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Alan Moore on the Call to Action of “Modernist Horror”

Here’s writer Alan Moore with a definition of “Modernist Horror” and a compelling case for why genre film can be a call to action.
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By  · Published on July 29th, 2020

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we look at genre film montage set to writer Alan Moore’s definition of “modernist horror.” 

Fear defines horror, as a genre. In a literal sense that can mean things like a fear of chainsaws, home invasion, or knife-wielding men who wear Captain Kirk masks. But, if you look deeper, subdermal spooks speak to deep-set concerns we have as a species: a fear of what we’ve done, of what we’re doing, and of course, what we’ll do.

The term “modern horror” is sometimes deployed casually to mean “any horror movie that came out in the last ten years.” I’ve also seen it appear erroneously as a stand-in for “elevated horror.” But, when Watchmen author Alan Moore describes “modern horror” in a 2015 interview with John Higgs, he means “modernist horror.” And by modernist horror, he means a horror directed squarely at the future — a time when humanity will be able to organize all of its knowledge and either embrace illumination or flee into the reassuring shadows.

The video essay below pairs Alan Moore’s ominous definition with clips from future-facing horror like THX 1138, Videodrome, and Hardware. The result is both an evocative visual accompaniment to Moore’s description, and a chilling call to action. A reminder that “modernist” horrorshows do not always stay on the screen.

Watch “Modern Horror“:

Who made this?

Film editor and writer Benjamin Shearn created this video. His last feature, Ladyworld, screened at BFI London, Fantastic Fest, and TIFF: Next Wave, and it was presented as part of the Frontieres Showcase at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival. This specific video, narrated by Alan Moore, is a part of Sheran’s new video essay series “Driftless Significance.”

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).