A Southern Movie Bonus: Yet Another Spooky, Scary Southern Sampler, Twenty-First Century Edition
In October, everybody loves horror movies. Even people who don’t like horror movies. All of the movies listed below are set in the South, are available on streaming services, and can satisfy a Halloween-time craving for a spooky, scary movie. Earlier this month, the sampler focused on older movies from the late ’60s to the early ’80s. This time, all four were released in the new millenium.
The St. Francisville Experiment (2000)
After The Blair Witch Project did so well in 1999, it was probably tempting to grab those coattails and hope that audiences would latch on to another film like it. That didn’t happen with this one. Roundly panned a bad movie, St. Francisville is set in southern Louisiana and attempts to capitalize on many of the stereotypes associated with that fabled place. (The real St. Francisville is north of Baton Rouge.)
With the subtitled, “This Ain’t No Walk in the Woods,” you’ll get what you’d expect from this film: flashlights in the dark, screaming college students, flying furniture, all the things.
2001 Maniacs (2005)
This sequel to 1964’s Two Thousand Maniacs! is very different film than its predecessor. The production value is better, but this improvement causes it to lose what the original had: the total DIY feel derived from stale acting and red paint as blood. The mayor is played this time by Robert Englund of Freddy Krueger fame, which also takes away the over-acting and loud guffawing of the earlier portrayal, which was like a sinister combination of Colonel Sanders and Foghorn Leghorn. But it stays true to the premise that a group of outsiders who are passing through must be sacrificed to Civil War-based quest for revenge.
This film is not going to be for everyone. Where the mid-1960s film was wild and raw, this one is polished and gruesome. Modern grindhouse films are known for blood and gore. 2001 Maniacs is not exactly a good selection for “Netflix and chill.”
And Hatchet is more grindhouse. Based once again in Louisiana, this gory mess of a film starts with a group of twenty-something guys reveling in the French Quarter, until one of them decides to break with the beer-and-boobs motif and take a boat tour into the bayou. The others are against it, but one friend feels bad and decides to go along. Of course, they get stranded along with the varied group of pretty girls, tourists, etc. The problem is: out in the swamp is a deformed maniac who mercilessly murders everyone he lays eyes on.
Most of the plot of Hatchet is people running, screaming, and getting killed in really nasty ways, but at the risk of making sound one-dimensional, it does start out with New Orleans, partying, heavy metal, and half-naked girls.
The School in the Woods (2010)
For this year’s two samplers, we spend a lot of time in Louisiana, so we’ll end there, too. The School in the Woods takes on two familiar scenarios: paranormal researchers who go to find out if the stories are true, and young people isolated in the middle of nowhere. Once again, we’ve got flashlights and an abandoned building, but this time, we add tarot cards, little ghost children, and other elements that would easily scare a girlfriend into her boyfriend’s lap so he can make a move.
The School in the Woods may be predictable but it does deliver what the Halloween scary-movie craving calls for. It plays on fears of the South as a haunted place, where the angry remnants of terrible events are more likely spring up and make you sorry you came looking for them.