Top 7 Environmental Horror Movies

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The film “The Host” by Bong Joon-ho is a fantastic take on the monster movie. Photo Credit AV Club

My wife has a cousin that really gets into the Halloween spirit. Every October, she and her husband will watch a scary movie every day up until the spooky day. Apparently, it’s been a tradition for years, a tradition that I would very much enjoy getting in on, to be honest. So, I thought I’d help out by putting together a list of horror movies that show how much I know about the genre. I’m so into horror films, that I can put together a list that focuses on the monster/enemy/scary thing is not a slasher or ghost, but instead is the environment or nature. So, without further ado, here’s the list:

7) The Birds (US 1963)- We’re gonna start with an easy one here. The Birds is a cinema classic and one of Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpieces in a line of masterpieces. In an era where horror movies focused on big baddies such as the mummy or dracula, this movie showed that nature could be the biggest baddie. Plus, who didn’t get the chills from the final scene?

6) The Happening (US 2008)- This is a movie by M. Night Shyamalan. It has a twist at the end. Unfortunately, you have to watch the entire movie to get to it. Unfortunately, the twist isn’t worth it. If you haven’t seen The Happening, watch out! There be SPOILERS AHEAD – Marky Mark finds out about two-thirds into the movie that nature itself (YES, that right!) is fighting back against humankind by sending out a wave (a pollen? a signal? a mind-control pollen?) that inhibits our ability to crave survival which leads to mass suicides. That’s right! Unless we bring the bees back, nature is gonna get us! Which, now that I think about it, is entirely possible.

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Even Mark Wahlberg was confused during The Happening.

5) The Thaw (US 2009)-Finding a thawed out wooly mammoth may seem like the find of the century, but what would happen if a threat not seen by mankind in thousands of years was buried in the mammoth? Also, remember Val Kilmer? He’s in about fifteen minutes of this movie which ponders what would happen if the polar ice caps melted leading to the release of a parasitic insects from millions of years ago. The warnings against climate change are pretty clear in this awful movie.

4) Prophecy (US 1979)- This is another flick that sends up the warning against man-made waste leading to a giant monster (killer bear).  It’s too bad this ambitious movie was so poorly made, though. There’s a good sci-fi story here. The bad guys (the notoriously evil polluting lumber company) have been dumping chemicals into the water, which mutate the fish, which are eaten by other animals, which in turn mutate into a killer bear. There’s scares to be had in this movie, so come for the hokey puppetry and stay for the sleeping bag death. It’s…memorable.

3) Dawn of the Dead (US 1978)- This is my favorite zombie movie of all time. We’re talking about the original, but the remake made last decade was pretty good, too. With a group of survivors trapped in a shopping mall during an apocalyptic zombie wasteland, we can see a not-so-subtle dig on over-zealous commercialism. With nothing to do during the long days, the survivors resort to creating their own private apartment in the mall, go shopping in the empty stores, and then fill their private apartment with stuff from the mall. They live in luxury for a while, but all the time the zombie hoard is beating on the walls, demanding to get in, demanding a piece of their luxury. Through a chance attack, the hoard breaks through the walls and destroys the piece of safety and comfort the survivors built for themselves (and them alone!). Mindlessly shopping for things can be a drain on the environment, whether a fabricated one such as a clean sterile mall or the pristine outdoors. It’s a simple symbol, but an effective one.

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Dawn of the Dead shows what might happen if you’re at the mall while a zombie apocalypse breaks out. Photo Credit – Heart Pelicula

2) The Host (Korea 2006)- This is a horror movie that kind of straddles the comedy and drama fence throughout the show. Where you’ll be giggling at the protagonist’s ineptitude one minute, you’ll be moved at how deeply you care about his predicament. The Host is a Korean horror flick that shows what would happen if lax waste regulations led to the creation of a giant amphibious monster. This is a fantastic movie. On top of the bold monster attack in the middle of the day, (Which is unheard of in horror flicks! There is a huge reliance on hiding the monster until the very end and even then the monster is hidden by dark or blurry camera work), there is substance in the family’s anguish at losing their girl to the monster. With a combination of tragedy and slapstick comedy, the director doesn’t even browbeat the environmental message into the viewer’s head. It’s subtle. It’s first and foremost a monster movie, second a comedy, and thirdly (distantly) an environmental cautionary tale. But, for the sake of this list, I’ll allow it.

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The Big Baddie Himself! Godzilla is the king of all environmental horror movies. Photo Credit – Nitehawk Cinema

1) Godzilla (Japan 1954)- The grandest, big baddie, himself. Godzilla belongs on the top of this list simply because he is the most famous and brought attention to the idea that humans had an impact on the environment. Created amid the panic and upheaval of the use of nuclear weapons, this movie became a strong symbol of fear that overuse (or misuse) of this power would bring about humankind’s own destruction. There have been dozens of Godzilla movies, some that take themselves too seriously and others that know exactly what their fans wanted (camp!), but the first movie was a shock to cinema and would be used as a means to warn us about how we hold our own future in our own hands.

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