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Liberty at the movies: Halloween edition

This is the season for ghouls, witches and other monsters to be on the prowl...and in addition to the election, Halloween is just around the corner. So those of you who don't find the election significantly scary, or are looking for some pretend scares to take your mind off the real terrors of politics, you may want to relax with a good horror movie.

Horror films, like the related genres of society fiction and fantasy, naturally lend themselves to political allegories, so chilling out with a chiller does not mean taking a complete break from politics.

Here are some famous horror movies with a political slant of interest to supporters of individual liberty:

1. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)-- A classic movie, this is the tale of small California town under siege by pods from outer space.

The pods take control of human beings when they sleep. Those under the pods control look, walk, and talk, the same but they are devoid of all emotion and only work to advance the interests of the pods.

The allegory to communism is quite clear, although some have claimed the film is really criticizing the anti-communist hysteria of the McCarthy-era.

2. Night of the Living Dead (1968)--  One of the greatest horror movies ever, and I do not just say that because it was filmed in my home town of Pittsburgh and features a cameo from Pittsburgh legend the  Bill "Chilly Billy" Cardille host of  the Saturday night horror movie show Chiller Theater.

Film maker George Romero uses his tale of six individuals forced to either work together or die at the hands of the invading zombies to not just scare the audience, but to examine the political and social conflicts of the late sixties.

3. Dawn of the Dead (1979)-- Romero's sequeal largely retells the same story as the first, with some ramped up gore, and added satire. The satire comes from the film's location in a shopping mall, where zombies wonder aimlessly because, as one character explains, "they feel they belong there."

While this is intended as a left-wing critique of capitalism, libertarians may see a critique of how the Federal Reserve's erosion of our purchasing power leads to short-term thinking that encourages mindless consumerism.

4. 28 Days Later (2002)-- An update of the classic zombie invasion story. The film's main innovation is replacing the traditional slow-moving zombies with fast moving zombies. The zombie plague in this movie is started by animal rights activists who free a chimpanzee from a research lab. The chimp has been infected with the zombie virus.

In addition to zombies, the heroes have to fight off a band of rouge soldiers determined to wait out the infection while repopulating the human race with kidnapped victims; a commentary on how those with state power use crisis to justify violating the rights of those they are supposed to protect.

5. The Mist (2007)-- One of two Stephen King movies on the list. This overlooked movie examines what happens when people are trapped in a grocery store because if they go outside they may be devoured by monsters hiding in a fog that has engulfed their town.

As in the zombie films above, the film shows how humans can be as monstrous as the supernatural threats. In The Mist, fear leads people to turn on each other and believe the claims of one fanatic that the "curse" can be lifted by sacrificing one of the sinners.

6. The Omen (1976), Damien: The Omen Two (1978), Omen Three: The Final Conflict (1981)-- The original Omen is a classic, the other two....not so much. The story of the Antichrist makes the list because the demon spawn is raised by a wealthy and political influential family in the manner of the Rockefellers, Kennedys, and Bushes.

The final entree in the series shows Damien using his position as ambassador to Britain as a stepping stone to greater political power.

Murray Rothbard was a big fan of The Omen in part because it showed how the Anti-Christ would emerge from the political class.

7. Godzilla (1954, 2014 plus numerous sequels and spin-offs)--- One of the most popular franchises in horror history. As many of you know, Godzilla is a giant, fire-breathing dinosaur awakened by the nuclear bombs dropped on Japan, and serves as a commentary on the unintended consequences of the use of nuclear weapons as well as war itself.

The 2014 reboot made the politics more explicit than in past versions, and is also an excellent film. However, I remain partial to the cheesy "man in a rubber suit" 60's movies.

8. Ghostbusters (1984)--  With apologies to Abbot and Costello, this is the funniest horror-comedy of all time, and one of the most libertarian.

The tale of three "paranormal" scientists who, upon losing there jobs at a (presumably) taxpayer-funded university to start a private business busting ghosts (reluctantly because as one of them puts it "I've worked in the private sector, they expect results), the film features one of the best portrayals of how regulators interfere with private business to the determent of all.

In Ghostbusters, the final conflict is set off by an EPA bureaucrat (or do I repeat myself) who shuts down the machine that the Ghostbusters use to trap ghosts.

9. They Live (1988)-- Aliens seize control of our government and media and brainwash us via hidden messages to submit, obey, and consume. Another film that is seen as leftist but might be more accurately considered libertarian (since these schemes would not work unless the aliens controlled the government) it is just a fun movie with a great performance by wrestling legend Rowdy Rody Piper.

10 The Dead Zone (1983)-- The second Stephen King movie on the list and perfect for an election year Halloween party. Christopher Walken (who could terrify people reading a menu) plays a man with the ability to glimpse into someone's future simply by touching them. A chance encounter with a leading presidential candidate (played by Martin Sheen, who later played a statist's dream President in The West Wing) cause him to see that electing this candidate will lead to nuclear war.

 


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