How Security Systems, the Internet, and Cell Phones Changed Horror Cinema

It goes without saying that technology is quite possibly the center of our modern lives. We use our smartphones to text, update our multiple social media accounts, and take and share pictures almost constantly. Cable seems obsolete now that online streaming services are readily available for almost any niche film or show. And many of us are always glued to our computer screens, at home and at work.

But once upon a time, technology was far less advanced than it is today, and this fact played a large part in the plots of many films of the past. Without the technology to contact the outside world, alert authorities if there was trouble, and research just about anything they could think of, these characters had had a hard time resolving the conflict at the center of their movie plots. It’s hard to imagine that characters in today’s movies would face the same problems, as they have modern technology readily available to them.


In one of the most suspenseful and terrifying home invasion films of the last twenty years, the characters of 1997’s Funny Games find themselves at the mercy of two young men who take them hostage, force them to play sadistic games, and kill them off one by one. Their chances of escape are thwarted easily by the destruction of one telephone – the only one the characters have. Twenty years ago, this was a feasible plot device, but today, it wouldn’t stand up. In today’s world, each family member would have their own cell phone, so it’s not likely that a household would only have one phone. Even if the murderers were to take every phone in sight, there’s likely to be an old iPhone stashed away somewhere that one of the victims could sneakily turn on and call for help.


On a much lighter note, the main character of the classic holiday film Home Alone (1990), Kevin, also has to contend with home invaders in the form of two bungling burglars. He uses a manual form of security – micro cars to trip them up and paint cans suspended on rope to knock them down, for example – to foil the robbers before they can steal all of his parents’ valuable items. He does a pretty good job of it too, but he could have been saved a lot of time and effort if he’d just had a security system that could alert the police that they were needed. Our modern security systems can be remotely activated and alerts can be sent out immediately with the touch of a button or even a voice command. Authorities would have been called in almost immediately, and the home invaders would have been forced to flee or be arrested.


Those aren’t the only films that would find their entire plots changed with the addition of modern technology. The Ring (2002) centers on a cursed VHS tape that kills viewers a week after watching it. The protagonist of the film has to go through a lot of trouble to research the tape and find out why it’s killing people, and possibly how to stop it from doing so. Nowadays, she could just do some internet sleuthing to find out the sordid history of the tape and the little girl haunting it. More importantly, VHS technology has been long dead, and the film would likely have to be updated to feature a cursed DVD or viral video.


Although cell phones were definitely around in the 90s, it was still considered a luxury item, and the majority of people did not have one. This is why in 1996’s Scream, Billy was suspected of being the killer. Had Scream been made today, it seems like anyone could have been Ghostface, as everyone has a cell phone or two. Additionally, smartphones have come a long way since the 90s, with caller ID, GPS tracking, and callback services. Ghostface would have been caught almost instantly if he were to try his act of terrorism today.

Technology plays a big part in the world we live in, and there’s no exception for movie plots and fictional stories. In order to make current stories believable, technological devices often have to suddenly suffer from major malfunctions, or the villains of the films would have to be overly competent in order to bypass the technology altogether. Although we can look back at older movies and laugh at their implausible plots today, there’s no doubt that our current technology could be a thing of the past tomorrow.

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