ECO-HORROR & CLIMATE FICTION | Offscreen
In the wake of the unprecedented pandemic, we plunge headfirst into the toxic ooze of the "anthropocene", an epochal description of the last two hundred and fifty years, during which mankind has disrupted the climate and despoiled every last inch of Earth's natural landscape.
Despite historical outliers - such as Japan's Godzilla films - ecological horror films only really began to hit home in the 1970s. With the rise of environmental activism, an increasing number of films adopted the theme of nature's revenge against man's abuse of the ecosystem. The so-called "Nature Strikes Back" and "Animal Attack" films tackled the environmental fears of the era by way of rampaging wildlife, poisonous outbreaks and natural catastrophes.
After the first great eco-horror film boom of the 1970s, it wasn't until the turn of the century that the genre made its mainstream comeback via blockbuster hits like The Day After Tomorrow (2004) and other special effects extravaganzas. The genre has evolved to reflect our own guilt and fear about the damage we have inflicted on nature, and the consequences we are already suffering. Even revenge from the animal kingdom seems muted next to the terrifying realisation that man is the deadliest animal of all.
Our programme includes no less than thirty films, divided between Cinema Nova and Cinematek. From an out-of-control climate (The Last Winter), retribution from the animal world (Long Weekend) and plagues of arthropods (Kingdom of the Spiders, Phase IV) to pandemics (The Andromeda Strain), pollution (Frogs) and overpopulation (Soylent Green), it will be a dark trip through cinematic depictions of climate fear, at the point where the dystopian sci-fi of the first ecological genre films of the 1970s is increasingly becoming a dangerous and tangible reality.
It’s a clash of titans! Toxic sludge forms itself into Hedorah, a flying amphibian behemoth that feeds off pollution, dissolves human flesh, and invades a psychedelic disco. Thousands die. Japan’s last hope is Godzilla, who takes on the challenger in a Mount Fuji death match. Preposterous, enthralling and oddly moving.
A genetic experiment to boost bovine fertility goes awry on a remote Irish farm, leaving a small but solid cast (including Essie Davis, Sean Harris and Ruth Negga) fending off a herd of malformed cow foetuses ready to sink their fangs into anything that moves. Mud, blood and Alien-style splatter down on the farm!
A plane crash infects inhabitants of a Pennsylvania town with a secret biological weapon, leading to a surge of psychotic behaviour, social chaos and martial law. Romero parlays his usual low budget, pitch-black humour and angry political subtext into a virus scenario that now seems uncomfortably close to the bone.
The title of this experimental documentary is Hopi dialect for “life out of balance”. The filmmakers use time-lapse, slo-mo and sped up film of nature, cities, people and traffic to create an impressionistic portrait of humanity’s fraught relationship with the planet, all set to a mesmerising score by Philip Glass.
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