2002 was a year riddled with worry over the fact that we were moving rapidly into the Digital Age; this worry/anxiety showed up in the horror movies that year, namely The Ring and feardotcom. The Ring (2002) was about an urban legend circulating in the area about a videotape that kills you once you watch it. Today, this premise seems dumb since nobody uses VHS players or tapes anymore; it’s largely a forgotten medium but at the time, DVD was still pretty new. I remember in my house, we had 2 DVDs in 2001 by 2002, we had a few more but they were mildly expensive so we didn’t collect for a few years. Urban legends (just legends to folklorists; I use the term because that’s how most people understand what I’m talking about) are stories about every day/mundane life that are just too good of a story to possibly be the truth (Brunvand). A killer videotape is too good of a story, even mildly dumb enough to be passed on because it’s ridiculous. Urban legends express anxieties about the world we live in as erring humans. Horror movies act as commentary about what’s currently scaring us while often also noting the issues of time period such as racism, inequality, sexism, etc. A horror movie about an urban legend bombards us with messaging about the current anxiety: technology. Big TV’s, cell phones, internet, and as a result, disconnection from each other. Was all of this new stuff really good for us?, they wondered. Moreover, was it safe? Feardotcom (2002) jumps right into this issue: a website that kills you if you visit it; you die of fright. It explores the idea of something dangerous reaching us from the comfort of our homes. The internet was still newer, ever-expanding at that point in time, so it was valid to ask that question. Those of us living now consider the internet to be both an amazing and simultaneously horrific thing all at once. These fears of not being safe, of talking to the wrong person, of being catfished and such evolved along with us, spawning later movies like Untraceable (2009) of a killer using views to continually hurt people; the hit count on his website is what ultimately kills people. Newer incarnations involve the supernatural as a means to explain how someone could infiltrate the internet so effectively/weirdly to be even stranger than a human killer. How do you kill a malevolent spirit and then, over the internet? Impossible. Anyway, horror movie rant over. Just the sort of thing I think about because I’m a folklorist.
Brunvand, Jan Harold. Too Good to Be True: The Colossal Book of Urban Legends.
Malone, William. 2002. feardotcom. Tubi.
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