Really scary movies: films about energy, anxiety and disaster

November 21, 2012

from National Geographic Great Energy Challenge

As evidenced by all the October cable movie marathons, Halloween season is the time when people like to watch scary movies.

I tend to watch an inordinate amount of scary movies myself, for reasons I probably don’t want to know. It’s no secret that horror films are often reflections of cultural anxieties, and many a Ph.D. thesis has been written on aspects of the topic.

As we discussed a few weeks back, NBC’s new drama Revolution directly confronts our worries about energy, and what happens when the lights go out. The series is set in a post-apocalyptic world 15 years after a mysterious worldwide blackout.

There have been dozens of sci-fi movies, horror films and thrillers over the years that address – directly or indirectly – our cultural anxieties about blackouts, energy crises and subsequent disasters. Here’s a sampling, and feel free to make your won recommendations in the comments field below. This Halloween, forget about ghosts and vampires. Go for the really scary stuff.

The China Syndrome (1979)

Probably the granddaddy of all Big Energy anxiety movies, The China Syndrome is named after a gallows-humor term describing a nuclear power plant meltdown that burns into the earth, clear through to China. In the film, Jane Fonda and Jack Lemmon try to prevent just such a scenario, and in a bizarre case of art anticipating life, the film was released just 12 days before the Three Mile Island nuclear accident occurred on March 28, 1979. The China Syndrome is a relatively thoughtful disaster movie that sparked a new wave of anti-nuclear hysteria when it hit theaters.

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