My grandpa is a gigantic Western movie fan and I used to be one, too. But I guess that the appeal of dry skin, heat and sunburn combined with a dust lung and the combination burning days/freezing nights is not really my cup of tea. Also: racism and outhouses. I mean, the Wild West is a nightmare for everyone who’s not too keen on shooting things (and even that is more fictitious as you couldn’t just go around and shoot random people, but that’s for another blogger to discuss).
But obviously all the reasons why I hate the Wild West (I love cows and horses and coyotes, though, before anyone wonders) are perfect reasons for a nice, frightening horror movie setting (well, minus the outhouse, maybe). And there are indeed a few amazing pieces that really play well with the genre mix.
There will be possibly spoilers!
Disclaimer: I will not add “Bone Tomahawk” because for me that movie was not fun or creepy at all but just depressing. This is a personal taste, and no judgement on all the people who love that movie. It’s just not my thing to watch hardly intelligible people walking around and then get killed in the most gruesome ways. I am more of a supernatural/”Oh, it’s a ghost/monster/outhouse!” kind of gal.
Dead Birds (2012)
The less you know about this movie, the better. So I try to tread lightly here. A group of confederate soldiers are on the run and find a hideout that might not be the best place to stay over night.
I don’t know why horror movie makers love to turn horrible people (e.g. confederate soldiers) into the protagonists of their movies. “The Bunker” did this as well (the movie plays during WW2 and the group of Nazis that gets into trouble is solely played by Brits with heavy British accents which – for me as a German – is super weird, but I digress!). It’s like a perverse glee the directors get out of making the viewer sympathize with racists and Nazis.
BUT! The movie is fantastic. It takes quite a while till it gets going but I personally love it when the movie first creates character dynamics and backstories before it delves into the horror element. One of the reasons I don’t like Slashers so much is that there’s a real lack of characterization of the victims and therefore there’s no stake in the survival of them for the viewer.
I don’t want to spoil too much, just this: the ending is a conversation piece, so it’s not for people who prefer everything explained with a bow. It’s creepy, very atmospheric and the cast, oh people, have I talked about the cast?
Michael Shannon, Patrick Fugit and Henry “will you be my friend, E.T.” Thomas slay it! I mean, even if you’re not into horror, Shannon and Fugit are enough to make this worthwhile.
Again, this is somewhat of a slow burner but it’s such a wild ride. This movie directed by Antonia Bird (give it up for female horror directors!!!) is one of the greatest horror movies/thrillers of the 90s and maybe even of all times. It’s a complete sausage party in the cast but I guess that the Western genre is kind of a sausage party anyways. You have Guy Pearce (so underrated), Robert Carlyle (soooo underrated), Jeremy Davies (soooo underrated) and David Arquette (adequately rated) as some dudes who get stuck in a military outpost in Sierra Nevadas during the Mexican-American war.
One day, a stranger enters the camp and things go awry.
I love character heavy movies because you’re so much more invested and any twist in storytelling hits harder if you actually care about the people involved. The setting is amazing and the pacing is so fantastic with a slow start and then just one blammo after the other (did you guess already that I am of the 90s Nickelodeon generation?).
West World (1973)
Ok, so technically, this is not really a Western because it plays in the future but because it’s set in a fictional, futuristic representation of the West and the villain and protagonist wear their boots and hats most of the time, I’ll allow it into this list.
So, the plot (does actually anyone over 15 still don’t know the plot on this one? There’s even a new TV show about it!) is as follows: we’re in the future, there’s an entertainment park where dudes and dudettes can pay a lot of money to spend some sinful time in different eras: Greek, Medieval, Wild West, etc. These parks are filled with life-like androids and yes, I think we all can guess what happens next (for the slower readers: shit goes down!).
Now, the main reason why this movie is so spectacular is the fact that a.) Yul Brynner as villain is iconic and b.) the movie focuses on one person and therefore doesn’t get distracted with unnecessary side stories and characters (looking at you, “Westworld”-TV-show which I really loved but which was a bit of a mixed bag with all those storylines). This is a really atmospheric thriller with the villain weirdly stalking the protagonist through an impressive 70s vision of how hedonism and hubris will derail us in the future. It’s a smart movie that lets you dislike the protagonist just enough so you can additionally ask yourself how much of what entails is horror or just karma. I love it. Oh, and it has aged so well.
The Burrowers (2008)
A family vanishes under mysterious circumstances and a band of heroic dudes tries to find out what happened.
The casting in this is ok. It has, however, Clancy Brown and I love him since I saw him in “Carnivale” which is my all time favorite mystery TV show. It also features Doug Hutchison. If you are an X-Files fan (he played the creep in “Squeeze”) or follow gossip sites (he played a creep in real life, too), you will now immediately shudder, so just be warned, he’s also in it.
The movie also takes some time to get going but then pays off big time.
Spoiler: this is a creature feature and one of the better ones in recent years. The whole idea is great and it’s really fun to watch. It might not stick with you as long as the other ones but it’s still a great watch.
More horror movie lists with varying quality can be found here, click, enjoy the selections and even find some horror-themed music playlists, booray!