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Gaia (2021) - All hail the mushroom queen

Eco-Horror – 10 lessons learned when you mess with Mother Nature

Here for another round of movie recommendations based on tropes and vibes. Today I am bringing to you eco-horror. This is a broadened subgenre, but the sub of the sub I am going to be focusing on will heavily base on the climate crisis and pandemics. Similar genres I’d like to tackle in the future within this subset are eco-space and cottagecore horror.

1. Silent Night (2021)

Christmas, as it usually does, brings all sorts of challenges. Intractably wrapped presents, fine dresses, and good food, but what if impending doom was looming just around the Christmas tree? For a long-time group of friends that is exactly what might become of this year’s festivities. Oh yeah, did I mention that a poisonous gas cloud threatens to extinguish human existence?

It isn’t your fault, or ours, it’s theirs.

If human derealization was conceptualized into an hour-and-a-half drama-riddled comedy that ends in absolute horror, this would be it. Was it a good time? No, but it was exactly what this list called for. It’s gritty and holds light to some of the very real fears humans hold about what our choices could lead to.

2. Into the Forest (2015)

What would you do if suddenly the lights of the world stopped working? After initially panicking, of course. For Nell and Eva it’s not a matter of survival, but living. Battling not only the apocalypse but what it means to be a woman within it, proves harder than just scavenging for food.

I will admit, my favorite type of eco-horror is the cut of electricity. There is something so terrifying about something so menial that if taken, could kill a third of the planet in a matter of days. This movie elevates a very real reality for women in an apocalyptic worldscape and what survival actually means.

3. The Last of Us (2023)

How do you survive a world that is working tenfold to kill you? Through trial by mushroom Ellie and Joel trek farther than either has ever gone in search of hope and some much-needed rest. But if it isn’t the apocalypse that wants to take them out, humanity just might.

You Know, As Dangerous As Those Things Are, At Least They’re Predictable. It’s The Normal People That Scare Me.”

– Bill

This show is sort of a hot ticket right now and for good reason. Based solely on the idea of evolution and its reaction to global warming, this is such a horrifying example of a reality too close to our current one for comfort. In an interesting twist. It’s not famine or rising sea levels that wipe us out… it’s the fungus among us.

Remember my list for crumble porn? This should be on that list a thousand times over. It is disgustingly beautiful and saddening, but mostly beautiful. The themes center heavily on the government’s failure to prepare the world for crisis and highlight how fragile our system truly might be.

The Eco-Horror film Gaia (2021) - All hail the mushroom queen
Gaia (2021) – Not everyone worships the same gods

4. Gaia (2021)

Is a cult really a cult if the God you worship is true? Is it wrong if your mission isn’t to proselytize but to protect the very deity you worship? Do you like psychedelic mushroom horror?

In Gaia, an injured forest ranger risks his life to rescue off-the-grid survivalist. His quest leads him to a deeply secret devotion to the forest that surrounds him.

There is something about new-age horror that is so intrinsically terrifying. It’s the idea that there isn’t a villain. This isn’t inherently a new idea, but it has been the theme of most of the horror to come the last ten or so years. The thing is, when it comes to eco-horror, there often can’t be a viable villain to fight that isn’t the viewer, that isn’t consumption or ignorance.

5. The Happening (2008)

What if there were no signs? What if you wake up in the morning ready for a cup of coffee and by nightfall half the population is gone and you are left to piece together the fragmented truth yourself?

What if the flowers were pissed that you didn’t water them?

I’ll let you in on a secret, recycled plots are some of my favorites. This premise isn’t new, but it’s good for two reasons. One, it plays on humans’ fear of losing control. Two, it’s digestible. Silent Night and Into the Forest are the types of movies you watch when you feel the need to fearmonger yourself into recycling more. This, despite being dark, is pretty and holds a much lighter candle to the apocalypse than some of the others mentioned.

The Bay (2012) - A researchers finds isopod larvae in the finsh
The Bay (2012) – This little guy must be harmless… right?!?!?

6. The Bay (2012)

Along a seaside town, a virus of bug-like creatures decides to take up residence inside the small populace. The worst part (or best depending on your sense of humor) is that theses creatures eat their victims from the inside out.

Do you remember that one scene from the mummy where the beetle was under that one guy’s skin and Brendan Fraser cut it out with a knife? How would you like ninety straight minutes of that but like, worse? This movie gave me phantom itches for a week.

7. The Birds (1963)

What would you do if suddenly birds began attacking people? Without someone to blame and nowhere to go, a small Californian town reels for answers and salvation in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1964).

These movies crack me up so much. If for anything else it’s interesting to see how horror has evolved and what was considered terrifying throughout the years. It’s a beautiful time capsule and all things considered a pretty decent plot.

8. Cabin fever (2016)

A college break getaway, a cabin in the woods, a virus, and homicidal locals. What could go wrong? Literally everything.

This movie is very reminiscent of the movie Cabin In The Woods (2012) if it took a step or two further into the splatterpunk genre. It’s icky and has that peak oversaturated look that the late twenty-tens is known for.

9. The Feast (2021)

A wealthy family hires a new waitress to help with a dinner party. In a cocktail of horrifying traditions, wealthy ignorance, and good old fashion revenge this is dinner is sure to go down like sour meat.

There are few movies that have ever triggered my gag reflex. That’s actually a lie, but this movie is in the top few that the visceral reaction that forced itself from my body and actually ended in a loss of appetite. It was so disgusting and so good.

Frogs (1972) - What happens when the wildlife get tired of your trash
In this 1972 film, it’s not just the frogs that are pissed

10. Frogs (1972)

What if nature was sick of humanity? Perseverance can only get you so far and hope is dwindling.

As I said for the birds, it’s so interesting to see movies through history and what they believed to be true horror, but even more so, this movie shows in literal bolded letters that they knew even then that we weren’t doing right by the planet. The war on climate crisis isn’t a new idea, but it is framed as one. This movie is a chilling example of how little progress we’ve made in the way of conservation.

Final Words

Horror is notoriously the first genre in media to take a look at society and point out something that is clearly wrong. Most of these are newer horror films because as time passes progress eco-horror continues to grow faster than others. If that doesn’t tell you something about our current societal culture and what we should really be fearing, I don’t know what does.

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