I didn’t want to put typical stories on this list. I wanted some little known, out of the way stories, that wouldn’t be difficult to get access to. These are stories that scared the bejeebus out of me, and I just want to share the frights.
Prey – Richard Matheson
Written by Richard Matheson, this short story was made into a short film that aired in the movie Trilogy of Terror and starred Karen Black, who was one of the hottest screamers in the 70s. I saw the movie before i read the story and the movie is very very faithful to the original, and genuinely terrifying, while, at the same time, seeming utterly hilarious ,as this big woman (Ms. Black was very bodacious) s chased around her apartment by a tiny, screaming killer doll, named He Who Hunts.
That’s it! That’s the whole story. But what’s so terrifying about this doll is fast it moves (this ain’t Chucky), how intelligent it is. It thinks, and schemes, can open doors, is very stealthy. There’s a list of killer doll movies, and He Who Hunts is definitely at the top of it.
Trilogy of Terror is available on Youtube, and the story is available in The Best of Richard Matheson.
The Sun Dog – Stephen King
This is more accurately a novella rather than a short story, but for me this is one of the most terrifying Steepen King stories. A young man named Kevin gets a Polaroid camera for his birthday that only takes pictures of one thing, a dog that is slowly approaching the camera, and whoever is holding it in that other world. Kevin becomes convinced that the dog intends to get out.
I found this story terrifying because I had a Polaroid camera just like it. I got it for my 15th, or 16th birthday, long before I read the story, but it all came back to me when I read this. The feel and use of the camera along with what King perfectly describes as the “squidgy little whine” it made when you pressed the shutter.
This story is available in the King anthology titled, Four Past Midnight.
Shay Corsham Worsted – Garth Nix
For some reason, this story scared the bejeebus out of me, not necessarily because of anything that happens in it, about the story of an old man who goes missing in the streets of London, and needs to be carefully corralled, but because of the manner in which it was written. The ending is absolutely perfect!
This story is available in the Fantasy anthology, Fearful Symmetries.
Nightcrawlers – Robert R. McCammon
I love this story, not just because its scary, but because of its elements of pathos. In any other person’s hands, this could become a superhero origin story, but in the hands of one of my all-time favorite writers, Robert McCammon, the author of Swan Song, it becomes a tragic statement about the Vietnam War, and the psychological damage of the men who fought in it.
This short aired in the 90s version of The Twilight Zone, and is also available on Youtube. The story is available in Robert McCammon’s anthology titled Blue World, which has a lot of great stories in it, especially the story, Something Passed By ,a bout an Earth that has undergone a radical change after something in space passed by.
Hunter Killer – Stephen Gallagher
This isn’t like the above stories because this is one is a slow burn. Something crashed into an office building, killing everyone inside, and then everyone who came in after. The building has since been cordoned off from the public, but one young man thinks there are riches to be found inside. Much of the story is the tension of him wandering around an unknown environment , where anything could be lurking. I don’t want to give too much away though. You gotta read this one for yourself.
Hunter Killer can be found in the book of short stories by Stephen Gallagher, Plots and Misadventures.
I was actually able to find a surprising number of vampire films featuring people of color. We still need more of them though, as they’re still rare. Rarer still are movies about Black vampire hunters. If you’re sick of pale, European vampires, I recommend giving these a try, just to change things up a bit. I cannot vouch for the cinematic quality of all these movies, but I can say there’s nothing else like them, and you probably won’t be disappointed, if you’re looking for a little novelty.
Blade/Blade 2 (1998/2002)
If you haven’t seen this yet, I suggest you get to it. Blade set the stage and paved the way for movies like Black Panther. The first movie is just fun to watch, and has a Black cultural sensibility that was lost by the second film, but Blade 2 is still my favorite of the trilogy, since it was directed by none other than the incredible Guillermo Del Toro, and the villains were better. Blade one ain’t nothing to sleep on though. The music slaps, and its actually got a dark skinned Black woman in the cast, Karen, kickin ass, and not even caring about names.
The Transfiguration (2017)
This one I haven’t watched yet, but its definitely on my list before Halloween. It follows in the footsteps of the 70;s film titled Martin, about a young man who becomes fascinated by vampires, and then starts to believe he is one. Actually, it sort of looks like Blade’s origin story, without the martial arts. It still looks good and movies about children (especially Black ones) as vampires don’t get a lot of play. I’ll watch it and get back to ya’.
Aaron’s Blood (2016)
This another child vampire movie I’ve been eyeballing for a while now. It was playing on Amazon Prime for a bit, so I’m going to check there first. A boy gets a blood transfusion that is slowly turning him into a vampire and his father goes on a journey to find a cure before its too late. It sounds very much like the plot of The Transfiguration, only the acting doesn’t seem as good. I’m going to give it try anyway because Hispanic child vampires are rare.
This movie is set in Korea and is from the director of Old Boy. If youre expecting something like Old Boy this is not it, as its much much quieter, and no huge fight scenes, although there is a lot of humor in it. Its about a Priest who gets turned into a vampire, and has to reconcile his faith with his new status, as a creature of the night.
Vampires Vs. The Bronx (2020)
This movie is currently airing on Netflix, and heavily reminds me of Attack the Block mixed with Monster Squad, and The Lost Boys. So if you like any of those films, check it out. The theme of the movie is the gentrification of Black neighborhoods, by white suburbanites. Its very on the nose, but still looks like its a lot of fun, and although I haven’t had a chance to look at this yet, I really like movies about kids fighting monsters, so I will be watching this one soon.
Ganja And Hess (1973)
I’m going to have to order it from the library or Amazon. I’ve heard a lot about this Black vampire movie, that’s only really known about by Black fans of Horror movies. I’d only heard about this maybe a year ago, and when I looked for it, couldn’t find it streaming anywhere, but maybe that has changed since.
A Vampire in Brooklyn (1995)
I’m a big fan of both Eddie Murphy and Angela Bassett, and really, this is the only place you’re going to see the two of them together in a film, although it is not the first time Angela has played a vampire. (She was in American Horror Story: Hotel). When this first came out it was not my favorite, but it has since grown on me, and I’ve watched it a couple of times. It still mostly isn’t my type of humor, but Eddie and Angela are engaging, and Eddie is his usual funny self. If you’re looking for a horror movie, that ‘s not too heavy, check it out.
This is another Horror Comedy from the 80s. Grace Jones owns a vampire strip club, attended by three (sort of) friends looking to hire a stripper, for a party, so they can join a fraternity. I really enjoyed this when it was released and I’ve mentioned it here before. Grace is one of my favorite entertainers and the soundtrack is pretty cool too.
Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus (2014)
Okay, I watched this movie twice, and I don’t think I paid close enough attention because there were parts of this movie I just didn’t get. I didn’t dislike it though. Its very artsy though, and if you guys watch it, maybe y’all can explain to me what I didn’t understand about this movie. This is a remake of Ganja And Hess by Spike Lee.
Spike Lee’s new stylized thriller DA SWEET BLOOD OF JESUS is a new kind of love story. Dr. Hess Green (Stephen Tyrone Williams) becomes cursed by a mysterious ancient Afrian artifact and is overwhelmed with a newfound thirst for blood. He however is not a vampire. Soon after his transformation he enters into a dangerous romance with Ganja Hightower (Zaraah Abrahams) that questions the very nature of love, addiction, sex, and status in our seemingly sophisticated society.
Like Ganja and Hess, Blacula comes straight out of the Blaxploitation era about an African King who was cursed to being a vampire, becasue he pissed off some European vampire. He comes to America, and hijinks ensue, with the plot following the basic idea behind Coppola’s Dracula movie from 1992. No the acting isn’t great, but it was one of the first Black vampire films, and the novelty, should get you through it. And if you have the stamina, check out the sequel, Scream Blacula, Scream.
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
The first Iranian Vampire Western ever made, Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut basks in the sheer pleasure of pulp. A joyful mash-up of genre, archetype, and iconography, its prolific influences span spaghetti westerns, graphic novels, horror films, and the Iranian New Wave.
This is another artsy vampire film, done entirely in black and white. Its very interesting, although not particular frightening, so its a good movie to watch for people who don’t like Horror movies.
In this post, I want to talk about a secondary component of horror movies that are set in desert and rural landscapes, and that is the type of horror set in Limnal Spaces, such as highways, and rest stops. Not necessarily the road trip movie, which is often about nostalgia, but just people who are in the middle of traveling from point A to point B, through the more remote areas of America, and how a traveler’s status as not being in any particular place or time, invokes a certain kind of horror. The road is both somewhere and nowhere, and a lonely road at night is the ultimate limnal space, in which strange things can occur.
First, let’s define the Limnal Space. You can find numerous websites and Reddit pages discussing what these places/nonplaces are, and their emotional affects on people. Essentially, a Limnal Space is a threshold, it is any place that is between, from, or on the way to, a destination. Limnal spaces are not places where someone actually lives, because they are transitional spaces, places that, when they are empty, evoke feelings of unease, isolation, sadness, or loneliness, like empty schools during a break, hotel hallways at night, a house you’ve just moved out of, empty malls, empty gas stations at night, or highway rest stops. Limnal spaces can also be doorways to somewhere else. They are not a final destination in themselves, so highways, and even the vehicles that navigate them, are good examples.
In fact, the horror of limnal spaces came to popular attention in tandem with the invention of the car, although the idea of such places have existed for centuries, in folktales and literature, (fairy rings, bridges), and the road trip movie helped popularize this idea for mainstream audiences. Limnal spaces are places where the veil between worlds is thin, and strange, and paranormal, things can happen. Cars can come to life, human monsters, and ghosts, can reach out, and people can unknowingly crossover into other worlds. One example of this is the Hitchhiker movie.
There was a time in American history when hitchhiking was fairly common place. Not everyone owned cars yet, especially in rural areas, and all kinds of people (teenagers, members of the military) would often hitch rides with strangers, and this was considered no big issue. But like most things during the sixties, it began to be viewed with suspicion, and once again, we can blame the popular awareness of serial killers, and other psychopathic murderers, for that. Not that the person picking up a hitcher might be one, that came later, but the person being picked up, might not be as innocent as they seemed.
The murderous hitchhiker is a very popular theme in horror. In 1953, Ida Lupino directed The Hitchhiker, a movie about two men who pick up a serial murderer, who is running from the police, while on their way to a fishing trip in Mexico. This was not inspired by the Charles Starkweather killings, but by the spree murders of one Billy Cook, who killed six people on a 22 day rampage across Missouri, in 1951.
Murderous hitchhikers are a staple of the road trip horror movie, from The Hitcher in 1986, to its remake in 2007, in which a young man picks up a hitchhiker, who is a violent psychotic, Road Games in 1981, and Switchback in 1997, which starred Dennis Quaid and Danny Glover, as detectives hunting a child killer across Texas. However the films, Kalifornia, and Natural Born Killers, were both based on the Carol Fugate and Charles Starkweather killing spree, of 1958.
Sometimes this trope gets turned on its head by psychopathic drivers chasing their victims across the highways, instead. The idea wasn’t made popular by the antics of Bonnie and Clyde, but by the 1971 film, Duel, directed by, an as yet unknown, Stephen Spielberg, and starring Dennis Weaver, as David Mann, an anxious businessman who gets chased by a mysterious truck driver, after Mann overtakes him on the highway. The trope of the killer truck driver also gets overturned in the Lance Henriksen film, The Nature of the Beast, (1995), where a businessman picks up a hitchhiker, during news reports of a killing spree, but who is the killer, and who is the victim?
Hollywood would go back to this well, a few more times, featuring morally ambiguous, middle class citizens being terrorized on America’s roads by outraged drivers, in movies like Road Rage from 1999, 1986’s Maximum Overdrive, which was adapted from a short story by Stephen King, about sentient trucks, and the Joy Ride franchise, which began in 2001, in which a group of teenagers get chased by a mysterious and angry truck driver, after they play a prank on him.
Hitchhikers and psychotic drivers are not the only beings traveling the highways. Limnal spaces can also be emotional. The anxious feeling that one might become lost, is lost, or simply never be able to return home is in keeping with the idea of limnal spaces as places where the veil between worlds is thin. All manner of beings can slip through from “somewhere else”, as some hitchhikers may not be what they seem.
There’s the classic urban legend of the Vanishing Hitchhiker, a tale which goes back centuries, long before the invention of film, like when a driver finds that the lonely young woman they picked up on the road, has vanished from their vehicle. They investigate, only to find that their passenger died many years ago. The 1985 movie, starring Ellen Degeneres, featured a vanishing hitchhiker, and the CW TV series, Supernatural, featured a more malicious version, combining it with the Hispanic folktale of La Llarona, as a woman in white, who kills the travelers who try to take her back home.
There are other, more horrific beings traveling America’s roads, like the terrifying vampiric family, lead by Lance Henriksen, in the 1987 movie, Near Dark. A young cowboy picks up, a pretty girl at a bar, and finds, to his detriment, that neither she, nor her “family”, are entirely human, and in The Forsaken, from 2001, another family of vampires prey on any travelers they come across, in the Arizona desert.
Sometimes the dangers of the road seem mundane, but really aren’t. Cars break down, people get lost, run out of gas, and if the weather is bad, the traveler must also contend with the paranormal. In the 2007 movie, Windchill, two travelers have to deal with multiple issues, like a raging snowstorm, the possibility of freezing to death, accidents, ghosts, phantom gas stations, and even a phantom cop. Stranger things can happen in the half empty places of the world. In the 2008 movie Splinter, two couples are menaced by an alien parasite, at an out of the way gas station. What starts as a typical hitchhiker film, turns into a more complicated carjacking, which then becomes a fight for survival, against a strange bodysnatching alien.
Bodysnatching aliens aren’t the only things haunting America’s highways. Sometimes there are bodysnatching demons, as in the 2001 Jeepers Creepers, where two teenagers, on their way home for Spring Break, are menaced by an otherworldly, bat winged, serial killer.
One of the ultimate limnal spaces one encounters on the road, is the rest stop, especially at night. Rest stops are not anywhere. They are perfect temporal limnal spaces because they are places where people stop, but no one dwells. In Rest Stop (2006), a young woman encounters a number of strange people, and events, that occurred years before she stopped there, along with her boyfriend, for a bathroom break. In the 2008 sequel, the family of the couple from the first film go in search of them, encounter the same phantoms, and must fight for their survival.
In keeping with the road as a doorway to other dimensions, sometimes a person can end up in places they never planned to go, like Hell, as in the appropriately named 1991 movie, Highway to Hell. When a young man’s fiance gets taken to Hell, he sets out on the titular highway to rescue her, echoing the tale of Eurydice and Orpheus, who goes into Hell to save his wife. When not being taken to Hell, people can also encounter beings coming from the other direction, as Lou Diamond Philips does in the 2001 road movie, Route 666.
Demons, ghosts, and other otherworldly creatures can travel the same roads, and use them as portals, so a person should probably watch out for haunted, and phantom vehicles, in stories that are the opposite of the vanishing hitchhiker. The 1974 Killdozer features a haunted construction vehicle that goes on a killing spree, as does the title vehicle in the 1977 movie, The Car, and in the 1986 Maximum Overdrive, all vehicles become sentient after a meteor passes by the Earth, and, once again, from the mind of Stephen King, there is Christine, (1983), in which a young man is possessed by a haunted, self driving car, that was simply “born bad”.
Driving America’s highways can certainly be a gamble, but not for the reason most people think. Highways and roads are not just gateways to adventure, but sometimes portals to unimaginable horror.
This post would not be complete without a discussion of The Backrooms. If you research the topic of Limnal Spaces, you will encounter this story. which began on a Creepypasta Reddit about an endless series of office rooms, in which people have gotten lost.
In 1974, Tobe Hooper released The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which seemed to release some sort of valve, because city people have been visiting the rural South so they can die horribly at the hands, chainsaws, and shotguns of its residents for decades. I cannot entirely blame it all on Hooper, because in 1972, Deliverance was released, a movie about a hunting trip that goes terrifically wrong, after four men meet the banjo playing locals, and country people have been terrorizing city people ever since.
The country is the place city dwellers go to to be tortured, raped, and consumed by poor people, and occasionally chased by bears. But it wasn’t always like this. Before the fall of the studio system, along with the Hayes Code, and the popularity of graphic horror in the sixties, the country was seen as a place to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life, where the mood was one of bucolic serenity, and oneness with nature, “the locals” were often depicted as ignorant, but well meaning comedy relief, as in Maybery RFD, or The Beverly Hillbillies. Occasionally, some city person would be trapped in the country, (Green Acres), and would be itching to get away from it, not because the residents were unfriendly, but because living in the country was boring.
The children of the suburbs grew up, and young Americans of the 70’s, looked over the American landscape, and viewed all of it as inherently dangerous. But it was the growing Environmentalist movement that made them view rural America, and its inhabitants, with deep suspicion. Not only were there a bunch of movies about environmental vengeance released during this period, mostly in the form of man-eating wildlife, but the locals were also out to punish city people for their hubris.
White trash is a “racist and classist slur“ used in American English to refer to poor white people, especially in the rural southern United States. The label signifies a social class inside the white population and especially a degraded standard of living. It is used as a way to separate the “noble and hardworking” “good poor” from the lazy, “undisciplined, ungrateful and disgusting” “bad poor”.
Generally poor whites, (all these movies consist of white people preying on other white people), were depicted in early film, as friendly, not very bright, but trustworthy, honest, direct, generous, and hard working, salt of the earth people, who were close to the land. The seventies and eighties also saw a rise of serial killers, like John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy, and Richard Ramirez. People simply could not be trusted, like they used to be. Consequently, there was a rise in the popularity of movies about city people encountering various horrors when visiting the fringes of the American countryside.
The majority of Horror movies set in the country feature human beings who view other human beings as prey, from hunting, killing, and eating them, to simply terrorizing them in their country homes, on camping trips, or in their RVs. The woods, and rural America, are often used as a stand in for loneliness, isolation, wildness, or self- sufficiency, rugged individualism, and lawlessness. People can do anything to anyone in the woods, and hide any sin without consequences, because the bodies will never be found.
Yet, there is also another, more insidious, component to movies set in the countryside, and that is Classism. This didn’t begin with the movie Deliverance, but that movie certainly contributed to a theme found in dozens of such movies released since the 70s. In Deliverance, four men from the city go on a fishing/camping trip, and after having a rude encounter with some of the locals, get tortured, raped, and murdered. In 1975’s Race with the Devil, a family on a camping trip, are terrorized by vengeful Satanists, after witnessing one of their rituals, and in The Hills Have Eyes in 1977, another family on a camping trip, is hunted and eaten by a bunch of cannibalistic, inbred mutants.
These are all movies which depict the people who live in rural environments as, at best, degraded versions of city dwellers, and at worse, not quite fully human. They are shown as thin, toothless, and malicious, as well as irrational, violent, and animal-like, with no control over their sexual desires. They are dirt-covered, misshapen, ugly, or inbred mutations of the prettier, cleaner, better dressed, and more cosmopolitan looking city people. After the movie, Deliverance, rural inhabitants were also shown as uneducated, with missing teeth, bad English, and malicious intent. They were insular, xenophobic, envious, or contemptuous, of their smarter, middle class, college educated, visitors, often resentful of their wealth, relative to their own, and their mannerisms. Poor rural folks would lie to them for fun, warn them of non-existent horrors, or give false directions to lead them astray.
But sometimes, city visitors deserved their harsh treatment, as their torture by the locals is often in retaliation for some misdeed, disrespect, or contempt. Country folk are proud, and city people are often shown being mocking and arrogant, sometimes killing the locals out of negligence or for fun, as in the 1988 movie, Pumpkinhead. When a group of college students accidentally take the life of his only child, farmer Ed, along with the local witch, summon the aid of the titular vengeance demon. All of the tropes of rural life are there. The townsfolk are dirt covered, threadbare, suspicious and superstitious, with the requisite southern accents, while the college students are clean, pretty, well dressed, and wealthy enough to travel, and own recreational vehicles. Notice their use of standard English, with Midwestern accents, compared to the vocabulary and accents of the locals.
I wrote before about the use of accents in movies, and how they were meant to note the class status of certain characters. The 1994 movie, Kalifornia, starring Brad Pitt, and Juliette Lewis, (Early and Adele), as two middle class actors doing their impersonation Hollywood’s interpretation of “Poor White Trash”. Early and Adele are strongly contrasted against the other couple in the film, played by Michelle Forbes and David Duchovny, as a couple of clean cut, cosmopolitan, Yuppies on a road trip. When Forbes character first sees the two, she sniffs in disdain at Adele’s manner of dress, and is appalled by their lack of manners, and public displays of affection. Adele is sweet, but dim, as she expresses doubt about the other couple’s friendliness towards people like her, as she seems aware of their class differences. At least part of the reason their trip turns sour is because of Early’s lust, and envy of the other couple.
These class differences were excellently parodied/subverted, in the 2011 movie, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, where a bunch of college students jump to erroneous conclusions about two hapless friends, who are visiting the country to fix up their ramshackle second home(that looks like it once belonged to a serial killer). Things get off to a bad start after Dale approaches one of the girls, and comes off as a tiny bit creepy. Tucker and Dale are both horrified, and panicked, as these attractive, well dressed , college students kill themselves in increasingly gory accidents, in their attempts to stop the two friend’s assumed killing spree. Why? Because the college students have watched too much media where the local country bumpkins happen to be serial murderers, preying on their social betters.
Outside of the occasional ghost, or myth, there are few paranormal creature features set in rural areas. Movies like Jeepers Creepers, The Ritual, and The Blair Witch, which feature supernatural beings, are not as frequently made.In Hollywood, the supernatural takes the form of a fear of occultism, expressed in the idea that the people who live in the country are the followers of mysterious unknown gods, violent cults, and pagan rituals. The countryside is a place where dark forces must be appeased by the blood of either its inhabitants, or the unfortunate outsider, who strays near.
In Stephen King’s 1984 movie Children of the Corn, a group of children have sacrificed all of the adults in their communities, and any outsiders who wander by, to the nameless god, (He Who Walks Behind The Rows), who lives in the local cornfield. The 2006 American version of the 1976 British film, The Wicker Man, stars Nicholas Cage as an outsider who gets sacrificed to the local pagan god by a community of murderous women who worship bees, and in the latest iteration of this theme, Ari Aster’s 2019 Midsommar, a cult of pretty, blond, Europeans, murder four college students, while love-bombing one of the group’s members into joining them. In these movies, city folk are godless heathens who must be sacrificed, or lusty hedonists, who must be sacrificed for their sins. People from the city are rational, and are never shown to be members of cults willing to sacrifice one another in barbaric pagan rituals, as depicted in the 1975 film, Race with the Devil.
This discussion would not be complete without discussing the insidious, yet prominent depiction, of poor white trash, as the consumers of human flesh. Remember, the film industry, especially the horror genre as a whole, is almost entirely controlled by straight white, middle class men, so we’re learning not so much about what scares most Americans, as what scares a small population of privileged, white, city dwelling men. At the same time, we are learning about how they view white people that they think of as less than. Cannibalism is taboo in most of the world, but only in America has an entire economic class of people been demonized as eaters of “the other white meat”. In film after film, from 1963’s Blood Feast, to 1977’s Hills Have Eyes, and its 2006 remake, 1980’s Motel Hell, and 2003’s Wrong Turn franchise, poor folk have indeed been “eating the rich”. Well, folks who are richer than them, anyway.
The association being made here is that country folk are little better than the wild animals, or that they are so poor, that they will eat anything out of sheer desperation. They will just as soon kill and eat people, as any of the wildlife, and are sometimes indistinguishable from it, as they are often depicted as either the mutated results of nuclear radiation, or as the mutated products of inbreeding. They are shown as sexually untamed, and indiscriminate, willing to mate with whoever, or even whatever, is readily available, including members of their own families, livestock, and yes, visitors from the city.
At the same time, such films are also a middle finger to well dressed, exploitative, and arrogant, city dwellers, who think they’re better than the rural inhabitants. Poor whites eating them is a form of punishment, or sometimes contempt, to show that people from the city can look down their nose at the locals all they want, but even they are little better than meat.
When poor (or formerly poor) white folks do get portrayed in the media and pop culture, they’re often reduced to a series of offensive stereotypes: that they’re angry, lazy, dirty, overweight, sunburned, stupid, racist, alcoholic, abusive, jobless, tacky, diseased, violent, backwards, Bible-thumping and uneducated. Those stereotypes get reinforced over and over again on TV and in movies…
Rob Zombie’s Poverty Horror
While we’re here we should probably discuss the filmography of Rob Zombie, who has made a career out of showing rural white people as various shades of Boonies, Crackers, Hillbillies, Okies, Rednecks, Swamp Yankees, Yokels, and/or White Trash freaks and monsters, (the women often wearing ripped and skimpy clothing), in nearly all of his films. His characters, however, are not unsympathetic. Unlike films by other directors, Zombie empathizes with his characters. They are poor, and downtrodden, but their victims are worse, and deserve their fates. His directorial style is highly influenced by the grade B Horror films he loves.
In fact, he has coined his film style Hillbilly Horror, a type of horror that is specifically created to showcase the freakishness of the rural inhabitants, with which he identifies, with their emphasis on gore, weird costumes, and various social pathologies, like angry fathers, drunken mothers, screaming dysfunctional families, sexual exhibitionism, and lots of murder. These are the kinds characters created by someone familiar with their lifestyles, and sympathetic to their feelings about it.
In House of 1000 Corpses, and its sequel, The Devil’s Rejects, a couple gets kidnapped by a rural family who subjects them to the medical experiments of the local mad doctor. In Lords of Salem a radio DJ experiences strange visions , and horrors after playing the final album from a Satan worshiping Rock band. But it is in his 2007 remake of John Carpenter’s Halloween where many of Zombie’s tropes coalesce.
In Zombie’s remake, Michael Myers is given a victim’s backstory of child abuse, and neglect. His mother is absentmindedly affectionate, his father is a screaming, angry, disabled asshole, and his sister is openly sexually promiscuous. Michael is shown to be a product of a deeply dysfunctional poor white family, where the mother is often absent, and the father makes sexual overtures to his own daughter, and emotionally abuses his son. We didn’t need to know these things about Michael Myers, but it puts his psychopathic tendencies in a new light, especially against the backdrop of the many years of such movies that depict rural pathology.
Note that Michael doesn’t kill other poor people. He only kills the comfortable, small town, middle-class members of Haddonfield. Contrast Michael’s upbringing with that of Laurie Strode, his most prominent victim, who comes from a middle class, mainstream lifestyle as the daughter of the local sheriff. The homes Michael invades are warm, comfortable, wel ldecorated places where he afflicts the comfortable.
Horror movies in country settings are a repository of all the types of evil that city people disdain. As if by laying these sins onto the backs of others, they can absolve themselves of their complicity in the creation of such environments. By telling themselves that such people either hate them, or aren’t human anyway, they believe they are unworthy of compassion. Its yet another way for middle class Americans to abdicate their responsibilities in caring for their fellow man.
I’ve been watching horror movies since I was a little girl ,who was supposed to be asleep at 11 o’clock at night. I went through a period, with my mother, where I think we tried to watch every horror movie that got made between 1980 and 1988, before I went off to college, so I have seen a helluva lot of movies, many of which have been forgotten, unless your’e a serious horror movie fan. I admit, not everything I watched was any good, but I found something interesting in these five movies, which have stayed in my memory even though I haven’t watched some of them in decades.
Don’t Look in the Basement(1973)
This move was made back in 1973 so I wouldnt go in expecting it t be enlightened about mental illness. I saw this movie when I was a teenager, and there was just something about it that I found deeply disturbing. Yes, the characters are disturbed, certainly, becasue this is an asylum, but that’s not the reason why this movie has haunted me for years. I suspect its some quality of mood, or lighting, or acting that I found mesmerizing back then.
A young nurse gets a job in a remote asylum for the mentally ill, and has a great deal of difficulty doing her work, as the director of the facility seems as deeply disturbed as her patients. You can probably guess what the twist is long before the plot spirals down into a hot mess of murder and mutilation.
Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things
A troupe of method actors and their despotic director head out to Coconut Grove, Florida where, as a prank, they exhume a corpse called Orville and are subsequently horrified when his similarly deceased friends emerge from their graves to play some deadly games of their own. Filmed as America experienced its post-60s comedown, director Bob Clark’s first horror feature began a truly terrifying trilogy that continued with the powerful anti-Vietnam war statement Dead Of Night and climaxed with the classic seasonal (and subsequently re-made) scarefest Black Christmas.
You can definitely tell this movie was filmed on the cheap, but this is also one of the first zombie movies I ever saw, long before ever watched Night of the Living Dead, and of course this is nearly forgotten, except by zombie movie enthusiasts like me. The acting isn’t great, and the special effects aren’t either, but the movie has such a distinctive feel, that I’ve never forgotten it, despite having not watched it in decades.
Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971)
I haven’t seen this movie in decades but for some reason I still remember the haunted feeling I had watching this. The plot is a little fuzzy, but I think its about a woman who moves out into the country, with her boyfriend, to recover from a nervous breakdown, and encounters strange events, and possibly ghosts and vampires.
The movie is surprisingly well acted for a horror movie from the 70’s, and the cinematography looks gorgeous. The only drawback seems to be that the plot is a bit murky, but I do remember enjoying watching this on late night TV.
This is another movie I remember watching as a kid, late one night, when I was supposed to be asleep. I haven’t seen it in decades, but I still remember it pretty well, although it took me some time to find the title. I remember that I started off excited about the movie because, Hey! Zombie Bikers!, but by the end I recall a distinct feeling of melancholy for the bikers, and their inability to die, and at least part of that was due to this song.
I remember thinking something along the lines of how all these characters eventually became pretty jaded by the1974 lifestyle they thought was a form of true freedom, only to be trapped in a kind of hellish living afterlife.
The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane(1976)
This is another movie I watched late one night, without my mother’s permission, even though she was the one who told me about it! Its more of a mystery than a horror movie, but I’m going to put this here because it does have some onscreen kills. It stars a very young Jodi Foster, who was still riding on her fame from Taxi Driver, I think, which came out the same year.
It’s been awhile since I’ve seen this, but I think one of my mother’s objections to this movie, is the character is a serial killer ,who genuinely regrets killing people. My guess is that my Mom was opposed to kids killing adults in movies, which is understandable, but it might also have been the pedophilia from one of the characters, which she thought I was too young to be watching.
I wanted to see it because I was under the impression, at about nine years old, that Jodi seemed to be about my age, when she was, in fact, thirteen, at the time. I have observed that little girls often gravitate to movies about other little girls, and I was no different, except I gravitated to horror movies that starred little girls.
I cannot recall if she was alone because she killed her parents, but I do remember her making up various stories for the adults who investigated her situation, as to why she was alone, and killing the ones who got too nosy, as well as a man who was trying to get too cozy with her, if y’all know what I mean.
Well, I had plans to start my little Octo*ween posts, but physical disability got in the way, as I’ve had a flare up. Anybody with one of those painful disabilities that’s isn’t chronic, or comes and goes, knows exactly what I’m feeling right about now.
So, I’ll be back with you guys later this week. You may all begin the ritual Halloween festivities, and I’ll catch up.
If you actually care about people of color in fandom and our diverse experiences, stop tagging the ones you know in to do battle with fans of color like me. Stop DM-ing them our posts and tweets about our experiences and slyly pressuring them to interfere and get frustrated on your behalf because you don’t think fandom is racist.R
Y’all know I love Horror movies, and October is my favorite month EVER, although yes, I will happily talk about Horror movies all year round.
So, lets get started this week, with some stuff I’ve been working on, all September. I’m going to keep going with my Starring the Landscape Horror series, I got some reviews, movie comparisons, and discussions about some of the technical aspects of Horror film-making, like symbolism, color, camera work, and opening shots. We’re also gonna do some favorites posting, because I want to recommend stuff you’ve maybe not seen yet, forgotten about, or sometimes never even heard of so, lets distract ourselves from the world’s real life horrors, with some fake ones we can control, okay!
Because no matter how much you try to keep your head down, and not draw attention to yourselves, when white supremacy is done brutalizing black lives, it will come for you, and you will, and can never be, white enough for it not to ….
NEW YORK — Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron today charged former Louisville police officer Brett Hankison with three counts of wanton endangerment of the first degree. Charges were not brought against the other two officers involved in the execution of the no-knock warrant that took Breonna Taylor’s life, and none of the officers were charged directly in her death.
The announcement comes more than six months after Taylor, a 26-year-old Black EMT and aspiring nurse, was shot to death in her own home by Louisville police officers executing a late-night, “no-knock” warrant.
Carl Takei, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project, issued the following statement:
“Today’s charging decision is the manifestation of what the millions of people who have taken to the streets to protest police violence already know: Modern policing and our criminal legal system are rotten to the core. This decision further highlights what was already obvious: To change these systems that routinely perpetuate egregious acts of violence against Black lives, elected officials must listen to the cries of those communities and make sweeping changes — including divestment from these broken institutions and reinvesting in non-police alternatives — so that Black people no longer fear being murdered in their own home.
“Today’s decision is not accountability and not close to justice. Justice would have been LMPD officers never shooting Breonna Taylor in the first place. The charges brought against Officer Hankison state that Hankison violated standard operating procedures when his “actions displayed an extreme indifference to the value of human life.” The choice to bring these charges alone and so late highlights the indifference to human life shown by everyone involved in Breonna Taylor’s murder. That indifference was shown by the other officers who executed the no-knock warrant alongside Officer Hankison, Attorney General Cameron who took six months to bring these lesser charges, and the system that allows these injustices to happen regularly. Until the need for real systemic change is embraced by our leaders, that indifference and disregard for the lives of Black people will continue to be commonplace.
“We will continue to fight alongside the members of the Louisville community and the larger movement to shift power and resources away from the racist and unjust institution of policing that regularly terrorizes our communities and the lives of those that we love.”
firstname.lastname@example.org Broad Street18th FloorNew York, NY 10004United States(212) 549-2666
For Science Fiction nerds, like me, this new Dune movie is one of the best things to come out of Hollywood since Iron Man, because it is one of the fundamental books of Modern Science Fiction literature, right up there with Heinlein, and Asimov. If you knew how much shit we all lost watching this trailer. My reaction was calling out all the character names as the appeared and then reciting the mantra at the end. I’ve read the first book in the series every year since I was a teenager. I’ve read the entire series, including all the prequels. I’ve also seen every one of Villeneuve’s movies, so yeah, I’m just a little “verklempt”!!
I came across a lot of trailer reaction videos from people who had never read any of the books, and didn’t know about the 1984, David Lynch movie. I liked the Lynch version of this film okay, but I hated the TV version, which just looked cheap to me, (but I know some of you may have seen that). So under the philosophy of you don’t know what you don’t know, I thought I’d shed some light on the imagery in the trailer, and provide a tiny bit of backstory on the world of Dune.
Frank Herbert’s ideas turned out to be prescient to today, and involved discussions of imperialism, resource exploitation, colonization, religious zealotry, and eugenics, (although, as a white guy, he still makes the classic mistake of equating “Jihad” with violent revolution). Dune is a massive Space Opera involving hundreds of characters, and political, and religious intrigue, and yes, it even influenced the creation of Star Wars, since it predates that. It helps to think of the movie as Star Wars, crossed with Game of Thrones, as filmed by Christopher Nolan.
I don’t want to give any spoilers, but to understand what’s happening in the trailer, (and possibly the movie) you need a tiny bit of backstory about the universe. The trailer looks like it gives the whole movie away, but the plot will involve much more than what was seen in the trailer, (if done correctly), and the movie will be in two parts to accommodate the size of the story, and this trailer only features images from part one.
Dune was published in 1965 by Frank Herbert.
The story takes place ten thousand years in the future. Earth is long forgotten, as humanity has expanded into the universe. There are no other intelligent alien races, (although there are alien life forms). Computers and any intelligent machinery have been outlawed, because of a long ago war between humanity and AI, so human beings fulfill all the the functions once occupied by computers. The primary movers and shakers in that regard are the Mentats, the Bene Gesserit, and the Spacing Guild.
There are a also number of religious sects, with the primary one involving a fusion of Islamic and Catholic beliefs. There are a number of noble Houses, each assigned to their own home planet, and other special groups, on their own planets, all with their own separate agendas, all constantly jockeying for positions of power closer to the Emperor (named Corrino). There are many groups, but I’m only going to talk about the groups featured in the trailer. The books have all the political intrigue you could want, with all the depth and introspection you can expect from a Denis Villeneuve (Vil-noove) movie.
Since all computer, and computer related technology has been outlawed (See: The Butlerian Jihad), human beings have taken the place of this technology, often aided by the use of the spice, (called Melange) from the planet Arrakis. They have attained almost superhuman levels of cognition, allowing them to perform all the same functions computers once did.
Often referred to as Witches, the BG are a sisterhood of warrior nuns, aided by the use of Melange. Although not all of them act as warriors, most of them have been trained by the sisterhood, since birth, to be proficient in physical combat, and the use of manipulation and poisons. They’re advisors to the Emperor and other Imperial Houses, and obey the edicts and decisions of their Reverend Mothers. Many of the wives of the Noble Houses are from the BG, or have received training from them. They can control people with their voices, have limited psychic abilities, and have, for centuries been manipulating different genetic bloodlines to produce a male Bene Gesserit (Benny- Jess-Erit).
The Spacing Guild is one of the most powerful organizations in this universe. Aided by their use of Melange, they are the ones that make space travel not only possible, but safe. Without their ability to “fold” space, travel between star systems would not be possible, and there would be no trade or commerce. The large oblong ships seen in the trailer are ” the smaller sized dropships” capable of entering a planet’s atmosphere. The planet sized Highliners that they come from can only exist off-world. These ships are used to move goods, whole populations of peoples, and military troops. These massive ships are piloted by the humanoid shipminds, called Guild Navigators (not shown in the trailer). Navigators are beings so heavily mutated by their use of Melange that they can only exist in a sealed atmosphere of it, so it is in their best interests to make sure the flow of Melange from Arrakis remains a stable commodity.
Mentats are the human computers of Dune. Their job is to advise, calculate odds, and basically do all the things that computers used to do. After the outlawing of “thinking” machines, humans still needed the calculating ability of machines, so they created special schools for the purpose of replacing them. Most of the Noble Houses have at least one Mentat on retainer. The Mentat for House Harkonnen is Piter De Vries (David Dastmalchian). The Mentat for House Atreides is Thufir Hawat (Stephen McKinley). Mentats are heavy users of Spice, which some drink in the form of a special potion, called the juice of Sapho.
Suk School: One of the characters briefly glimpsed in the trailer is Doctor Wellington Yueh, (Chen Chang) who comes from the premiere medical school, and is the physician for House Atreides. Suk School doctors are some of the most trusted doctors in the universe, as they are specially conditioned to abide by their medical oaths to do no harm, which is denoted by the diamond shaped marks on their foreheads. They are often entrusted to serve in many of the Noble Houses, including that of the Emperor.
Paul Atreides, (of House Atreides, which is situated on the water planet Caladan) goes to the planet of Arrakis, where he meets the desert nomads, (The Fremen) of the only planet in the known universe which produces Melange. Think of Melange as something like space LSD. It’s a potent drug that expands a person’s mind to the point where they can do computer like calculations, see into the future, navigate through outer space, and increase longevity. Everyone in the upper echelons of power uses Melange to some degree, putting it in their foods and beverages, breathing it in the form of a mist, or just living within it like air. One of the side effects is that it turns the eyes that blue color seen in the trailer.
The rival of House Atreides is House Harkonnen, from the industrial planet Geidi Prime. Baron Harkonnen is an obese, manipulative, cruel man, with two nephews. Glossu “The Beast” Raban, (Dave Bautista) who is the governor of Dune and the Baron’s right hand, and Feyd Ruatha (not seen in the trailer). The Harkonens were tasked by the Emperor to colonize the planet Dune, and make sure that Spice production remains stable.
I’m going to try really hard not to give away any spoilers, though the book is 60 years old, and there’s, like, two movies about it. This is just a 101. If you want to go deeper than this, I’ll leave some resources for you to read at the end of this post.
Paul talks about his prophetic visions. While he is not someone who has necessarily been exposed to a lot of Melange, he does have Ben Gesserit training from his mother, who gave birth to a son, rather than the daughter she was ordered to have by her Order.
The next character we see is Chani (Chay-Nee) played by Zendaya, who is Paul’s love interest. Chani is the daughter of Liet Kynes.
Paul is taken to a meeting with the Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam, who is his mother’s superior in the Bene Gesserit Order. She gives him a test to determine if he is a human being with the ability to withstand pain, or an animal that will seek to avoid discomfort. He sticks his hand in a box, which will produce the worst pain ever experienced, and if he withdraws his hand, she will kill him with the poisoned needle she holds to his neck, called a Gom Jabbar.
Yes, this woman is powerful enough to waltz into the home of Duke Atreides, threaten to kill his only child, ( she could actually kill him if she wanted), and walk back out, with no repercussions.
Paul walks along the rocky beaches of Caladan as the Reverend Mother foretells his father’s future.
Paul is fighting with Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin) using a Hotlzman Shield. All members of the Royal Houses are trained in this form of combat, and will not appear in public without one. Shield fighting techniques require mastery of the sword, since projectile and energy weapons don’t work against Shields, which were specifically developed to withstand such weapons.
Images of the Atriedes family arriving on Arrakis, the Duke Leto Atreides, played by Oscar Isaac, and the Lady Jessica, played by Rebecca Ferguson. The Lady Jessica is the only the concubine of the Duke. The two are not married, which has created some small amount of scandal among the other Houses.
Paul is warmly met by Duncan Idaho. Duncan has been trained by a special guild called the Swordmasters of Ginaz. He works for Duke Leto Atreides as his Scout and personal guard, and he has, along with Gurney, helped to train Paul in various fighting techniques.
The leader of the tribal Fremen is named Stilgar, played by Javier Bardem. Their entire society is loosely based on the desert cultures of Northeast Africa and the Middle East. Stilgar is also the leader of a small tribe of Fremen called a seitch. Small tribal communities, along with the use of the black rubber suits you see everyone wearing on Arrakis, are how the Fremen survive in the deep desert. Everything in their culture involves the safe care of water. Each person in the tribe is allotted a specific amount of water based on their rank, their actual water amount, and sometimes their deeds as a warrior.
The next image, of crowds of dark clad soldiers are probably the Emperor’s Special Forces shock troops, called Saudauker (Sadu-car), which are highly trained, and specially condidtioned soldiers, often used to quell planetary rebellions. Its best to think of them as better trained Stormtroopers.
Images of Glossu Raban, and his uncle, Baron Vladmir Harkonnen, followed by a shot of Dr. Wellington Yueh, Jessica, and more Sardauker, in a battle with Duncan Idaho.
The scene of Gurney and Paul on the ship is the two of them looking at a Spice harvester being swallowed by one of the planet’s massive Sandworms. Sandworms are attracted to any rhythmic sound in the desert, so Spice Harvesters are always in danger from them, and are often shepherded by several ornithopters, the insect like flying machine that Paul and Gurney are riding in. Their job is to look for signs that a Sandworm is coming, and warn the Harvester, so it can be picked up and moved to safety.
More character shots, including one where Paul fights a young man of Stilgar’s tribe, named Jamis.
At the end of the trailer you see Paul pick up a handful of sand, (just as you saw him pick up a handful of water when he was on Caladan). Melange is so abundant on Arrakis that it is virtually inescapable. The tiny glittery spots you see in the sand is probably Melange.
The last image we see is Paul running across the desert being chased by a Sandworm. Yes, I know it looks like a giant sphincter, but hey! I didn’t design the darn thing. It is however impressively vast, and much like I imagined they look from the books.
Paul recites the Litany Against Fear, which is what he uses in his trial with the Gom Jabbar. Every Dune nerd knows this litany, and probably has it tattooed somewhere on their body…
“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.I will permit it to pass over me and through me.And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.”
I don’t think I need to tell you, that this has been one of the primary tenets of my life, and you might be surprised to know, this actually f*cking works to focus your thoughts, especially when any kind of anxiety.
Stillsuits – The black outfits you see everyone wearing in the desert scenes are suits worn only on Arrakis, and are meant to re-capture the body’s water, sweat, breath vapor, and even urine, to clean it, and recycle it into drinking water, to be reclaimed by the person. Living on Arrakis requires an acute knowledge of WaterDiscipline. Water is so scarce that many cultural activities surround it, and everyone’s lives revolve around procuring it, keeping it, and recycling it.
The Dune universe is so vast that there are entire planets devoted to a primary theme. Dune is a desert planet, Caladan is a water planet, much like Earth, and Geidi Prime is an industrial planet.
Sandworms are animals similar in appearance to colossal terrestrial annelids and in other ways to the lamprey. They are cylindrical worm-like creatures with a fearsome array of crystalline teeth which are used primarily for rasping rocks and sand. During his first close encounter with a sandworm in Dune, Paul notes, “Its mouth was some eighty meters in diameter … crystal teeth with the curved shape of crysknives glinting around the rim … the bellows breath of cinnamon, subtle aldehydes … acids …”A giant sandworm with its ring of teeth seeks to devour an ornithopter, in the Dune miniseries (2000)
Sandworms grow to hundreds of meters in length, with specimens observed over 400 metres (1,300 ft) long and 40 metres (130 ft) in diameter, although Paul becomes a sandrider by summoning a worm that “appeared to be” around half a league (2,778 meters = 9121 ft) or more in length. These gigantic worms burrow deep in the ground and travel swiftly; “most of the sand on Arrakis is credited to sandworm action”.
Sandworms are described as “incredibly tough” by Liet-Kynes, who further notes that “high-voltage electrical shock applied separately to each ring segment” is the only known way to kill and preserve them; atomics are the only explosive powerful enough to kill an entire worm, with conventional explosives being unfeasible as “each ring segment has a life of its own”. Water is poisonous to the worms, but it is in too short supply on Arrakis to be of use against any but the smallest of them.
Liet Kynes – in the books Liet Kynes is the father of Chani. He is also the Imperial planetary climatologist who has been working with the Fremen to create more water on Arrakis, and study the Sandworms. He is the liaison between the Emperor, whichever House currently resides on the planet, and the Fremen, and works as a kind of peacekeeper between the factions. In the movie, Liet Kynes is now a Black woman (although (I don’t think skin color much matters in a universe that’s ten thousand years away from Earth.) The new Liet Kynes is played by Sharon Duncan Brewster.
The Score – The Score heard in the trailer is a slowed down version of Pink Floyd’s Eclipse, from The Dark Side of the Moon album.
So during a week in which one traumatizing horror after another came form the WH, this whole thing happened. Hey, timing is everything.
I’m really excited to present the first trailer for season three of Star Trek Discovery. It looks great! What’s really funny I think this is the first Black man I’ve seen on this show, (although I’m sure some of them played Klingons in the first season), and it appears, from this traier, that he and Michael are going to be getting up close and personal.
Earlier this week was Star Trek Day, celebrating the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, and there were a number of online panels and interviews about each of the Star Trek shows. I skipped most of them, though. I liked Star Trek the Next Generation, and Deep Space Nine, just fine, but I only cursorily watched episodes of Voyager, and only the first episode of Enterprise, mostly because I wasn’t feeling any of the characters on those shows. In fact, I pretty much hated the cast of Voyager until Seven of Nine showed up.
I mostly skipped the Picard series, although I have heard its pretty good. Some day I’ll get around to finishing it, Currently playing ,is the animated Lower Decks, which I have yet to watch beyond its first episode. I couldn’t finish that episode because I didn’t like it very much, and it felt loud and frantic, but maybe I was just in the wrong mood for it that day.
But I’m glad I got in on the first season with Discovery, and not just because there’s a Black female lead, but because all the characters are really, really likable, and the show is doing some interesting things with plot and character. I love that it has openly gay couples on the show, and that the lead character is allowed to have love interests, because Black women don’t star in a lot of SciFi, or have love interests when they do.
This season is especially interesting because the series will add its first NB (that’s non-binary) character, played by an NB actor, and also its first transgender character, also played by a transgender actor. Their names are Blue Del Barrio, and Ian Alexander.
I’m really looking forward to this new season because at the end of the last season, Burnham and some of the crew got dropped almost a thousand years in the future, so the show doesn’t have to stay within canon any longer, and can do all new things, with new aliens species, and some new plots, I hope, and the trailer looks promising. One day I’m going to do an overview of the first two seasons because there was definitely a theme.
The rest of the cast that didn’t go into the future, will become the spinoff series, Strange New Worlds, with Anson Mount as Captain Pike, Spock, and Pike’s first officer, Number One. I’m looking forward to this one too, and not just because it stars Spock, but because Anson Mount is pretty dreamy, and I miss those old uniforms.
But the big news this week was the new trailer for Dune dropped and I am loving every bit of it. Unlike a lot of Dune fans, I’m no purist, but I really like Villaneuve, I’ve watched all of his movies, and this looks pretty faithful to the novel. Paul is very much how I imagined him from the book, but the most jarring looking characters were of course, Duncan Idaho played by Jason Momoa, and Lady Jessica, who looks very plain to me, but I can get past that. The only reason I bring up her looks is because I really liked the actress from the 1984 version. Its looks darker than the first film, and the clothing and colors are more, well drab, really, but I’m okay with that.
Dune was probably the first “real” Science Fiction book I ever read, and I just happened to read it, at the right point in my teenage development, that Paul’s journey resonated with me (and with a lot of other teens, it seems). Its one of my favorite books of all time, which I re-read (at least in part) every year. I’ve seen the first movie at least a dozen times. Only in the last ten years have I made any effort to read beyond the second book in the series written by Frank Herbert! I did read the Brian Herbert books because I liked the writing style, and the characters and plots were fun and interesting. I know some people hate those books, and will complain as loudly as possible that they suck, but like I said, I’m no purist, and I have, as a rule, never let other people’s dislikes determine what I’m going to enjoy.
Just like the rest of the internet, though, I have lost my shit and am totally geeking out about the trailer! Its funny how you sometimes don’t realize how much influence some piece of popular culture has had on you until you’re well into your adult years. I didn’t realize how much of my personal philosophy on living was crafted around some lessons from Dune, like the “Fear is the Mindkiller”, mantra, (which happened to dovetail neatly into my love for Spock), and is probably what’s behind my personal mantra of “Keep Moving Forward”.
Anywhoo, this is what excited me this week, even though my lower back decided it didn’t like me, and tried to kill me. Any Dune fans out there, let me know what you think in the comments, and for those of you not planning to read the books, and know nothing at all about this universe, which is to SciFi what LOTR is to Fantasy, (Dune is basically the Holy Grail of Space Opera, and there would probably not even be a Star Wars without its existence), tell me if I should do a 101 of the trailer. No spoilers, but a basic explanation of some of the characters and gadgets you’ll see in the movie. I’m not going to urge everyone to read the books,(and there are a lot of them), unless they are big SciFi fans though, because the worldbuilding in the books is really, really dense. So much so, that the books have been considered unfilmable. (I mean, you can read the books, but that won’t necessarily help with an understanding of this film.)
The Jungle is the symbolic opposite of the desert and the tundra. The Jungle environment is a stand in for confusion, the loss of civilization, wildness, overabundance, hardship, danger, fear, threat, and powerlessness. The colors associated with jungle environments in movies are greens, black, and red. The kind of horror stories that take place in the jungle often embody all these themes. In fact, many movies that take place in the jungle involve many elements of horror, even if they’re not actually horror movies.
The jungle is the opposite of the desert/Arctic, in that it has an overabundance of life, and most of that life is indifferent to ours. So dropping human beings into such an environment automatically makes it horrific, with the jungle itself as an external threat. Jungle movies that contain both internal and external threats are kind of rare, because often just the backdrop of the jungle itself is enough of a threat to human life that it makes the movie horrifying.
In the 2017 movie Jungle, starring Daniel Radcliffe, there is no more threat needed than the act of simply attempting to survive while in the jungle, with no food, no tools, and no resources, or skills. The movie is based on the true story of Yossi, an Israeli traveler who gets stranded, alone, in the Amazon, after a series of misadventures with friends. After several days of trying to get food and make shelter, Yossi is rescued by one of his friends. The movie is filmed much like a horror movie, except the killer is the environment, as Yossi and his companions encounter one challenge after another, from sickness and wounds, to river rapids and hunger.
In the 1972 movie, Aguirre the Wrath of God, directed by Werner Herzog, the horror comes not just from the environment, but also internal, as it comes from the weaknesses of other people. In 1560, a group of Conquistadors get lost in the Amazon, while searching for the fabled City of Gold, El Dorado. One by one, they succumb to the dangers of river rafting, sickness, hunger, angry natives, and their own perfidy, until their cruel leader is finally left alone to die in his madness. The soldiers were not only ill prepared for the rigors of survival in the jungle, but were brought low by their own greed, selfishness, and cruelty.
Writers don’t really need to add more to make the environment more threatening to increase the horror, but writers will occasionally drop in another external threat, such as in the most famous of these types of film, the 1987 Predator, in which Arnold Schwarzenegger, and a small, heavily armed, paramilitary rescue team, encounter a hostile alien in Central America, The alien possesses advanced weaponry and, one by one, stalks and kills them, until only Arnold’s character is left to outsmart it. The soldiers deal with multiple external threats that make watching the movie especially harrowing. They don’t just have to survive the dangers of the jungle, but the hostile insurgents they came to fight, and the alien, all while attempting to rescue a government official.
Alien beings are not the only threats form Outside however. Sometimes the threats are humans, or animals. Since the beginning of cinema, the deep, dark jungles of Africa, and South America have been shown to be the place where White explorers fear to tread, largely because of cannibals. The most recent one of these is Eli Roth’s 2013 Green Inferno, in which a cast of white plane crash survivors are set upon by a tribe of hungry natives.
The Green Inferno received negative reviews, not just for its gore, but for the tired racist concept of Indigenous people as inherently bloodthirsty and cannibalistic, predators lying in wait for white tourists, or travelers, to happen by, so they can torture and kill them. Among these films were a series of exploitation films, by Italian directors from the 80s, like 1980s Cannibal Holocaust, 1981s Eaten Alive, and Cannibal Ferox, that were devoted to the topic of white people being eaten by natives in jungle environments.
The Ruins, which was released in 2008, follows much the same plot, at least on the surface, when a group of backpackers in the Amazon, are attacked by the Indigenous tribe of that area, after they stumble across a forbidden site. The cannibal narrative is overturned, however, as the natives aren’t simply out to kill tourists, but are keeping them trapped in the jungle, to save the rest of the world from the sentient carnivorous plants the travelers have become infected with.
There is always an element of racism involved in such movies, as the natives, often people of color, are depicted as hostile, primitive, and cannibalistic, and whatever religions they practice are also demonized. The local natives in such films are often shown to jabbering hysterically in foreign languages, ignorant, uneducated, and not in charge of their own fates. The pagan religions they practice are associated with the jungle landscape, and represent the wild outer reaches of civilization, where human beings can survive, but not without the assistance of unknowable animal or eldritch gods, who are depicted as greedy, bloodthirsty, and requiring ritual sacrifices of animals and people, or involving arcane and mysterious rites of appeasement, as in the 1987 film The Believers, where a man is terrorized and cursed by the members of a Santeria cult, after he stumbles across a plot to sacrifice his son to a pagan god, to prevent World War 3.
In film after film, South and Central American religions like Voodoo and Santeria are associated with cults, jungle tribes, primitivism, a lack of education, gullibility, zombies, and Satanism. In fact, the term Witch Doctor comes directly from such movies, differentiating itself from the European witch model, by combining pagan religious rituals with medical and scientific experiments, as in the 1988 The Serpent and the Rainbow, supposedly based on the true story of Wade Davis, where a medical doctor, gets zombified by the local Witch Doctor, while researching the zombie myth. With rare exceptions, the only time Black people (or Indigenous peoples) appear in such films is when they’re the villains.
When attractive looking White people, (because let’s be honest, urban Black people are not traveling to the jungle for any reason, and we never star in these films as the victims), are not being eaten by humans in the jungle, they are being chased and eaten by the many dangerously large animals that live there. Every year since America’s environmental awakening in the 70s, Hollywood has produced a host of movies nature’s revenge movies, involving people being chased by giant snakes (Anaconda 1997), giant bears (Grizzly 1976), giant crocodiles (Primeval 2007) or giant pigs, (Razorback 1984) as a punishment for their hubris in believing they could conquer such an environment, or for not paying proper respect to it.
The premise of “Lost World” films is often based on revenge for the hubris of white colonizers, where there is some part of the world that is so unexplored, or uninhabitable, that it is still available for exploration and/or exploitation by white men, which nature duly rebukes for their trouble. The latest movie featuring a lost world plot is the 2017 Kong: Skull Island, wherein a group of military specialists get stranded on an unknown jungle island during the Vietnam War. They encounter the titular ape, and get picked off, one by one, by a menagerie of dangerously massive animals like spiders, pterosaurs, and to make the setup complete, horrific underground monsters.
But the most famous of these giant animal movies, upon which the new version is based, is the 1933 King Kong, in which an intrepid group of explorers get stranded on a jungle island that’s been lost in time. They get hunted by everything from hostile tribesmen, to dinosaurs, to the actual ape himself. The Jurassic Park franchise of the mid-90s, is just a scientific way to upgrade the Lost World myth to the modern world, with humans being hunted through dark jungles, by ancient creatures, while still addressing the same issues of economic exploitation. The dinosaurs are a scientific version of King King, (only without the elements of racism that mar the original film.)
The jungle is where human beings go to kill or be killed. That’s its only purpose. There’s no compromising with it, anything can be imagined in such a place, and a person can only exist in there on its terms, which makes movies set in jungles the most exciting and terrifying adventures to have.