‘Saw VI,’ 2009
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The politics of horror

‘Saw VI,’ 2009
The audacity of hope elected a president, but jobs, healthcare and housing were still problematic. When William Easton denies a man a loan to get medical care (he later dies), it’s the first of many choices that twist morality and propels this franchise. (Steve Wilkie / Lionsgate)
‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,’ 1974
By the early 1970s, hippies and the counterculture had skewed from flower children to Charles Manson’s creepy ‘family.’ Playing on the fears evoked by twisting traditional family values, the film gave audiences a family of cannibalistic Texans with a love for power tools. ()
‘Dawn of the Dead,’ 2004
When you’re reduced to a mindless creature shuffling on Earth driven by your basest desires, what do you do? You eat your fellow man and head to the mall. That’s the satiric underpinning of both the 1978 original and the supercharged 2004 remake. (Universal Studios)
‘Hostel,’ 2005
Eli Roth’s gory tale of American tourists waylaid at an Eastern European hostel -- where a “thrill-kill” industry thrives -- played off of domestic discomfort with tales of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib in Iraq and the sense among Americans that travel overseas wasn’t safe. (Lionsgate)
Friday the 13th, 1980
Baby boomers, exhausted by the Vietnam War and a recession, were heading toward a more conservative mind-set by the end of the 1970s. Beset by growing media reports of child molesters and random violence, they feared for their children’s safety. Jason Voorhees became the perfect boogeyman to embody those fears--a hatchet-wielding misfit who had no tolerance for recreational drug use and premarital sex. (Ava Gerlitz / New Line Cinema)
Ringu/The Ring, 2002
Modern-day Japan has become a tech powerhouse, but it can be a lonely and alienating place. All the negative feelings were embodied in the 1998 Japanese film’s haunted video tape, making the rounds through society and killing people left alone to watch it. Both the film and its American remake were hits, with the original being the highest grossing film in Japanese history. (DreamWorks)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1956
The Red Scare and congressional witch hunts are commonly associated with this thriller about pod people slowly taking over a sleepy Southern California community. But moviegoers were scared mostly about becoming Ozzie and Harriet. ()
The Host, 2006
Korea’s answer to “Godzilla” has an American-spawned creature wreaking havoc across Seoul. You don’t have to dig deep in this old-fashioned monster movie to see the obvious resentments against U.S. imperialism overseas. (Magnolia Pictures)
The Steven Spielberg-written-and-produced, Tobe Hooper-directed “Poltergeist” (1982) screens tonight at the American Cinematheque’s Aero Theatre to open up the series “Apparitions, Hauntings & Supernatural Sightings.” (MGM)
Alien, 1979
The Love Canal toxic waste incident in New York reminded Americans that big corporations don’t always have their best intentions at heart. In director Ridley Scott’s haunted-house-in-space flick, a big corporation sends an unwitting mining ship to a desolate planet to secretly bring a really, really nasty alien back to Earth.
An earlier version of this caption said the Love Canal was in New Jersey. —

The Fly, 1986
The notion that modern science is out of control crops up all the time in horror films, and director David Cronenberg brilliantly combined that fear with the mid-1980s AIDS scare by having scientist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) slowly rot into a giant fly after his teleportation experiment goes awry. (Attila Dori)