Scary Movie Month is our annual celebration of all things horror, thirty-one days of blood-soaked mayhem catalogued for your convenience into handy, seven-word reviews. Ghosts, goblins, cannibalistic, sex-perverted, Italian serial killers — we’ve got it all. This time of year always sparks its share of interesting discussions: We’ve debated whether or not horror movies have to be scary to be effective. We’ve talked about the quirks and fetishes that drive us to horror in the first place. For reasons passing understanding, we’ve also debated whether or not a movie about a child-murdering space clown should be considered horror (there are flaws in our system, but we’re working on it). Though I’m on record as being relatively new to the horror genre, I’m coming to appreciate it more and more the longer I’m a part of this community. However, when really pressed to think of a truly horrifying film, one that I’m actually afraid to watch, my thoughts never go to guts or gore. They go to ideas. Ideas are scary, not only in the sense that the monster in your mind is always more frightening than the one on screen, but also that ideas take us over and drive us to action, often with horrible results. With that in mind, I believe the scariest film I’ve ever seen to be 1998’s American History X.
While American History X features a few instances of graphic and horrifying violence, the truly frightening elements lay in the commitment and focus of Derek’s hate. He believes that white America is the only America, that hard-working, law-abiding white communities are being infected by invasive “border-jumpers” who haven’t earned the right to share that space. He believes the infamous Rodney King incident was corrupted by the media, who focused on the police violence rather than King’s own felonious behavior. He believes multiculturalism breeds a disrespect for “conventional morality” and “neighborhood cooperation.” Of course, he’ll hear no arguments about judicial prejudice, economic inequality, or the countless roadblocks preventing immigrants and minorities from achieving true social agency. The slaves were freed over one hundred years ago, he says. When are black people going to get their acts together? He sees no problem with anti-Semitism. He sees no relationship between poverty and crime. He only sees his hate. His hate makes sense to him; his World Order is uncomplicated and pure. These are obvious solutions to serious problems, he says. Why can’t the rest of us see it?