Friday, January 22, 2010

Small Towns in Horror

I had recently seen a really good horror made-for-TV movie called Storm of the Century and after watching it saw the ’88 remake of The Blob and then topped it off with The Faculty. I then realized something that I am sure many of you have already caught onto; small towns are always a haven for really bad and supernatural things to happen. I’ve often thought about this and I often thought about small town horror movies like Gremlins, The Blob, Critters, Slither and Children of the Corn and wondered what makes these small towns so targeted.

I want to start off by stating a quote that deals with sci-fi horror movies and small towns. I think it is really boils thing down.

“If you were going to take over the world, would you blow up the White House Independence Day style, or sneak through the back door?”
- Casey (The Faculty)

This is a very great quote and I think it really tackles this issue straightforward. When we have movies like The Blob or Critters or Slither or even Signs (to some extent), they all have aliens that conveniently land right in the middle of a small town. Why is this so? Well, people in small, small towns keep to themselves and when an alien menace comes down and kills half of them or more than half… not many people from the big cities or bigger neighborhoods will even recognize that they are gone. (Ex: There is a small town in Illinois called El Paso; it’s about a mile long and about a 1/3 a mile wide. The population barely goes outside of the community for shopping and if they do it’s for the hospital.) These kinds of towns are goldmines for alien invaders. They are out in the middle of nowhere so nothing could be heard when they decide to attack. As they make there way towards a big city they destroy the lesser-known towns and defeat them. You also have to factor in the population. Most of these towns have a relatively small population so it won’t be too much of a hassle when dealing with uprisings. With everything, you mostly have to start off at the bottom and make your way up the ladder to the top.

“I’m her because island folks know how to pull together for the common good when they need to… and island folks know how to keep a secret.”
- Andre Linoge (Storm of the Century)

Though this quote does specifically relate to ‘island folk,’ I think that it can also be said about small towns in general. Storm of the Century is like a satire on small towns and people’s roles in these small towns. When a tragedy happens, the entire town knows about it and half of the town is outside of the crime scene. Everybody knows everybody in the town and because of this there is a lot of gossip and tension. It’s sort of like how "Desperate Housewives" is a satire on suburbia.

To address the quote above, small towns always pulls themselves together to help solve a problem and they always have secrets that end up biting them back in the end. Most of the time the idea of a secret coming back happens in movies set in suburbia such as Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween, but if you think about it… the people in small towns look as though they are innocent but when you break it down, they are never really as innocent as they appear. It would be a great example of this. The parents are always abusive or they have done something in the past that will haunt them. I can vouch for this because my mom grew up in a small town and she told me some of the things that townsfolk are capable of doing.

In most small town horror movies, be it Gremlins or Children of the Corn or even Village of the Damned… the children are always in danger or end up causing the danger and the adults never seem to believe them. This happens in most horror movies but in these small town set flicks, it’s more pronounced. Eight Legged Freaks nailed it with this quote:

“No one's going to believe me, cause I'm a kid, and they never listen to kid.”
- Mike (Eight Legged Freaks)

Hell, you can even assume that this quote is directly relating to most horror movies where the kid ends up being the protagonist. Although, I find small town horror movies way scarier then city based or even (sometimes) suburbia based because I have small town blood in me. I was born in the city but I have spent enough time in Central Illinois to be generally creeped out by small town horror movies.


scolefiction said...

I have to just mention Ginger Snaps in this blog because it is possible only because of the small town atmosphere, and it is just such an epic canadian horror movie.

Mr. Johnny Sandman said...

I am forgetting a lot of small town horror movies. The ones mentioned are just the ones that came to mind. :-)

the jaded viewer said...

Most city folk like myself have never ever been to a farm. And trust me farms scare the crap out of us.

Chris said...

Mr. Sandman, could you list some of those small town movies you were thinking about, besides the one's you did mention. I loved "Storm Of The Century", it wasn't the greatest movie, but the small town setting and dark look they were able to give to the movie. Thanks.

Victoria said...

Hi Mr Sandman, I'm writing my PhD on horror films and one of my core themes is 'small towns folk doing small town things'... this article was really great... thank you! Also the jaded viewer - city folk are scared of farms? That's a wonderful new piece of information I did not think about! Cheers. If any of y'all are on Twitter: Vic_McC

P.S Storm of the Century blew my mind - we didn't get it here in Ireland - so I downloaded it last week... Amazing! I'm a King fan!

My PhD research blog is: come check it out and feel free to chip in :)

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