The gamers will save us


For more than five yearsβ€”basically since I started living aloneβ€”there is a set window of time during which I can watch horror movies: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends, and during the week never (unless I feel like some Freddy Krueger before breakfast). Because even as I settle into the throes of adulthood, I am still easily scared. I hate peeking under my bed, or behind the shower curtain, and closing my mirrored medicine cabinet still makes my heart flutter. All of which I credit to a childhood spent watching wildly inappropriate B horror movies rented from the kind of video store that had an adult section. When Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer brought the horror genre back into the mainstream in the late ‘9os, I didn’t know whether to be more excited about my favorite genre’s budding popularity, or Skeet Ulrich.

Scream creator Wes Craven’s death this week is no small loss for scary cinema, and has me reflecting on what it was about Scream that catapulted a silly slasher flick into worldwide popularity. Despite a very of-the-moment cast (did I mention Skeet Ulrich?) and genius mask work, Scream’s true strength was in its wink at the fourth wallβ€”the veil between fiction and reality that has to exist lest we start wondering why everyone in horror movies acts like they’ve never seen one before. Don’t go up the stairs! Don’t look for that laughing child! TURN AROUND!! Scream took cinematic self-awareness to the next level, as its main characters often preempted their own murders with diatribes on the inherent ridiculousness of horror movie tropes. “It was a tactic that made even Scream’s most cliche moments feel ironic and sophisticated,” I wrote in Newsweek.

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Game on

P.S. Thanks to Marisa for the recommendation!

The year is 2044, and things are not looking so great. Most of humanity is destitute, including overweight teenager Wade Watts, who lives with his aunt and hundreds of other people in “the stacks,” long rows of mobile homes stacked on top of one another and precariously held together with scaffolding. Wade’s only recourse from the shitty regular world is the OASIS, a massive online game that he, like most of the rest of the global population, is jacked into for the majority of each day. Wade attends school in the OASIS, which is also home to some ten thousand planets, housing everything from offices to complete replications of scenes or environments from Star Wars, Dungeons & Dragons and more.

The OASIS was created by James Halliday, a Steve Jobs-like genius whose love of his creation is matched only by his love of all things 1980s, a nostalgia that extends to any cultural artifact from the time: movies, music, comic books, videogames, etc. Upon his death, Halliday releases a video will that promises ownership of his company (and a $200+ billion fortune) to whoever can uncover an “easter egg” he’s buried in the game. 

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