Guest post by Tyler Kennedy of Macho Bullshit Moviecast
MACHO HORROR Part 1
MACHO HORROR Part 2
Macho Bullshit Moviecast podcast
This is my final installment for this blog. In this entry I am addressing the more recent films that I think incorporate macho or masculine tropes. All films were produced after 2000, so this fills in a gap in part one where I focused on pre-1970s films and part two where I dealt with two directors mostly active from the 70s through 90s. I have also tried to balance this entry a bit more internationally, as part one was primarily American films. So with that, let’s get started.
Let’s face it: Australia just gets macho. In my mind this is directly tied to their history and frontier culture. In part one I briefly wrote about Long Weekend and Turkey Shoot. I could (and probably should) have addressed Wake In Fright as well, and I’ve been wanting to see Razorback for a long time. Well on to the films at hand. The Wolf Creek (2005 and 2013) films feature perhaps the manliest man of all horror villains—and I mean that in both a positive and negative sense. The villain of these films, Mick Taylor comes off as a blustering outback redneck, which is in fact exactly what he is. He is a ‘roo and hog shooter, he is a capable mechanic, he is a heavy drinker and possesses a homespun, backwoods sense of humor which morphs into part of his sadism in both films. In short, he is set up as a man’s man in the man’s man’s world (thank you James Brown) of the outback. He shows the two of the most negative common (or clichéd) tendencies of the macho-obsessed: in part one he is a rabid misogynist; and part two focuses on his equally rabid xenophobia. Both films are basically slasher/torture porn hybrids, which generally I am not a real fan of. I have to believe the saving grace of both films is the fact that Mick is a charismatic macho villain you love to hate. These are both brutal films, but the sequel is absolutely INSANE, built upon excellent opening/closing bookends.
While we’re on the subject of hunters and the bush, there are two recent hawgsploitation (as I call it) movies I enjoyed. I love the man vs nature, hunter becomes hunted of this type of film. First, in the K-Horror Chawz (2009), we have a Jaws rip-off with a giant, pissed off wild boar. Sorry, you just can’t go wrong with that for me. It does have a bit more of an environmental subtext than Jaws, but really that isn’t the point of the movie. Pig Hunt (2008) on the other hand is more or less its own entity. Basically it concerns a group of buddies (a couple are Iraq vets) and a girlfriend on a weekend trip back to the lead’s family spread to hunt feral hogs. It turns into a lot more though, ending in a completely left field (even borderline Lovecraftian) way. Given the budget and pedigree, this flick was a big surprise.
Now, we will move on to soldiers. I could tell you the movie that the K-Horror flick The Guard Post aka GP506 (2008) reminds me of, but that would simultaneously oversell it and spoil it. So I’ll keep it relatively brief. A squad of soldiers finds an isolated guard post on the DMZ full of the mutilated bodies of the previous occupants—except for one survivor covered in blood with axe in hand. This film then uses an investigative/procedural tack to reconstruct some of the events, while new happenings occur. I don’t think a lot of people have seen this one so I will leave it there, merely adding it was a big surprise how much I liked this film. I will also say there is another K-Horror movie featuring soldiers called R-Point (2004) which I unfortunately have not watched yet, but my instincts tell me it would fit the criteria for inclusion here.
Speaking of soldiers, here’s a pair of macho horror movies from Britain which feature soldiers. First, 2002’s Deathwatch. To sum up, this movie concerns the survivors of a British company (reduced to squad size) isolated behind enemy lines and seek shelter in an abandoned German trench. Truthfully, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen it so details are fuzzy, but I remember going in with fairly low expectations and being pleasantly surprised. The more recent British film about soldiers, Black Death (2010) is my favorite of the movies discussed in this final installment. What makes it macho? Well, really this is a men on a mission film. We follow a group of mercenaries in service of the church to crush a village under the spell of a necromancer. What unfolds is essemtially Apocalypse Now by way of folk horror. I have to credit Emily of Deadly Doll’s House (http://deadlydollshouse.blogspot.com/) for pointing out that ultimately it becomes sort of an origin story for a Witchfinder General (a great nasty Vincent Price folk horror film with some good macho-ness). There is definitely a subtext of misogyny and religion in this film, as in Witchfinder General and The Wicker Man (my two other favorite folk horror flicks). Sean Bean, who despite the reputation of dying in everything, is a bona fide badass and in full on badass mode in this film. It is a bit of a slow burn, I will admit, but like Apocalypse Now it’s about the journey as much as the destination. I do think a lot of people didn’t like it because it is much more reality based than fantastic or supernatural, however for me that is a great strength and adds meaning to the film above entertainment. So for what it is worth, I am a big fan.
Finally I will write a little bit about the flip side of the macho coin. There are films that I think are born of a reaction to more conventional macho tropes. We Are What We Are (2010) provides a strong, and subversive take on macho-ness. Our story is about a family of cannibals in Mexico City; the twist is that the patriarch of the family dies so the task of procuring victims (the father targeted female prostitutes) passes to the eldest son who is gay. This is a multi-layered film, as much a family drama as a horror film, and well worth a watch.
There are two female focused films that I would argue use the simplest of subversions: switching typically male characters to female in the tradition of Alien. Alexander Aja’s High Tension (2003) is sort of a slasher/stalker movie with a bit of a psychological bent. I will not spoil it by further description. I will say honestly, I don’t like the end product much (others do) but I certainly think it is an interesting counterpoint to male focused fare and run of the mill survivor girl tropes. The final film I will comment on is The Descent (2005). This film could have been made with an all-male cast with very minimal changes. It is Deliverance meets H.P. Lovecraft—badass, adventurer chicks (and I LOVE tough girls) encounter arcane monsters with an added psychological component. What more do you need to know? Just be sure to view the original director approved ending, not the far inferior theatrical ending.
With that, I will simply close this series out. Thanks for reading and thanks to Deathrattle Aaron for inviting me to write for his blog. It’s been an interesting, and thought provoking process. I hope you found it to be as well.