I spent the day after Christmas arguing with strangers on Facebook. I spent a couple of hours grappling with a meme in my local community discussion group. The meme was such a dog whistle that I am surprised I have yet to have been mauled by a werewolf. It was a dumb meme that featured a “good ol’ boy” commenting on the idea that homeless and poor people today can check their food stamp balance on their smartphone. And yes, it had the requisite Confederate flag stamp on it.
While yes, this sounds like a horror story of someone having entirely too much time on their hands, it’s not necessarily what I want to discuss. The ensuing discussion on the comment thread hit on something for me: How has horror tackled class-division? More specifically… how has horror addressed themes of homelessness?
Class-consciousness in horror is nothing new. One of the most recent and popular class-conscious horror series would be The Purge in which the elites exert control over the less affluent by creating “purge days.” As a whole, they’re not great, but they are at least trying to explore these divisions. 2008’s Repo! The Genetic Opera revolves around a megacorp that hunts down people who default on their payments on their organs. There are a lot of class-conscious horror films out there.
i09 had a list of horror films that deal with themes of class, but none of them are really hitting that spot I have been thinking about. I mean, there are some amazing films there, but not what I am quite looking for. I am specifically interested in how homelessness is explored in horror. Whether there is a movie that reflects the anxieties and traumas of having no safe space in a world that seems to hate and judge you constantly.
The homeless are victims of increasing violence. The homeless population is seen by society, largely, as people not to be trusted. Evidence shows, however, that this should go both ways. Back in the mid-2010s, Japan had a rather public problem of the homeless being assaulted by Japanese youths.
Society conditions people to inherently distrust the poor and homeless. Often I was told that instead of giving money to someone who is homeless, that I should offer to buy them food… after all, they’ll probably just use the money of drugs or alcohol. It has taken a lot of reflection and growth to grow out of this conditioning on my end, but I highly doubt the majority of people do this, thus that distrust persists.
Another film, which I reviewed as part of my Drive-In recaps is Street Trash. It is not particularly flattering or sympathetic to the homeless. There are other horror films out there that feature the homeless, of course. For example, 2011’s The Tunnel, an Aussie found-footage horror film, features tunnels occupied by the homeless, but it isn’t so much about them. In my experience, if someone is homeless in a horror film, they’re most often a disposable body, an object.
Where are the homeless horror films where the terrorizing of the homeless is visible through their perspective?
I live in an area that has many, many homeless people. I live south of Los Angeles, in a region known as the Inland Empire. While California as a whole is dealing with an increasing homeless population, so too is my county. Currently, I live across the street from a shopping center that is filled with the homeless and every couple of days I see them shuffled off by the police.
My own feelings on homelessness are particularly strong because I have been there.
At this point, I am still very much searching for some media that tackles the pain and fear that comes with homelessness from the homeless perspective. One film I stumbled upon was a VR film titled The Killer that explores the metaphor of homelessness.
You can watch it on YouTube, naturally. It is a 360-degree experience and fairly immersive.
It’s interesting, but it doesn’t quite scratch that itch for me. The metaphor is just a bit too abstract. Closer to what I am seeking is the Korean animated zombie film Seoul Station, which I also happened to review. The film is distinctly Korean, but it does hit on some things I want to see using the lens of zombies.
It features homeless characters centrally, and it does explore how they are cast out by society. The homeless of Seoul Station are still victims, of course. Many of the homeless figures of the film die and are treated as disposable. But where Seoul Station succeeds is that many of the people who live on the streets, already having been cast out and forced to survive, have an advantage over those who have wealth and homes.
So What the Hell am I Looking For?
To a degree, I am still trying to figure out what I want. I suppose I am waiting for a watershed moment for the poor and homeless in horror. I am waiting for that watershed moment. When will the homeless’ Get Out be released?
I have ideas – I am a writer – I can’t help but think of how I would tackle poverty horror stories when I am examining the media-landscape. But that is an entirely different topic from this one. I wanted to explore the idea of class-conscious horror and poverty horror. My admittedly informal survey tells me that, perhaps, there is a void needed to be filled, here. I believe that horror, as a genre, is a tool of social awareness. Perhaps we should use that tool to explore the plight of the homeless.