Collective fear and anxiety among the American people during the 1980’s influenced pop culture in many ways. As tensions between the Soviets and the United States increased, also known as the Cold War era, the fear of an impending world war and invasion crept among the minds of most Americans during this period. Propaganda and war films were released in all forms of media, attracting those who were most fearful. Media within action, sci-fi, and horror genres reflected only a fragment of the attitudes and perspectives among mainstream culture. In particular, the 1980’s observed the horror genre’s embracing of invasion in the form of body-snatching aliens attempting to dominate the human race. Film titles such as Night of the Creeps, They Live, The Thing, and Invaders from Mars painted only a small portion of a larger canvas illustrating the anxieties of the American people. Ronald Reagan’s description of an ‘evil empire’ frightened me as a child with the news injecting fear of a possible nuclear war and invasion. Perhaps these fears affected the pop culture of the 1980’s subconsciously; thereby, attracting so many to the sci-fi/horror productions that played on our anxieties.
Fast-forward to the year 2013 with author Adam Casare’s novel Video Night. Taking place during the 1980’s, Video Night lends itself to the eerie nature of alien invasion by illustrating extraterrestrial entities as puppeteers, planning to conquer the human race. As each human succumbs to the invasive alien life form by means of implantation, those who have not been infected quickly notice the strange occurrences. As they go about their normal routines, our protagonists, Billy and Tom, observe the townspeople’s behavior drastically changing. With video night approaching (a habitual retreat of horror movies and booze—at least on Tom’s part), the familiar faces of the townspeople are soon distorted by unfamiliar expressions and conduct. As the alien invasion quickly takes hold of neighbors, friends and even loved ones, our protagonists are left with no one to trust…and nowhere to run.
The narrative in Video Night is aptly organized, in which the plot is divided between the antagonist, an evil alien intent on world domination, and the protagonists, Billy and Tom. Invasion and social hierarchy are significant themes that reflect the tumultuous socio-political climate, stirring seemingly unending unrest. As nearly every living creature is threatened by a predatory force, the phrase “survival of the fittest” comes to mind. In Video Night, those who have fallen victim to the alien infection demonstrate different reactions; some are able to resist complete invasion momentarily, while others lose themselves beneath the cloud of alien consciousness. The idea of a symbiotic relationship quickly diminishes as the hosts become less dependent on certain vital functions of human organs in a gradual process of physiological alteration.
Just as the alien parasites sought to increase in numbers in order to achieve world dominance, the human race seemed utterly oblivious of the matter. If perhaps it was not Cesare’s intention to reflect the social turbulence and anxieties of the American people, it is still important to note the impact that “alien invasion” horror had on the public, especially during the 1980’s. Video Night successfully captures and effuses the frightful familiarity of loneliness, terror, and suspense just as it boasts on the front cover design. Cesare manages to captivate readers with very likeable characters, as their development during the story felt so natural. One can only grip these pages so tightly for fear of what will become of those who walk among the alien invaders. Get your hands on Video Night.