If I were a hackier writer, then I’d talk about the horror that the environment around us is going through right now as a lead-in to this article about great eco-horror movies. But luckily for you, I’m an incredibly astute, grown-up, and very not-hacky writer who would never use a silly horror list article to talk about ways we can help our eco-system right now. I wouldn’t use this space to do something like that, would I? No, I’d be normal about it, and get right into talking about eco-horror that I love, because I know that’s what you’re here for, isn’t it? To the list (and maybe those links above too!).
- The Last Winter
Larry Fessenden! Let me tell you, I can’t get away from this bitch – I’m halfway through a horror movie, and there he is! Credits roll on my favourite game, there he is again! If you’re a horror fan of almost any stripe, you’re probably going to have a hard time avoiding him – which honestly, I don’t have any issue with, because everything I’ve seen him in I’ve enjoyed, and his presence is usually a mark that this is going to be some solid horror fun.
But The Last Winter was the first time that I sought out a film that he had directed, and I’m so glad I did. This presient 2006 thriller set against the backdrop of an arid Alaskan winter is really a story of greed, following an oil company cutting a swathe through the state to pursue more fossil fuels. Featuring a solid cast (including Connie Britton and Zach Gilford, who you might have seen recently in the brilliant Midnight Mass), I love the slow-burn of the plot, and especially the focus on the ambiguous nature of the threat that stalks the main characters, with questions of hallucination versus ancient spirits stirred to take revenge. There’s some genuinely striking imagery here, and I think it’s a film that has only gotten better with age – just like Mister Fessenden and his enduring career himself.
- In The Earth
In The Earth is one of those distinctly and almost deliberately weird little movies that evades categorization or indeed explanation for most of its runtime – but one thing that I can tell you for sure is that it’s about nature. As I wrote in my review of the film at the time, as someone who grew up in the middle of nowhere, there’s something about the slow, silent threat of the woods that really hits home for me, and Ben Wheatley’s dark, brooding, pandemic-based take on that horror works so well for me. I love the sound design and the performances, especially from an unhinged Reece Shearsmith, and it’s got a darkly British sense of humour shot through the whole thing to keep it from becoming all too grim to handle.
- Phase IV
You’ve heard of Them!, the giant ant fifties B-movie that still makes for the best drunk viewing ever; now meet Phase IV, its psychadelic 1970s cousin from the mind of iconic movie-title-sequence creator, Saul Bass. Following a colony of ants across the world as a cosmic mystery leads them to basically unionize against people, it’s deranged, bizzarre, and pretty damn compelling – and has all of the gorgeous visuals and striking images that you’d expect from a creator like Bass (who worked with directors like Hitchcock and Kubrick on some of their most iconic opening crawls). Yes, you’ve got the scientific team trying to battle the ants are our main protagonists, but you also have ant protagonists going about their human-domination business. Despite the oddness, it’s somehow very watchable
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(header image via MUBI)