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Review: Black Mirror: Metalhead is Reminiscent of Psycho and Texas Chainsaw Massacre

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Black Mirror Metalhead

In an episode of Black Mirror the true horror usually lies in the ideas behind the story. In “Metalhead” the source of terror is more simple and upfront: A woman is being chased through the wilderness by a killer robot.

With the shortest runtime in this series we are dropped into the third act of a Romero-esque apocalypse. A group of survivors go out on a supply run which goes awry, leaving Bella (Maxine Peake) alone on the British moors pursued by a four legged metal “dog”. So begins a relentless, tense chase which borrows stylistic elements from greats like Terminator, Jaws and even Tremors (without the lighthearted tone.)

Shot in black and white the atmosphere is grim and nightmarish. The lack of colour also helps disguise any naff CGI and on occasion give it better texture than it would in colour. This style choice also gives the unstoppable robot a much more menacing and cold presence.

The clanging, creepy orchestral soundtrack evokes classic horror films and is reminiscent of Psycho and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It does a great job of filling the viewer with dread.

Without colour the gory violence is deeply unsettling. The images look more realistic and sickening, like a real life crime scene photo.

There is an overwhelming sense of futility and hopelessness in Bella’s attempts at escape. It is made clear than human flesh is weak, slow and fragile – that metal will always win over it. It feels throughout like Bella will never escape, just delay the inevitable. She is completely alone and without hope.

Overall the episode is a fantastic piece of modern television horror, perhaps a better example of horror than any film released in the last year.

The most disturbing aspect of the episode is how recognisable this world is. It doesn’t feel like the distant future. It is a modern Britain overrun by a technology that already exists. The robot design is based on a popular video of one already in development in our real world. Relatability has been missing from horror today but Charlie Brooker has done a great job of bringing it back in grisly fashion.

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