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[Guest Post]

Oil, Gas, Coal, Oh My! Eco-Horror and the Anthropocene Apocalypse


Society has become extremely dependent upon certain natural – and very limited – resources the planet provides. So much so that we have been known to risk everything in order to ensure access to them, as militaristic engagements in the Middle East clearly demonstrate. The devastation to plant and animal life as a result of extensive drilling, spilling, and polluting indicates our addiction to certain fuels for energy. Scientific research shows that carbon-based resources such as natural gas and coal are dwindling in supply, but they continue to provide nearly 80% of the world’s power.

So what will happen when Mother Nature decides she no longer deserves to be mutilated, and chooses to fight back with merciless vengeance? Eco-horror films have been speculating this “man versus nature” war for decades and many of them may not be far off. Here are five terrifying eco-horror films, to really get you thinking about what might happen when nature becomes fed up.

“Them!” (1954) started off as a murder mystery in New Mexico. Sergeant Peterson (James Whitmore) and his trooper discover a girl who escaped a trailer which had been torn apart and its occupants killed. When more of these mysterious murders turn up an FBI agent, Robert Graham (James Arness), arrives with a father-daughter team of experts, Harold and Pat Medford (Edmund Gwenn and Joan Weldon) in hopes of identifying mysterious footprints. They begin to speculate the murderous creatures are gigantic desert ants mutated from atomic bomb testings. To quote Dr. Medford: “We may be witnesses to a biblical prophecy come true…”

Though, what’s to be expected when you drop massive amounts of radiation on the land? Flowers certainly won’t come of it, that’s for sure, and even the tiniest of animals can turn dangerously vicious if willed.

In the 1979 movie Prophecy wildlife mutates when a paper company drops mercury into the lake, because it’s “cheap”. Suddenly the native Indians’ legend, Katahdin, becomes all too real when a massive mutated bear begins to murder innocent campers. Dr. Robert Verne (Robert Foxworth) must help the natives combat the dangers only to discover his wife Maggie (Talia Shire), after unknowingly eating contaminated fish. They become worried her baby might be “deformed” or die like the native children, as Ramona and John Hawks (Victoria Racimo and Armand Assante) had witnessed.

It’s gruesome to consider, but brings to light how dangerous haphazardly throwing chemicals into the environment can be to an ecosystem, including its people.

“C.H.U.D.” (1984) focuses on cannibalistic, radioactive, humanoids. Captain Bosch (Christopher Curry) trudges down a path to find the truth when the city’s transients, along with his wife, go missing. The sewers, made radioactive by the NRC, have mutated the once human homeless population that dwell in the sewers turning them into vicious cannibals. Our primal instincts – hunt, kill, survive – have been hard-wired into us. And when she wants, nature can ignite those instincts, even if it means turning on us against each other.

From mutated creatures to flesh eating parasites we move on to “The Thaw” (2009). When Dr. Kruipen (Val Kilmer) stumbles onto a half frozen mammoth, infected with flesh eating insects he becomes determined to use himself as the driving force needed to wake the population to global warming problems. Kruipen’s daughter, Evelyn (Martha MacIsaac), must stop her father from becoming an eco-terrorist, spreading the bugs to the mainlands to “make his point”.

It’s a terrifying thought, more than the bugs: a fed up scientist, willing to “sacrifice” himself to wake people up, kill thousands, to show just how badly they’re destroying nature.

Based on real scientific facts, “The Bay” (2012) is a hard-hitting story because it hits so close to home – literally in our own backyards. The Chesapeake Bay has been contaminated by feces and chemical runoff from the chicken farms in the area that was not properly filtered. Donna Thompson (Kether Donohue) was reporting on the scene and in an interview retells her thoughts and explains the chaos of that day. We jump story to story and watch as flesh eating parasites lurking in the city’s water supply kill hundreds.

It’s important to correct our errors now because, as we see in these movies, government secrets and terror threats may be the least of our problems. If it’s not a creature mutated from chemicals and radiation it will be deadly parasites later. Movies like these, however radical they might seem now, need to become teaching tools to prevent our self-destruction. As the wise Dr. Medford once said, “We’ve only had a close view of the beginning of what may be the end of us.”

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Brandon Alex