Why the Apple TV original documentary based on Texas Boys State is the scariest movie I’ve seen
During the 2020 summer months of the pandemic, I saw the scariest movie I’d ever seen. Produced by A24, the same company that made films like Lady Bird, Moonlight, Midsommar, and others, the documentary Boys State explored how Texas high school boys interacted with each other during a week in Austin, where they learned about politics and government.
Originally filmed in 2018-19, the doc follows four boys throughout the week: A staunch conservative from San Antonio, a jockish boy from Austin, a working class Mexican-American from Houston, and a charismatic black student from Chicago who recently moved to Texas.
Over two hours, you see different guys run for positions and campaigns that culminates with an election. Without a narrator, the filmmaker lets you choose how to feel about the four protagonists by filming them and their interactions. Because of that, you have a behind the scenes view of what goes on and just like the other participants in that congress, you also can get pulled in by speeches and rallies held by the boys in the doc.
Why is it scary or scarier than any horror film I've seen? First, just like any scary movie, viewers have more context than the characters experiencing the events happening in real-time. Just like in a movie where you tell a character not to go into the dark closet by themselves, in this film, you’ll find yourself feeling the exact same thing. Furthermore, it's also terrifying because you realize how politics has seeped into our culture. At its core, you know that humans, even during their teenage years, are Machaviellian and political animals at heart. Near the end, racial politics come into play, and smears play out on social media and hit one of those four characters, all to win a fictional seat in a fictional congress.
Watching it post January 6th, that mirror to current events becomes even more apparent. In 2016, Hillary Clinton’s campaign released an ad of children watching Trump say nasty after nasty things. Even though Clinton was the worst candidate to run in any change election, I always thought it was clever. In the documentary, you see that play out, albeit through teenagers. I won't tell you what happened, but I will say that my favorite character in the movie was Steven Garza. I also exhort you to watch it during the day or early at night. It's that scary.