries. Long before the Luddites smashed up England's dark satanic mills (read: cotton factories) in the 1800s, 15th century scientists were in a techno panic over the printing press. It took the invention of film cameras and the mad genius of certain filmmakers to bring this fear to audiences across the world – but given the ever-increasing pace of technology and its dubious uses by mankind, maybe we should be scared. Here are ten of the most horrifying movies based around technology.

Ringu (1998)

It's not much of a stretch to say Hideo Nakata's notorious J-horror classic is one of the scariest films ever made. Following a journalist as she investigates rumours of a cursed videotape that kills teenagers, Ringu is equal parts mystery thriller, family drama and scream-at-the-TV ghost story, and although the idea of a murderous VHS tape might not sound as scary as it did in 1998, when you see the ghost of a dead girl crawling out of a TV it doesn't really make much difference how it got in there.

Pulse (2001)

The Japanese seem to love a good techno-ghost story. Widely considered to be Kiyoshi Kurosawa's masterpiece, Pulse is about ghosts invading Tokyo through the internet and how the people of the city find a way to survive. Like Ringu, the horror of Pulse is built around its atmosphere, and Kurosawa slowly builds the tension before the devastating pay off at the end, which ranks among the bleakest in modern cinema. Let's just say I wouldn't go looking for Kurosawa on Twitter.

Videodrome (1983)

David Cronenberg is the master of technology based horrors, but there's one that stands above them all. Videodrome follows a sleazy TV executive who stumbles upon a mysterious show that broadcasts nothing but violence and torture and makes him hallucinate weird bodily mutations - and Debbie Harry. Videodrome is a weird movie, even for Cronenberg, but underneath all the stomach vaginas and gun hands lies a troubling comment on the dangers of television. Thirty years later, it seems he was right to worry.

Hidden (2005)

Austere Austrian arthouse director Michael Haneke has made a name for himself with his bleak films about society in decline. Hidden is no different, focusing on a rich family in France who are terrorised by mysterious surveillance tapes that arrive at their door, showing the outside of their house. As the mystery of who's making the tapes gets progressively more complicated, Haneke ramps up the tension, making Hidden one of his most unsettling works to date.

Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1988) 

A landmark of cyberpunk cinema, Tetsuo: The Iron Man follows a man who starts to transform into a strange metal creature after a car accident involving a someone obsessed with sticking scrap metal into their body. Tetsuo revels in its own fucked up ideas from start to finish, and although it's short, it's certainly an unforgettable approach to man's increasing lack of humanity and overreliance on robotics. Also, giant power-drill penis, anyone?

Pontypool (2008)

Zombie movies usually go one of two ways: either the dead are brought back to life for some reason, or the living are struck down by some kind of virus that makes them crave human flesh. Bruce McDonald's Pontypool is the second of these, but with a twist: the virus spreads through human speech, and it's down to a local radio DJ to save his town. Inventive, scary and bitingly satirical (sorry), Pontypool is the kind of movie that makes the horror genre so interesting.

The Host (2006)

Taking the general story of Godzilla and updating it with modern eco-commentary, Bong Joon-Ho's The Host is about a strange amphibious monster that emerges from a Korean river and causing havoc in a small town. Opening with shots of American scientists pouring chemicals down a drain, The Host isn't the most subtle of satires, but its pro-environment, anti-chemical message is heard loud and clear over equally funny and creepy scenes of monster-based mayhem.

Demon Seed (1977)

Julie Christie stars as a woman impregnated by a computer in Donald Cammell's creepy Demon Seed, one of the strangest films of her impressive acting career. The filmis basically a sci-fi version of Rosemary's Baby, and while it never reaches the heights of Polanski's filmit remains an almost unbearably creepy vision of the future of artificial intelligence - with one of the bleakest endings.

eXistenZ (1999)

Another Cronenberg film, this time the great Canadian director tackles the idea of video game culture. Following a game designer as she tests a new virtual reality game with a focus group, eXistenZ, like Videdrome, constantly blurs the line between reality and fantasy, leading the characters to question the consequences of their actions in game and IRL. It's intelligent stuff, as you'd expect from Cronenberg, but what's most impressive is that his message is somehow more relevant now than it was in 1999.

The Lawnmower Man (1992)

Based on a Stephen King short story, The Lawnmower Man is about a scientist who tests his newly designed virtual reality software on a gardener with a learning disability to see how it affects his intelligence. When the experiment opens the gardener's mind to a whole new level of intelligence, he becomes dangerous, and he has to be stopped. Made in 1992 with state of the art computer effects, The Lawnmower Man remains a sinister examination of the dangers of technology - even if it looks like it was made on MS Paint.

This feature is the third part of a series examining tropes in horror movies. For the first part, on body horror, click here. The second part, on women in horror, is here

You can also turn yourself into a horror story with these #DARKARTS overlays.

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