Black Mirror, a British series of sci-fi anthologies centered on social satire and technology, dips into the horror genre with suspenseful, dark plots and heavy themes. Depending on your definition of horror, you may find this to be a stretch. It is true that some episodes are more horror themed than others. Listed below are my top 5 Black Mirror episodes I found to fit best within the horror genre.
5. The National Anthem
Synopsis: When Princess Susannah (Lydia Wilson) of the British Royal Family is kidnapped, Prime Minister Michael Callow (Rory Kinnear) is faced with a dilemma. In exchange for Susannah’s safe return, Callow must have sex with a pig on live television. This is not a cruel reference to the politician’s wife. The abductor wants Callow to have sex with an actual pig on live television in accordance to a list of specifications so that the act cannot be faked.
Thoughts: In comparison to the rest of the list, The National Anthem has the weakest horror theme. However, it made the cut because of its dark humor infused with suspense while portraying the ugly and damaging side of the Internet.
4. Men Against Fire
Episode: Season 3, Episode 5
Synopsis: In a war against feral mutated humans referred to as “roaches,” rookie soldier Stripe (Malachi Kirby) is a part of a military operation responsible for protecting civilian villages and eliminating the enemy. When Stripe’s unit raids a roach nest at a secluded farmhouse, the rookie is flashed in the eyes by an electronic device disabling his military issue neural implant he received upon enlisting. After the incident, Stripe soon realizes that not everything is what it seems.
Thoughts: With snarling, mutated monsters, advanced desensitizing technology and the brutality of battle, this episode encompasses a major horror element within the military world. Displaying the capabilities of humans when an enemy appears to be a monster and the ramifications that follow when the illusion is lifted can be more frightening than the monsters themselves. As stated by Dr. Arquette (Michael Kelly), “It’s a lot easier to pull the trigger when you’re aiming at the boogeyman.”
3. White Christmas
Episode: Season 2, Episode 4
Synopsis: For unknown reasons, Joe Potter (Rafe Spall) and Matt Trent (Jon Hamm) occupy a secluded home in the woods. On Christmas Day, Matt attempts to engage Joe in conversation, asking him what brought him to this house. Joe, unwilling to discuss the topic as of yet, asks Matt the same question. After a tale of murder and broken marriage ensues, Joe opens up with his own tale of turmoil.
Thoughts: Aside from two stories involving murder, this episode’s horror element is found in the eerie world where everyone has devices implanted in their eyes giving them instant Internet access. This also allows people to perform various social media functions including blocking, which causes one to virtually cease to exist in their reality. An additional technological advancement worked into this story is a surgical procedure where a copy of one’s own consciousness is created and placed into a computerized system. In a world of creepy, futuristic technology, this episode is an intricately well told story with several twists and outstanding plot development.
2. White Bear
Episode: Season 2, Episode 2
Synopsis: Waking up disoriented and confused in a bedroom next to a bottle of scattered pills, Victoria (Lenora Crichlow) has no memory of who she is, where she is or how she got there. Leaving the house, she finds herself in a world where strangers keep their distance and keep their faces buried in their cell phones. Though this sounds like our everyday reality, things quickly take a turn when Victoria begins running for her life from a group of hunters, as bystanders stand by and do nothing.
Thoughts: Filmed from the perspective of Victoria, you jump right into the confusion as she awakes from, what appears to be, a failed suicide attempt. With many intentionally proposed questions, answers are gradually offered through several adrenaline fueled chase scenes and an unforeseeable plot twist. Taking cues from many modern mystery driven slasher films such as Your Next, it isn’t difficult to see a prevalent horror theme in this episode.
Episode: Season 3, Episode 2
Synopsis: On his journey to self-discovery, Cooper (Wyatt Russell) finds himself stuck in London with insufficient funds to return home to America. Coming across an opportunity that would pay his way home, the American traveler signs up for an experimental horror survival game that uses one’s fears against them. However, as Cooper becomes immersed in the game, his ability to discern what is real and what is fake because harder than anticipated.
Thoughts: With a strong nod to David Cronenberg’s 1999 film eXistenZ, Playtest has exciting plot development with an outstanding twist. Directed by 10 Cloverfield Lane’s Dan Trachtenberg, it should be no surprise that this Black Mirror episode has the strongest horror theme presence in the series.
While specific dates have yet to be announced, Black Mirror is set for a fourth season to premier on Netflix sometime this year.