IT CAME FROM PLANET EARTH:
Eco-Horror and the Politics of Postenvironmentalism in
Joseph J. Foy
Ecologically based horror films, or “eco-horror,” are fright flicks in which nature turns against humankind due to environmental degradation, pollution, encroachment, nuclear disaster, or a host of other reasons. As a genre, eco-horror attempts to raise mass consciousness about the very real threats that will face humanity if we are not more environmentally cautious. The popularity of ecologically based documentaries such as An Inconvenient Truth, The 11th Hour, and Flow have helped spark a cinematic revival of apocalyptic tales of nature turning on humanity that were popular in the 1950s and 1970s.
Larry Fessenden, producer and director of many independent films, argues that horror movies are “cautionary tales.” Fessenden’s 2006 film The Last Winter is an eco-horror about an oil company’s attempts to drill in the pristine environment of a northern Alaskan wildlife refuge. The drilling releases something that affects the psychology of the drilling team, and many of them begin to suffer what seem to be delusions that threaten the lives of the crew. According to Fessenden, such films are designed to scare us into realizing that “we don’t want to be in a horror film. We don’t want to wake up in a horrible superstorm… [or] have wars over the last drops of water.”1 According to Neda Ulaby of National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, the purveyors of eco-horror are trying to “affect the cultural conversation” with their films.2 In essence, eco-horror is an example of popular culture attempting to transform a marginalized, disempowered voice into a mainstream dialogue.