A sense of dread in an sunburnt land
April 28, 2011 3:19 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for examples of media that combine the landscape of the American West with the horror genre.

By the American West I mean the area west of the Mississippi River and east of the Pacific Ocean, but especially the great plains. I'd also be interested in media set in the other great prairie landscapes of the world, like the Steppe. There must be hundreds of horror movies set in the woods and that's not really what I'm looking for.

I don't care if the topic is fiction or non-fiction, and if the action is realistic or supernatural. I'm also open to suggestions from books, movies, games or television. Anything from pre-colonial times, to Westerns, to Post-Modern angst is all fair game. Basically anything that conveys terror, creepiness or dread and uses the landscape in some regard.

(Red Dead Redemption and especially the dlc campaign Undead Nightmare really got me interested in this made-up genre.)
posted by 2bucksplus to Media & Arts (44 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
Close?
posted by TWinbrook8 at 3:23 PM on April 28, 2011


Deadlands is your first port of call.
posted by longbaugh at 3:23 PM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I only got about a half hour into it before deciding it wasn't for me, but I remember the landscape of Legion as very flat and plains-like.
posted by lilac girl at 3:25 PM on April 28, 2011


Dead in The West by Joe Lansdale.

Black Hills By Dan Simmons.
posted by smoke at 3:28 PM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, perhaps, Ravenous directed by Antonia Bird.
posted by smoke at 3:29 PM on April 28, 2011


Check out some of the rewrites H.P. Lovecraft did for Zealia Bishop:

The Curse of Yig

The Mound
posted by ursus_comiter at 3:31 PM on April 28, 2011


The Burrowers
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 3:34 PM on April 28, 2011


Blood Meridian, definitely.
posted by Hello, Revelers! I am Captain Lavender! at 3:38 PM on April 28, 2011


You might also enjoy Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter Warlord of Mars series. Definitely owes a debt to westerns and the Burroughs' Martian geography is often akin to the western desert lands, at least at first.

The first one of the series is A Princess of Mars.

Keep in mind that these were written in the very early 19th century and are very much of their time.
posted by ursus_comiter at 3:39 PM on April 28, 2011


The Saint of Killers storyline from Preacher. Also Jonah Hex - comic, film.
posted by zanni at 3:40 PM on April 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Not exactly the American West, but The Devil's Backbone is a horror movie by Guillermo del Toro that takes place in a remote desert orphanage in Spain during the Spanish Civil War. The setting, landscape and set of characters evoked western to me, and are used brilliantly.
posted by Schismatic at 3:41 PM on April 28, 2011


Matt Maxwell's great Strangeways
posted by Victorvacendak at 3:42 PM on April 28, 2011


From Dusk Till Dawn?
posted by capnsue at 3:44 PM on April 28, 2011


Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's magnificent, profane, bloody, and bleakly humorous comic book series Preacher. It isn't necessarily about the American West, though that landscape does feature in the books, but it definitely plays on the tropes of the Western in a horrific way.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:44 PM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Badlands is a sort of horror film.
posted by bubukaba at 3:49 PM on April 28, 2011


The late '90s computer game Nocturne, specifically the second chapter.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:50 PM on April 28, 2011


Oh, and there's an anthology of Lovecraft-inspired stories that might work: Frontier Cthulhu.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:53 PM on April 28, 2011


Not exactly horror, but there's a lot of tension, dread, and creepiness in Tideland, and rolling plains/fields of wheat are used extensively in setting the tone and look of the film.

Stephen King wrote two books that take place in the desolate American West: Desperation, and it's buddy book by Richard Bachman, The Regulators. Also, his Dark Tower series bounces around several landscapes that, while not of this world, are related to it (...somehow?), including Kansas and Western desolation. The Stand too, to an extent.
posted by carsonb at 4:05 PM on April 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


"The Hills Have Eyes"
posted by Burhanistan at 4:14 PM on April 28, 2011


Near Dark, one of Kathryn Bigelow's early films, takes place mostly in the Arizona desert.
posted by spasm at 4:17 PM on April 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Texas Chainsaw Massacre
And a round-up, no pun intended, of the genre, which includes Billy the Kid vs. Dracula.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:22 PM on April 28, 2011


(Also, I think that the "true" west is that which is west of the Pecos River, not the Mississippi.)
posted by Burhanistan at 4:22 PM on April 28, 2011


Borderlands has more of a scifi than horror slant, but is pretty awesome in a wild west meets mad max sort of way...
posted by sexyrobot at 4:27 PM on April 28, 2011


Wolf Creek?

It's set in the Australian outback, based on a real murder and kidnapping. Australia is even referred to as "The Sunburnt Country".
posted by trialex at 4:29 PM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


The comic High Moon features cowboy werewolves and is drawn by the excellent Steve Ellis. First issue available to read for free here.
posted by longbaugh at 4:35 PM on April 28, 2011


John Carpenter's Vampires. It's set in either New Mexico or Arizona, one of those blisteringly hot, sun-cooked states. Jack Crow: BEST! VAMPIRE! HUNTER! EVAR!
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 5:12 PM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Undead or Alive; a Zomedie
posted by Redhush at 5:12 PM on April 28, 2011


WHOA! Massive appologies, but that trailer I just linked to is CRAZY SPOILERIFFIC! Holy fuck, I just called up the movie trailer assuming someone with some kind of sense put it together, and hit you with it.

Then I watched it.

Still, just what you're looking for.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 5:20 PM on April 28, 2011


Territory, by Emma Bull. Wyatt Erp as a dangerous sorcerer. Traditional old west.

Last Call, by Tim Powers. Poker and resurrection in Las Vegas. Modern fantasy/horror but very evocative of place.
posted by bonehead at 5:56 PM on April 28, 2011


Another author I just remembered: Adam Niswander. He writes Lovecraft-inspired horror set in the contemporary southwest, with Navajo shamans hunting other-dimensional blasphemies and stuff.
posted by infinitywaltz at 6:13 PM on April 28, 2011


Fallout: New Vegas. Man, a couple of months ago I was driving between El Paso and Alamogordo and there was this extremely quirky radio station that I found that was playing a mixture of big band hits and old country and tumbleweeds were dancing across the road and BOOM, I was on high alert, waiting for Deathclaws to attack my car.
posted by Addlepated at 6:22 PM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Try Devil's Tower and Devil's Engine by Mark Sumner. You also might check out the books of Kem Nunn. Unassigned Territories comes to mind (but the surfing noir classic Tapping the Source is a great read as well, though it is set on the Pacific coast.)
posted by gudrun at 6:24 PM on April 28, 2011


Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man is an eerie and unsettling take on the western. Not so much supernatural, but definitely horrific, bizarre, and mystical. And an excellent movie.
posted by dkg at 6:41 PM on April 28, 2011


Surveillance is one sick film set in the Nebraska plains. Capote's In Cold Blood and its film adaptations capture the horror of a violent atrocity in Kansas and its affect on the town community. Also in the "true crime" category is Norman Mailer's The Executioner's Song and its television adaptation, about the execution of serial killer Gary Gilmore in Utah. Finally, check out E.L. Doctorow's brutal Welcome to Hard Times whose main character, known only as the Bad Man from Bodie, is one mean cowboy. The film adaptation starred Henry Fonda as the guy trying to ward off evil.

The plains and the western landscape feature prominently in all.
posted by beanie at 11:30 PM on April 28, 2011


Westworld! An oldie but a goodie.
Jodorowsky's El Topo. Smoke something before you watch it.
The tv series Firefly.
The recent Cowboys & Aliens.

Further afield:
Terrence Malick's visually stunning Days of Heaven. There's no shoot-em-up cowboying going on here, but the Texas landscape plays a major role.
The American Astronaut. Way out there.

Dead Man and Blood Meridian are excellent suggestions.
posted by Paris Elk at 11:55 PM on April 28, 2011


I forgot Carnivale, an amazing, creepy and alas short-lived HBO series set in Oklahoma during the Great Depression.
posted by Paris Elk at 12:05 AM on April 29, 2011


Certain parts of Stephen King's The Stand take place in the desert around Las Vegas.
posted by Gungho at 4:09 AM on April 29, 2011


Dust Devil is set in the African desert. Also The Proposition, which is set in Australia and, though not supernatural, pretty horrific.
posted by permafrost at 5:35 AM on April 29, 2011


Rubber is kind of like that
posted by birdbone at 6:42 AM on April 29, 2011


It's set in a present day nursing home in the south, so in that sense it doesn't answer your request at all, but 2002's Bubba Ho-tep does feature a cowboy hat-and-boot-wearing evil mummy, fought by Elvis Presley (Bruce Campbell) and JFK.
posted by General Tonic at 6:49 AM on April 29, 2011


This Wikipedia article on the Weird West has a list of movies that might work for you. Most of them skew towards the supernatural, but there are some horror movies there as well.
posted by zoetrope at 7:36 AM on April 29, 2011


Sergio Leone's Once Upon A Time in The West is like a conventional spaghetti Western, but it does have a distinctive sparse eerie tone that you would sense in a horror film.
posted by ovvl at 8:04 AM on April 29, 2011


Second for Blood Meridian. It is not really within the horror genre, but there is just as much bloodshed and depravity as a horror piece, and just a hint of the supernatural. It will get right under your skin and the landscape is a fundamental element of the work.
posted by dredge at 9:25 AM on April 29, 2011


Thanks for all the great suggestions so far! Yeah what I'm looking for doesn't have to be strictly horror, just creepy or scary in some way.
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:13 AM on April 29, 2011


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