Sunday, October 21, 2018

Civil War horror movies

Back at the beginning of the month, I decided I would try something fun and different by recommending a list of Civil War horror movies for those wanting to fill gaps in their own 31 Days of Halloween marathon. I wanted to only include ones that I actually liked and believed before diving in that it would be possible to come up with 5-10. Unfortunately, the list (if we can even call it that) languished badly as I couldn't even come up with a handful! At least for me, qualifying movies like Exit Humanity, The Killing Box, The Supernaturals, Gods and Generals (the horror is in the filmmaking along with the fact that I stayed after the intermission), and the Abraham Lincoln Vs. movies all commit the cardinal sin of boring to such a degree that I couldn't even place them in the 'so bad it's good' category of fun. For the ones set in modern times, The Curse of the Cannibal Confederates is unwatchable and, while some like it as a Herschell Gordon Lewis gore classic, I found it difficult to sit through the original Two Thousand Maniacs! (or the remake/sequel).

Anyway, the list I did come up with is embarrassingly small and Google was unhelpful in jogging my memory or introducing me to more candidates to preview, but I went through the effort already and might as well post it. I'm not going to review them, just offer a few comments.

1. Dead Birds (2004)

This is my favorite Civil War horror movie. Great tense, unsettling atmosphere. Solid scares. Pretty good effects (beyond the horrible CGI gunfight at the beginning) and impressive casting for low-budget indie horror. I liked how it combined occult and supernatural horror with the real-world horrors of slavery and southern home front devastation (the ruined, overgrown plantation was a fitting setting).

2. The Curse of Demon Mountain (1977)

This is a passably thoughtful (or at least that's how I remember it), not often mentioned movie with the type of 70s pacing that will challenge audience patience in places. I wouldn't call it a gem, but I went into it thinking it would be straightforward b-movie and the story took an unexpected turn that made it worthwhile.

3. An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge (1961)

I still marvel at how modern Bierce's 1890 tale feels, and the twist has been repurposed in countless forms in both print and film. It's been adapted for the screen a few times, but the best version is still the Oscar-winning French short film made famous in the U.S. by its inclusion as an episode of the classic Twilight Zone series. My original intention was to keep shorts and anthology parts off the list, and I know it's somewhat iffy on considering this horror, but cut me some slack on this one.


For something else existing on the borders of horror, I would heartily recommend The Beguiled (the original one, I never saw the remake). I wish I could come up with more. If you can dig up any, feel free to add them in the comments section.

9 comments:

  1. Does "Mysterious Island" (1961) based on the Jules Verne "The Mysterious Island" count? Blurb: "During the Civil War a group of Union soldiers and two Confederates escape the stockade using a hot air balloon and end up on a strange Pacific island." Not really horror I guess, but they do encounter giant plants and animals (sort of a prehistoric theme I guess), as well as Captain Nemo.

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    1. I would say more fantasy adventure, but movies with giant beasts like those in MI (the huge crab comes to mind) could at the very least be considered fringe horror.

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  2. How about The Beguiled, the first version with Clint Eastwood as the wounded Union Soldier? What happened to him can be described as horror (analogous to what happened in the movie, Misery. Sorry, but I found Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter to be a hoot and a guilty pleasure.

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    1. Hi John,
      I mentioned The Beguiled at the bottom!

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  3. The between the wars (Mexican/Civil War) U. S. army stationed on the frontier cannibal horror movie Ravenous (1999) with Guy Pearce and Robert Carlyle is one I have always enjoyed. Many of the officers involved served in the Mexican war and I always like to imagine the younger officers in line for service in the Civil War if they hadn't crossed paths with a sadistic cannibal who also had Mexican War service I believe? Is that too much of a stretch for Civil War horror? Not a bad movie.

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  4. 'Grey Knight' AKA: 'Ghost Brigade'. Martin Sheen's even in it like he is still playing Lee in 'Gettysburg'. Really weird movie use to come on TV every now and then. Civil War zombies. They even mention Stones River for some reason.

    And another movie I can never remember the title of that has Alabama National Guard soldiers killed by dead Confederates. Even has the old standby of a male and female guard soldiers caught at an inopportune time by an undead Reb. Really awful stuff. Haven't seen it in years. Wish somebody knew the name.

    Chris

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    1. The first movie you reference is the same as "The Killing Box" (the Sheen, Pasdar, Bernsen movie). It has several different names.

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    2. Chris,
      Forgot to also say that the second movie is "The Supernaturals". And yes, it is indeed awful stuff!

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