So, John and I are driving around, and between the GPS in the cars and our phones, it’s a very well-informed trip. And it came up in casual discussion that many many horror movie plots have been rendered unworkable by the existence of these things–GPS systems and cellphones.
This is pretty obvious stuff; it ties back to the truism about horror movies being, in many ways, about isolation. Being able to dial 911 and start hiking out with a map that shows you your heading and the distance to the highway makes things a lot more manageable. (Or, you know, the amusing values of being able to Google something like “chainsaw sabotage”… But I digress.)
We went back to it later, a bit. If you eliminate the tactical elements of isolation, then what you’re left with is two options. There’s social isolation (“they won’t believe me” or “they didn’t believe me”) which has a long and storied history, including those godawful fifties movies about the aliens landing and the teenagers being the only ones to see them. Or else there’s self-imposed isolation, where the protagonists don’t want to call for help; what that sprang to mind was them being in a haunted house where they had no right to be, but Session 9 is also a beautiful example. The guy needs the job, there’s no way to leave and get it done, and he can’t afford to take the time to call for help. Alright, yes, there is definitely an element of social isolation there; that’s fine. One kind doesn’t need to do all the work.
So I am discussing this with John, and he points out that splitting up becomes a lot less frightening, a lot more manageable, if you have something like Google Latitude in place. You know where people are, you can track them. And I nod in agreement, and then he smiles and points out that it isn’t true.
“You don’t know where I am. You know where my phone is.”
I do confess I shuddered. (A lovely moment over lunch, to be sure.)
Because that takes it out of isolation and into uncertainty, which is the other great foundation of horror. The world crumbling out from under you, slowly or suddenly. In some ways it ties to isolation–not having anything you can be sure of to reach out to–but it’s a basically different development. It’s the horror of “The calls are coming from inside the house!“, which relies not on there being no-one to help but on the space that you were sure was safe being taken away.
So that’s something else to look to, I guess. Not sure how much good it’d be for movies, which don’t necessarily have a lot of time to establish certainty, but definitely something to keep in mind for written work.
(ObDisclaimer: no, not all horror movies rely on isolation. Scream, f’r ex, handles the advent of the ubiquitous cellphone quite well.)
 See also: all the travel horror that involves being surrounded by those terrible strange Other People (usually brown).
 Or this 90s movie about four suburban guys out for a night on the town who accidentally see a murder and don’t want to call for help because they hit someone with their car… I will try and look up the title later.
 …echoes of HP Lovecraft, actually…