Before cell phones, wi-fi and unlimited internet, people relied on wired telephones, fax machines and radio to communicate. Cutting someone off from help was as easy as cutting a phone line or knocking out their electricity. Many books, and of course movies, had plots based on the idea of “no way out”, or no way to get help in a bad situation. Or, had a plot that depended on not being able to be found, or communicate with, other people.
Here’s my collection of movies that could never take place in our present, tech-heavy world.
The Shining, 1980
Premise: Cut off from the world in a secluded hotel, a family deals with loneliness and solitude…and malevolent spirits. Winter storms knock out the phone lines and block the only road with snow. Their only communication with authorities is a 2-way radio, and once that is disabled, there’s no conventional way to reach anyone for help.
Today: “The Overlook Hotel”, being a very popular resort, would absolutely have excellent cell phone reception and wi-fi. By 2018, they would probably have buried the phone lines to keep the phones working in storms. Even if they didn’t, the snow wouldn’t affect the cell phone towers, so they would be able to use their mobile devices for Social Media, phone calls, watching TV, etc. The seclusion factor would be minimized…and the ghosts wouldn’t be nearly as scary, as a hotel that haunted would no doubt be the star in multiple ghost-hunter TV shows and overnight events.
Premise: A woman is murdered by a shotgun blast to the face in her apartment. She is assumed to be Laura, the resident of the apartment, but it is later discovered that the real Laura was at a secluded cabin with a broken radio, no phone, no newspaper and no connection to the outside world. The murderer’s alibi is that he was doing a live radio performance at the time of the murder, but it turns out to be a recording.
Today: Where shall we begin??? Laura, even in a secluded cabin, would have had her cell phone. Even if we assume she didn’t have any reception, the cabin would probably at least have wi-fi, and a land line. So she would have been reachable…once the police realized it wasn’t Laura who was murdered (again…even without an autopsy, her friend would have undoubtedly had her own cell phone with her, and her ID. ID wasn’t a big deal in 1944…many people didn’t have any. Today it’s a necessity). And the murderer’s alibi would have been easily checked today, and very few radio, podcasts, or TV programs are done live.
Red Dawn, 1984
Premise: Soviet/Communist paratroopers invade America undetected. Scattered, a group of teenagers with no way of calling for help wages guerilla warfare against the invading army.
Today: There are so many satellites monitoring every inch of America…both government and civilian (Google), it’s hard to imagine any kind of “sneak attack” from the sky. Planes are monitored by computer, and even if an invading army managed to get some troops to drop out of a half a dozen planes, our militarized police and the fact that is an estimated three million AR-15 rifles in the hands of civilians, makes the scenario kind of impossible. Add to that, that the minute paratroopers started falling out of the sky thousands of people would start videoing them and calling the cops on their cell phones that it isn’t likely an air invasion would be very effective.
Blackboard Jungle, 1955:
Premise: Juvies and greasers causing mayhem at school.
Today: Forget it. Those kids would have been arrested on day one.
The Exorcist, 1973:
Premise: A young girl is possessed by a demon. Doctors and psychiatrists can’t help, and two priests are called in to do an exorcism.
Today: Because this takes place in Washington DC, to a girl with a non-religious parent who is a well-known actress, it’s very likely the family wouldn’t keep this quiet. The girl and the mother would post about it on social media. As it worsens, doctors, psychiatrists, holistic healers, the CDC, you name it…would be offering their help online. Doctor Phil or whatever daytime TV doctor is on at the time would have them on the show. The demon would probably get so freaked out by all the attention that it would just leave. If not, the exorcism would be done on-air, in front of a live audience of several million. The world’s first live-televised exorcism would not be condoned by the Catholic church, but they’d find some willing participants nonetheless. After the successful exorcism, people would argue on social media for years to come whether it was a Hollywood stunt like the Fox alien autopsy film, eventually coming down to party-lines with the religions right saying it was real and atheist liberals calling it a hoax.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 1974
Premise: A van-load of kids go looking for their family’s abandoned house in Texas, only to be terrorized and murdered by cannibals.
Today: The whole plot hinges on them needing gas, separating and not being able to communicate with each other. Unless there are vast areas with no cell reception in Texas, they could have called AAA for the gas and each other at the first sign of trouble.
Premise: A giant, hungry shark terrorized a small town’s beachgoers and boaters.
Today: At the first sign of trouble the town would shut down the beach due to insurance costs and not wanting to get sued. To make up for the lost tourist revenue, the town would invite everyone from the Sharknado guys to the Shark Hunters to National Geographic to film and exploit the mega-shark.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, 1986
Premise: A high school kid ditches school with his best friend and girlfriend for a day of adventures. Hijinks include joyriding in the friend’s dad’s $100,000 dollar vintage Ferrari, going to a ball game, singing in a parade and posing as Chicago’s Sausage King to get into a fancy restaurant. All while Ferris pretends to be sick.
Today: Since the Principal suspected Ferris of foul play, he would call Ferris and his friends on their cells through the day, and would get the cops to use GPS to track their whereabouts. That $100k Ferrari is now a $15M museum piece that would have had a hell of a lot more security on it than a glass garage. With social media, everyone would be wondering why sick/dying Ferris and his family wasn’t posting constant updates on his condition…or, everyone would realize he either just didn’t feel good or was, in fact, ditching. No flowers, no fundraiser. And, it’s probably that Ferris would have been arrested for jumping on the parade float…hell, in today’s Chicago, he might have been shot for it.
So there it is, folks. Thank God for the old days!
-Tiki Chris, reporting from the screening room at Tiki Lounge Talk