High Anxiety: Film, Music, Games and Art for Paranoiacs | Culture


The world may be celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Godfather, but for paranoia fans, Francis Ford Coppola’s biggest half-centennial anniversary is still two years away. The Conversation was written between the first two parts of his Opera Mafia trilogy, but has a surprisingly different mood. With Gene Hackman extraordinaire as surveillance expert, fixated on a fragment of dialogue he recorded, it culminates in Hackman tearing up his apartment as if tearing at his own skin, all because of the tectonic shift in meaning that can emanate from a minute inflectional change . A lonely, desperate, guilt-ridden masterpiece. Jessica Kiang


Salvador Dalí.
Zone of Terror… Salvador Dalí. Photo Credit: Paul Almasy/Corbis/VCG/Getty

The idiosyncratic surrealist Salvador Dalí claimed to find his fantastic paintings by projecting his “paranoia” onto the world, seeing strange connections and double images all around him. That paranoid perspective rushes toward you in Suburbs of a Paranoiac Critical Town, his 1936 painting depicting an eerie town falling apart in delirium. A horse statue, an empty chair, mourning figures, an abandoned temple and an impoverished street all face a barren plain of empty fear. The disjointed images are part of his paranoia, connected in an illogical narrative of fear. But his concern was justified as this was painted in a Europe heading for disaster. Dalí’s paranoia is disturbingly prophetic. Jonathan Jones

video games

Between us.
Lost in Space… Among Us. Photo: InnerSloth

A crew of cartoon astronauts goes about their work on a space station. Except one of them is a scammer and soon crew members turn up dead. A group meeting is called, and everyone should hope not to be blamed: the accused are thrown into the void; and in space no one can hear you scream. Is it any wonder that a spectacularly paranoid multiplayer game like Among Us took off during the pandemic, since, with no social interaction, we found this mafia-inspired adventure the perfect arena for socially distanced suspicions? Keza McDonald


TYREE - I Fear The Night - Single - 1987

What woman hasn’t feared an imaginary (or very real) danger following her at night? So it’s remarkable what prompted Chicago house DJ Tyree to create the paranoia anthem I Fear the Night in 1986, which articulates the fear that overcomes one walking around on dark evenings. Although the lyrics are macabre (“Help me, please / It’s out to get me,” sings the singer known as Chic), his bubbly production makes the sound of impending doom deceptively funny; There’s something about the rhythm that makes nightfall less ominous and more exciting. Christine Ochefu


Bo Burnham's Inside.
isolation rules! …Bo Burnham’s heart.

You feel the walls closing. You think everyone is watching you. Everyone is watching you! You are afraid to leave the house. You are not allowed to leave the house! Sounds like a scream, right? It would be in no one’s hands but Bo Burnhams, the teenage YouTube star-turned-big-brained, fractured purveyor of cross-genre music-meets-comedy. In 2021, Burnham distilled Covid-era internet-contaminated modernity into one of the biggest Netflix specials of all time: Inside. In its claustrophobia, its unhinged isolation, its fear that we’re all chained forever to the content-creating wheel of doom, Inside is as paranoid as it gets – or would be if all weren’t so true. brian logan

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