Today is Presidents' Day, a holiday -- officially called Washington's Birthday by the federal government -- that honors the memory of men who have served in the highest office in the land. Naturally, as horror movie fans, that makes us think about some of the frightening politicians we've seen doing horrifying things in scary movies. Just keep reminding yourself: it's only a movie, it's only a movie...
Murray Hamilton As Mayor Larry Vaughn, Jaws (1975)
"Amity, as you know, means 'friendship.'" The horror of a great white shark attacking a peaceful New England resort town is magnified by Mayor Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton), whose policy is deny, deny, deny and keep the beaches open -- until it's too late. Mayor Vaughn means well, but his priorities are out of whack, placing financial interests ahead of his citizens' safety and welfare.
Martin Sheen As Greg Stillson, The Dead Zone (1983)
Greg Stillson (Martin Sheen) is charismatic and seductive, a perfect candidate for the U.S. Senate and then, perhaps, the White House. But Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken) can see right through his surface charms into the dark chasm of his heart, and takes it upon himself to make certain that the electorate is fully informed about Stillson's true nature, in David Cronenberg's chilling adaptation of Stephen King's novel.
John McCann as Senator Holt, The Hidden (1987)
This lesser known 1987 gem mixed science fiction and horror elements into a potent stew of Reagan-era power games and paranoia. When a prototypically quiet man turns maniacal killer, Los Angeles police detective Michael Nouri investigates, joined by FBI special agent Kyle MacLachlan. The real culprit is an alien "thrill killer" that looks like a slug and hides inside human hosts. The alien is smart enough to know that U.S. Senator Holt (John McCann), currently running for president, would be an ideal host. The image of a politician, albeit one possessed by an alien, firing a gun at a press conference is truly scary.
Jon Tenney as David Murch, Masters of Horror: Homecoming (2005)
Skewering any presidential administration that sends men to war for reasons that are not patently clear, this episode of the Showtime TV series imagines what would happen if an offhanded, politically motivated comment of David Murch, a White House speech writer (Jon Tenney), came true. The president repeats the line, and soon dead soldiers are rising from their graves en masse -- not to munch on brains, but to vote in the next election "for anyone who ends this war." And then the speech writer must come face-to-face with what he has wrought. It's a bracing reminder for politicians (and their speech writers) to think twice about what they're saying -- and consider very, very carefully why, exactly, they're sending soldiers off to battle.
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