Celluloid Diaries: 32 BEST ECO-HORROR MOVIES

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

32 BEST ECO-HORROR MOVIES

 

climate fiction movies

Together with the Offscreen Film Festival, I've concocted a program around eco-horror and animal attack movies. We came up with a list of more than 30 titles, divided between the Belgian Cinema Nova and Cinematek. From an out-of-control climate (The Last Winter), retribution from the animal world (Long Weekend) and plagues of arthropods (Kingdom of the Spiders, Phase IV) to pandemics (The Andromeda Strain), pollution (Frogs) and overpopulation (Soylent Green), it will be a dark trip through cinematic depictions of climate fear, at the point where the dystopian sci-fi of the first ecological genre films of the 1970s is increasingly becoming a dangerous and tangible reality.

The festival will take place between September 8 and September 26, 2021. I will be introducing several of the movies, and there will be copies of my books When Animals Attack: The 70 Best Horror Movies with Killer Animals and Evil Seeds: The Ultimate Movie Guide to Villainous Children available for purchase.

Here's a list of the eco-horror movies that you can watch at the Offscreen Film Festival... 

The Birds (1963)


Tippi Hedren gets dive-bombed by seagulls and stalked by crows at the behest of a sadistic director at the top of his game. Hitchcock’s thriller is all the more troubling in its refusal to offer a tidy explanation for the deadly avian attacks on farmers and schoolkids in the small coastal town of Bodega Bay. 


Long Weekend (1978)


An Australian couple tries to fix their marriage with a camping trip to the beach in this Ozploitation classic. But they unthinkingly trash the environment - killing a kangaroo, starting fires, hacking down trees - so, after a tense build-up, nature gets its revenge via insects, birds and a literally creepy dugong.


Phase IV (1974)


Two scientists investigating unusual ant activity in the Arizona desert find themselves under siege when the colony’s hive mind fights back. The only full-length feature directed by famed credits designer Saul Bass combines eco-horror thrills with awe-inspiring footage of antlife. Bow down to your insect overlords!


In the Earth (2021)


In the wake of a pandemic, a scientist sets out to join his ex-girlfriend in the woods where she has been studying fungal symbiosis, but he and his guide are waylaid by sinister forces. The director of Kill List and A Field in England serves up an intoxicating brew of folk horror and hallucinatory eco-madness.


No Blade of Grass (1970)


A virus spreads from China to destroy the world’s crops in this terrifying adaptation of John Christopher's prescient novel, resulting in food shortages, curfews, and civilization in tatters. A middle-class British family heads for the hills to escape the riots in London, but runs into even more danger on the road.


Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster (1971)


It’s a clash of titans! Toxic sludge forms itself into Hedorah, a flying amphibian behemoth that feeds off pollution dissolves human flesh, and invades a psychedelic disco. Thousands die. Japan’s last hope is Godzilla, who takes on the challenger in a Mount Fuji death match.


Kingdom of the Spiders (1977)


The peerless William Shatner plays a vet investigating livestock deaths in rural Arizona. His flirtation with a visiting lady arachnologist is rudely interrupted when they realize pesticides have upset the balance of nature, sending an unstoppable army of slow-moving but deadly tarantulas towards the nearby town.


Princess Mononoke (1997)


Set in magical 14th century Japan, Miyazaki’s bewitching animated epic tackles the nature-vs-technology theme with thrilling complexity. A prince travels west to seek a cure for a fatal curse, and finds himself caught up in the conflict between an enlightened industrialist and the ancient spirits of the forest.


Day of the Animals (1977)


Depletion of the ozone layer suddenly turns all animals at high altitude into killing machines. Bad news for a bunch of backpackers setting off on a hike through the Sierra Nevada, where they're attacked by lions, wolves, hawks, grizzlies and a demented pre-Airplane Leslie Nielsen at his most entertainingly OTT.


Stalker (1979)


In a dystopian future, a "stalker" leads a writer and a professor through a polluted environment into a heavily guarded Forbidden Zone to search for a room that may grant wishes. A visionary work by a master filmmaker weaving camerawork and design into an extraordinary meditation on faith, dreams and desire. 


Jallikattu (2019)


An escaped buffalo wreaks havoc in an Indian village, stirring up primal instincts in the menfolk as they compete to catch the beast. This study of toxic testosterone at its most unhinged pelts you with astonishing music and imagery on its way towards an unforgettably hellish climax. 


Waterworld (1995)


The polar icecaps have melted, flooding the planet. A samurai-like mariner (Kevin Costner) sails in search of mythical "Dryland" while Dennis Hopper and his band of chain-smoking pirates cause trouble. Unfairly dismissed as a turkey on its release, this blockbuster B-movie delivers aquatic action aplenty.


The Hellstrom Chronicle (1971)


Dr. Nils Hellstrom (played by an actor) claims insects are poised to inherit the Earth in this faux-documentary full of extraordinary nature footage. The hypothesis is all too credible, though Hellstrom himself, whose "experiments" include hiding bugs among supermarket produce to scare the shoppers, is clearly quite mad.


Soylent Green (1973)


In 2022, Charlton Heston plays a cop whose investigation into a lawyer’s murder uncovers an unpalatable truth. This adaptation of Harry Harrison’s Make Room! Make Room! tackles pollution, overcrowding, social inequality - and adds a secret ingredient to the mix! Edward G Robinson is very moving in his final role.


Silent Running (1972)


Earth’s plantlife is dying and a fleet of spacecraft carries the last remains of the planet’s flora. Bruce Dern plays the only crew member who cares about his cargo, so when an order comes through to destroy it, he rebels. A melancholy, visionary film, and a stunning directing debut for effects wizard Trumbull.


The Last Winter (2006)


An American oil company rep (Ron Perlman) clashes with an environmental scientist on a remote Alaskan outpost afflicted by odd phenomena. An effect of climate change, or is everyone going stir crazy? Eerie indie eco-horror in which the snowy wasteland draws on its paranormal heritage to oppose the human invaders. 


The Bay (2012)


"There’s something wrong with the water!" Superior found-footage eco-horror, stitched together by skilful editing, in which chemical waste leads to an outbreak of parasitic isopods in a Maryland seaside town where (echoes of Jaws) the mayor tries to downplay the gruesome havoc so as not to scare off tourists.


Pom Poko (1994)


Tanuki, according to Japanese folklore, are shape-shifting raccoon-like creatures with unusually versatile (and family-friendly) testicles. When their bucolic way of life is threatened by urban expansion, the critters fight back. In typical Studio Ghibli style, this enchanting fable packs a poignant ecological message. 


The Andromeda Strain (1971)


A crashed satellite unleashes a virus that turns human blood into powder. Can scientists isolate the organism before it takes out the entire West Coast? Wise’s sober adaptation of Michael Crichton’s sci-fi thriller is alarmingly plausible - but the inventive 70s production design and visual effects are a lot of fun.


Avatar (2009)


Sci-fi blockbuster about a paraplegic ex-marine from Earth whose able-bodied avatar infiltrates the Na'vi, peaceful blue humanoids 10 feet tall, before joining them in a struggle to save their planet from an evil mining company. An action-packed allegory of colonialism's effect on nature and indigenous societies.


The Last Wave (1977)


Australia is plagued by freak weather conditions, and a white lawyer's life begins to unravel after he takes on an Aborigine murder case and falls prey to strange apocalyptic dreams. The logical realism of the modern world collides with the ancient Dreamtime of the land's original inhabitants, to haunting effect.


The Road (2009)


Cormac McCarthy's bestseller comes to the screen with all its bleakness intact, plus a keening soundtrack by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. Viggo Mortensen plays the man trudging through a perilous post-apocalyptic landscape, trying to protect his young son from starvation, marauding cannibals and existential despair.


The Happening (2008)


An unseen force is making New Yorkers kill themselves in cruel and unusual ways. Science teacher Mark Wahlberg and his wife try to escape the city before it's too late. But is the countryside any safer? This eco-disaster movie uses the sound of leaves rustling in the breeze to evoke a uniquely uneasy mood.


Take Shelter (2011)


Michael Shannon plays a family man whose apocalyptic dreams prompt him to dig a tornado shelter in his Ohio backyard while wife and workmates wonder if he’s going mad. Is Jeff Nichols’ gripping psychodrama a small-scale disaster movie or an update of Noah’s Ark? Either way it’ll give you extreme weather anxiety. 


The Host (2006)


Pollution from a US military base creates a giant mutant tadpole that runs amok in Seoul, carrying off a girl whose flawed family must pull together to get her back. The director of Parasite stirs eco-thriller and sociopolitical subtext into a monster movie that will make you laugh and cry, sometimes both at once. 


Annihilation (2018)


A team of female scientists embarks on a suicide mission into the "Shimmer", an eerily verdant enclave from which only one explorer has previously reemerged. Garland’s adaptation of the first book in Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy is cerebral sci-fi with a streak of haunting Lovecraftian surrealism. 



Frogs (1972)


Ray Milland plays a bigoted southern patriarch who insists on celebrating Independence Day, even as members of his family and staff are killed off, one by one, by the deadly reptiles, amphibians and arthropods invading his Florida estate as payback for his polluting the swamp with pesticides. Nature is healing! 


Prophecy (1979)


Lumberjacks go missing in a New England forest. Local tribes blame the vengeful spirit of the woods, while a visiting environmentalist blames pollution from a paper mill. Either way, there's a giant mutant bear-creature running amok, with the director of The Manchurian Candidate serving up plenty of B-movie carnage. 


Isolation (2005)


A genetic experiment to boost bovine fertility goes awry on a remote Irish farm, leaving a small but solid cast (including Essie Davis, Sean Harris and Ruth Negga) fending off a herd of malformed cow foetuses ready to sink their fangs into anything that moves. Mud, blood and Alien-style splatter down on the farm!

  

The Crazies (1973)


A plane crash infects inhabitants of a Pennsylvania town with a secret biological weapon, leading to a surge of psychotic behavior, social chaos and martial law. Romero parlays his usual low budget, pitch-black humor and angry political subtext into a virus scenario that now seems uncomfortably close to the bone.

 

Koyaanisqatsi (1982)


The title of this experimental documentary is Hopi dialect for "life out of balance". The filmmakers use time-lapse, slo-mo and sped up film of nature, cities, people and traffic to create an impressionistic portrait of humanity’s fraught relationship with the planet, all set to a mesmerizing score by Philip Glass.



Read more about several of these movies in the book When Animals Attack: The 70 Best Horror Movies with Killer Animals.

eco-horror films

6 comments:

  1. I've seen over half of those. The Bay was creepy. Been years since I saw Koyaanisqatsi, but I do remember the tragic ending of the space shuttle blowing up.

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