Video Essay: Modern Horror

In the second part of his Driftless Significance video essay series, Benjamin Shearn looks at horror's departure from its classical roots.

There’s always a lot of clamoring (these days, in particular) over contemporary horror’s rich metaphorical prowess; “The Babadook is GRIEF!” and so on. But straightforward symbolism isn’t what separates horror of the modern era from the Gothic era. For me, only the half-scholar/half-mystic mind of Alan Moore can really define that separation with the right balance of erudition and psychedelic foresight.

Here I’ve purged a small swath from an interview with Moore by author John Higgs in 2015. In just five dense sentences, Moore not only articulates the literary distinction but also implies the Modern Horror of our moment; that frightening, chaotic, decivilizing effect technology inflicts on society. A phenomena encoded in the thematic DNA of films such as THX-1138, Videodrome and Hardware.

This one’s short, just a morsel, something to begin, not end, the conversation.

Benjamin Shearn is a film editor and writer. His last feature, Ladyworld, premiered at BFI London, Fantastic Fest, TIFF: Next Wave and was presented as part of the Frontieres Showcase at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival. Shearn’s work in narrative and documentary films has also been exhibited at ComicCon San Diego, the Louisiana Museum of Art in Copenhagen, la Gaîté lyrique in Paris, as well as official selections of the CPH:DOX, Melbourne International, Planete+Doc, TIFF After Dark, Court Metrage du Clermont, Chicago and Boston Underground Film Festivals, amongst others. For more of his work, go to and/or follow his absurd Instagram account @actorsupset.