Thursday, April 23, 2009

Flower Power

As modern hippies join hands and hold organic bake sales to benefit Earth Day, we horror fans find our own ways of honoring this third planet from the sun most of us call home. Personally, I can't think of a better method than to comb through cinema history for a few films high on environmentally inspired dangers. I don't know about you, but that sounds far more fun than making a compost pile or, you know, trying to save a world that seems so hellbent on killing us.

Terrifying Trees!
While there has yet to be an official Arbor Day entry into the slasher school of holiday-themed horror, trees do get their due, and I’m not just talking about Elm Street (ba dom bump! I'll stop now). William Friedken's abysmal 1990 The Guardian bests The Hand That Rocks the Cradle for presenting the wealthy suburbs’ most viscous nanny (and adds the whole “druid cult that believes in sacrificing babies to oaks” twist that’s much worse than it sounds). Of course, The Evil Dead gives us an infamous lady-raping tree, but the film that truly alleviates my guilt over wasting paper goes back 70 years to the Yellow Brick Road. Whether Oz exists south of the Equator or somewhere deep inside Dorothy’s uppers/downers-filled head, it does boast a forest that could kick the hobbits out of Middle Earth. If my woods ever insulted me with the fervor of a bad standup comic or hurled apples my way with more speed than Johann Santana, I’d say screw double-sided copies and bring on urban sprawl.

Eat Your Vegetables (Before They Kill You)
When I was 8 years old, I started my first great unfinished screenplay titled, quite simply,  “Don’t Eat.” The poster art (done in pre-sharpener equipped Crayola) featured a giant hot dog menacingly squeezing a ketchup bottle’s contents into a dying diner’s mouth as flames spouted out his eyes. I’m still waiting for Harvey Weinstein’s call, but in the meantime, any film about killer food will keep me entertained. Because it’s ridiculous. Obviously, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is worth its infamy, but for a poetically veggie viewing, I’d hit up Children of the Corn 2: The Final (despite 5 more and counting sequels) Sacrifice. The 1992 installment tosses in an explanation of how chemically rotting corn mold was responsible for driving Isaac & Co. into Bad Seed levels of bloodthirstiness. And here I thought those cobs just had too many carbs.

Villainous Vinery
Invasion of the Body Snatchers has its spores and Creepshow has a fuzzy green Stephen King, but it seems like most ferocious fauna is a tad too alien-based for a day that celebrates this planet. Perhaps one of the most underrated horror films of recent years is The Ruins, a glossy but nasty little chiller that features frisky plant life as creatively sadistic as it is au naturale. Based on Scott B. Smith’s fantastically frightening novel of the same name, The Ruins makes a poison ivy rash look pleasant. Hell, it makes jumping naked into an overgrown garden of three-leaved bushes look more comforting than falling gently into a basket of fluffy towels regularly leapt into by Snuggles, the fabric softener bear.

Emoting in the Wind (which is totally not Happening)
If the world is indeed populated by nerdy, whiny voiced Mark Walberg’s who constantly worry about What’s Happening to The Bees!, then I’m all for deadly wind swooping in to destroy the human population in grisly and thoroughly painful ways. While I admire M. Night Shayamalan’s um, intent to highlight environmental issues, I--along, I’m sure, with most of the non-comatose public who lost 89 minutes to this bewildering bad mess--found his latest disaster to be worthy of extinction. Still, the idea of Mother Nature taking matters into her own hands ain’t bad. 

Now let’s never speak of this movie again.

Deadly Dionaea Muscipula
Let us stop to consider the irony of the venus fly trap. It’s a plant. It’s also a carnivore. In a way, that makes perfect sense (you can never accuse it of cannibalism) but holy shit. A plant eats meat. It’s nearly as confusing as goblins turning humans into greenery for cuisine while promoting vigilant vegetarianism (it's hard to go more than a week without mentioning Troll 2 in some form or another). 

Naturally, venus fly traps make ideal villains. Little Shop of Horrors amps it up by fitting its name to cast its a man-eating flower as a creature FROM outer space, but for a more earth-bound example, look to the animated framing story of Creepshow 2. It even teaches a few lessons about the wrongness of bullying and the importance of teaching youths about gardening. 

So dear readers, how did YOU celebrate your homeland this past week? Non-dairy pizza parties decorated with crepe-shaped hemp paper or learning a lesson about organic recycling with Cliff Clavin in Motel Hell

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