Widescreen: When horror and politics collide

  • Regular American citizens become sadistic killers in the political horror tale "The Purge: Election Year."

    Regular American citizens become sadistic killers in the political horror tale "The Purge: Election Year."

 
 
Updated 10/29/2020 12:19 PM

Here it is, the scariest time of the year: No, not Halloween, Election Day!

This year's one-two punch of Halloween and Election Day feels more like a one-two-eight-10, given ... well, everything.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Horror movies are often political by nature, in an allegorical sense, but sometimes the two things explicitly intersect. Here are some last-minute suggestions to cap off spooky season at home.

"The Purge: Election Year" (2016)

The conceit of this franchise spanning four movies and two seasons of TV: In an America of the future, one day per year contains a 12-hour period in which nothing is illegal. Nothing. This third film installment stars Elizabeth Mitchell ("Lost") as a presidential candidate who wants to end this lawlessness -- her entire family was killed on Purge night when she was a child. The politician becomes prey when an opposition party tries to take advantage of the crime-free day in this twisty movie that certainly holds your attention more than the tame, tedious original starring Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey. (Available for digital rental and purchase.)

Christopher Walken sees a dark future in "The Dead Zone."
Christopher Walken sees a dark future in "The Dead Zone." - Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
"The Dead Zone" (1983)

One of Stephen King's earliest big-screen chillers stars Christopher Walken as a teacher who gains psychic abilities after a car accident. He helps the police catch a killer and has a scary premonition about his student ("The ICE ... is gonna BREAK!"), but the real scares come when he shakes the hand of an up-and-coming politician and foresees a horrible fate for the entire globe. The actor playing that politician? None other than Jed Bartlet himself, Martin Sheen. (Streaming for free on mediaverse.plex.tv.)

Will Johnson (Anthony Mackie) and President Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) save America in "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter."
Will Johnson (Anthony Mackie) and President Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) save America in "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter." - Associated Press
"Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" (2012)

OK, so this one might not be historically accurate (as far as we know), but the image of Honest Abe (Benjamin Walker) charging into supernatural battle while swinging an ax is certainly fun. Producer Tim Burton certainly has spooky cred, and so does director Timur Bekmambetov, whose "Night Watch" is a nice bit of extra credit for your vampire scholars out there. (Available for digital rental and purchase.)

• Sean Stangland is an assistant news editor who also debated whether John Frankenheimer's "The Manchurian Candidate" belonged on this list, but decided that was more a thriller than a horror movie. But you should watch it anyway -- and the Jonathan Demme remake from 2004.

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