It’s 11:59 on December 31st and you’re by the Thames. Or maybe on the beach in Sydney or Rio de Janeiro. And you’re anxiously waiting for the New Year countdown, hoping that no further disasters will strike in the few moments left in 2016.
Social, economic and polical chaos and divide reign in the UK, a deeply racist and egomaniacal p***y-grabber was elected to run the US, a coup d’état was staged in Brazil, peace was rejected in Colombia and a string of amazing good guys are dead: Abbas Kiarostami, Hector Babenco, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen and George Michael, to name just a few losses. What else could could possibly go wrong?
You cross your fingers and look at the sky, keen to see the impending fireworks. So there we go: ten… nine… eight… seven… six… five… four… three… two… one… and…
THIS IS JUST A MOVIE!!!
To your surprise there are no fireworks at all. Instead you see an enormous projection in the sky which says: “The End. 2016 was a movie directed by M. Night Shyamalan, based on the eponymous book by Stephen King. Executive producers: David Lynch and David Cronenberg”. And the credits roll on. Wow, such a relief knowing that all these horrible things were pure fiction. You should’ve known all along reality could never be THIS perverse. This year was just a bad movie that never wanted to come to and end… until now!
Now we can rejoice: we still live in a progressive world, the values of diversity and tolerance prevail in the UK, Trump will never become president, democracy is strong in Latin America and David Bowie is still singing “Golden years, come get up my baby, look at that sky, life’s begun!”
You knew all along that this year wasn’t real. All the anguish, the pain, all the absurd developments, they had to be concocted by a very twisted – if genius – mind. It was Shyamalan who came up with the whole Trump idea, and he scares the bejeezus out of us. US elections were far more hair-raising and gut-wrenching than seeing dead people. Brexit was an suggestion by David Cronenberg. He drew inspiration from his own films Videodrome (1993) and eXistenZ (1999), where he counfounded his viewers with twisted version of multilayered world, challenging our preconceptions of reality and identity.
David Lynch also contributed with his unmistakable streak of surrealism from Lost Highway (1997) and Mullholland Drive (2001): nothing and no one are quite what they seem, and the chronology doesn’t make any sense. The narrative is complex and deceitful, and there is no redemption in the end. Terrifying stuff.
Your favourite horror classics
But 2016 wasn’t an arty film. Shyamalan and King threw in a lot of classic horror devices, ensuring that everyone gets the movie message loud and clear. They recycled these artifices from their old favourites. Trump’s look is a hybrid of Creature of the Black Lagoon (Jack Arnold, 1954) with the eyes and the hair from the kids in Children of the Corn (Fritz Kiersch, 1984; based on a short story by King himself). The avuncular Nigel Farage was inspired on evil clown from It (Lawrence Cohen, 1990; and another one by King).
But horror isn’t just slime and offensive faces. The psychological mind tricks and suspense have to conduct the narrative. I would hazard a guess that the director watched Don Siegel’s The Invasion of Body Snatchers (1956) with the pod people taking over. This explains why we can hardly recognise some of our closest friends and relatives. Aliens have produced a duplicate replacement copy of each human we know. That’s why everyone has been acting so weird, voicing absurd opinions and engaging in absurd and obscene behaviour!
There is little doubt that Shyamalan also watched George Romero’s The Night of The Living Dead (1968), which explains why everyone is suddenly scared of the immigrants coming from outside. Their here for no plausible reason for their invasion. They simply want to eat your brains and take away your loved ones. So run, take arms and fend for your families!
And do you remember the night of October 9th? Did you wake up with a very eerie feeling? Well, there’s an explanation for that, too. And that was a twist taken from Wolf Rilla’s Village of the Damned (1960). There was a blackout in the entire world for six hours. Women got mysteriously pregnant and they are about to give birth to evil children with mind-reading powers who want to take over the world (pictured at the top of the article). The worst is still to come.
2016 is a truly disturbing film, and we must hope that there won’t be numerous sequels, and that the antagonist doesn’t keep coming back to life in a different shape or form. This should be a one-off horror instead!
Whatever your opinion of the movie, curtains are now down and the lights are on. It’s finally OVER! Let’s now hope that 2017 brings us more of the colours and emotions of Almodóvar, and less of the torturing twists of Lynch and shocking horrors of Shyamalan.