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Fear of the future will dominate pop culture in 2024

Movies with monsters and other classic fears will be joined by tales of pandemics, artificial intelligence and totalitarian oppressors

Alone in the Dark
Scene from the 'Alone in the Dark' video game to be released in 2024.Alone in the Dark 2024
Jorge Morla

Gone are the days of our complacent peace and quiet. Optimistic and life-affirming stories have faded away, replaced by a pervasive sense of fragility that has permeated the world and its pop culture. In 2024, the words of Shakespeare will ring true: “The fear’s as bad as falling.” As we begin this new year, pop culture will once again delve into the realm of vampires, ghosts and demons that have haunted our nightmares for centuries. However, our world, with its boundless creativity, has unrelentingly planted new fears in our collective psyche. Global warming, artificial intelligence, drugs, totalitarianism — all of these forces have seeped into our collective unconscious, casting a depressing shadow on creative works that share a common element: terror.

Classic scaremongers will come to life again on the big screen. The alien will return in Alien: Romulus, evoking fears of monsters and the unknown. Joker: Folie à Deux will bring back the infamous Joker, tapping into the fear of insanity. A Quiet Place Part III will reintroduce the blind, alien creatures with near-perfect hearing, triggering our fear of violent extraterrestrial invasion. Filmmaker Robert Eggers will boldly tackle the classic vampire tale with his remake of Nosferatu. And that’s not all: Yorgos Lanthimos will revisit the legend of Frankenstein with Poor Things. In addition to these timeless dangers, cinema will also explore new ones like the deserts in Dune: Part Two and Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, reminding us of the threat of climate change. Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is yet another admonition about the perils of pandemic and war, while in Borderlands, humans and artificial intelligence engage in an epic battle for survival.

Terror caused by the real dangers of our world thoroughly permeated global culture in 2023. Mike Flanagan’s TV miniseries, The Fall of the House of Usher, pays homage to Edgar Allan Poe while chronicling the devastating impact of the opioid crisis. Talk to Me is a remarkable horror film that cleverly draws a metaphorical connection between Ouija Board spiritualism and drug consumption. This trend will continue in 2024 with series about drug traffickers like Griselda Blanco, the murderous Colombian drug lord who dominated Miami’s underworld for decades.

Lady Gaga and Joaquin Phoenix are seen on the set of "Joker: Folie a Deux"
Lady Gaga and Joaquin Phoenix filming a scene for 'Joker: Folie a Deux', a new movie about the most famous villain from the 'Batman' franchise.James Devaney (Getty Images)

As for TV series, the year kicks off with the new season of True Detective, featuring its signature blend of murder and existential themes. Also in the lineup is Red Queen, the screen adaptation of Juan Gómez Jurado’s best-selling novel. House of the Dragon returns with its coterie of mythical beasts and a thought-provoking metaphor about weapons of mass destruction. Meanwhile, 3 Body Problem portrays a past, present and future where Earth encounters an alien civilization from a nearby system of three sun-like stars. The Zone of Interest shows us a Nazi commander trying to build a dream life for his family near the Auschwitz concentration camp. And of course, we can’t forget the zombies, who make a comeback in The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live. In 2023, The Last of Us video game was made into a very popular HBO miniseries. This year, the Fallout video game will try to replicate that success with its own post-apocalyptic TV series. The shadow of war looms large over everything.

Speaking of video games, 2024 is packed with new and terrifying titles like S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chornobyl, Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines II, and Little Nightmares III. Another game aiming to outdo the high bar set by Alan Wake 2 last year is the highly anticipated new version of Alone in the Dark. But the terror is not limited to screens, big and small. The triple threat of technology, misinformation and artificial intelligence is one of the hottest and most terrifying topics today, so we can expect a deluge of novels and essays on these subjects. But we will be left to wonder if they were written by an AI tool such as ChatGPT.

In 2024, our culture seems defined by chaos: wars, pandemics and the looming threat of evil, sentient robots. It’s as if terror has become synonymous with our existence. However, even our best efforts at rationalization can be quickly crushed the instant we disconnect from our screens. We can turn to the news instead of books, movies, and TV, but that unsettling feeling persistsno matter where we look.

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