Horror By the Sub-Genres: Redneck Horror

Ed. Note: BGH welcomes Chris and Kathleen, who are embarking on a project to explore the many hidden corners of the horror world in the new series: Horror by the Sub-Genre

In 1972, British director John Boorman created the grand-daddy of all redneck horror films, “Deliverance”. Though its subject matter was distinctly American, it was perfectly appropriate that a man from a country almost two thousand years old would remind us that we, at the time barely on the cusp of our two hundredth birthday, were not quite as civilized as we would like to think.

It was that realization, that no amount of modern technology, picket fences, or polite conversation would protect us from the unchecked aggression of depraved humanity, which tapped into a fear potent enough to revisit several times over the last four decades.

And in the best and most effective films of the sub-genre, civilized man recognizes his complicity in the situation. Sure, the crazed rednecks emasculate, dehumanize, and ultimately kill many of the big-city interlopers, but they see it as retribution for crimes against them: giant companies are buying up their land or flooding their valley, blowing the tops off mountains or polluting their endless blue sky. Their vengeance is extreme, but not aimless; they’re monsters, but they’re human ones.

The victim is also complicit because he has grown complacent in his comfort, safely cocooned in the protection of society. Once he wanders into the woods, every moment is a challenge of survival: he must hunt his own food, build his own weapons, and one drink from the wrong water could lead to a debilitating illness.

And in the end, even civilized humanity knows what it must do to survive in a hostile landscape: it must become the monster in order to defeat the monster. Thousands of years of human evolution, society, and civilization are stripped away in hours, and in surviving by embracing humanity’s base mentality, the “civilized” men have to live the rest of their lives knowing that the true darkness of the enemy’s heart is inside them as well, lurking just around the river bend…

The genre has been alive and well since the release of “Deliverance”, with entries as varied as 1981’s “Just Before Dawn” and the 1980 Troma classic “Mother’s Day”; there are those who would even argue that the second “Friday the 13th” film, with Jason Voorhees as a potato-sack disguised redneck killer in the woods, even falls into that category. And rednecks aren’t just limited to America, certainly; Australian director Jamie Blanks made an entry into the genre with 2007’s “Storm Warning”, and even France got in on the action in 2004 with “The Ordeal”. Here are four recommendations for further exploration into the sub-genre:

THE CLASSIC: Southern Comfort (1981)

Directed by 1980’s action mainstay Walter Hill, and starring a roster of well-known tough character actors, this film about a squad of National Guardsmen on a training weekend in Louisiana is the closest thing to a spiritual sequel to “Deliverance”.

THE MODERN: Dying Breed (2008)

Starring Leigh Whannell, the co-creator of the “Saw” and “Insidious” films, this Australian film about the history of Tasmania and a disturbing cannibal chapter in its past is another entry in the Australian redneck sub-genre.

THE OBSCURE: God’s Bloody Acre (1975)

Director Harry Kerwin worked on schlock films with the likes of Herschell Gordon Lewis and a young Larry Cohen before directing this exploitation classic about three mountain-dwelling brothers who battle a construction crew clearing their land.

THE REINVENTION: Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010)

The first redneck horror from the redneck’s point-of-view, director Eli Craig does a great job of finding the comedy in the premise of two friendly but none-too-bright rednecks on vacation that get mixed up in what seems like a series of random, violent suicides happening around them.

Chris Vander Kaay and Kathleen Fernandez-Vander Kaay are screenwriters and authors through ADA Management Group and Aponte Literary Agency

Chris Vander Kaay and Kathleen Fernandez-Vander Kaay


Chris Vander Kaay and Kathleen Fernandez-Vander Kaay are a husband and wife writing team who agree on almost everything except whether or not 28 Days Later should be considered a zombie movie. After years devoted to interviews, podcasts, and articles in which they championed the idea that the horror film genre should be taken seriously, they hope the idea is finally catching on.

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