Howdy partner! The western expanse is big and full of terrors. I’d be careful out there if I were you. A man can go missing out there right quick if you’re not careful. The Scariest Things heads west along the trail of much bloodletting as we examine Horror Westerns in Episode 121.
The lonesome prairie can be home to some of the curious mash-ups in cinema, the Horror-Western. The heydey of the western film, and the high spirited manifest destiny and swaggering cowboys have given way to the more cynical post-modern take on the western experience. It is this darker take on the settling of the West that horror directors have found a companion genre.
Both the western and horror genres can marry up the themes of violence, revenge, loneliness, the unknown wilderness, and society on the edges. There are a plethora of haunted gunslinger films that lack inspiration, largely because they take the surface level of both genres. But when a filmmaker gets under the skin of both mediums and taps into the visceral shared context you can find some magic.
Even the modern neo-western-noir has horror variants. John Carpenter’s Vampires, Tremors, The Hills Have Eyes, The Hitcher, It Stains the Sands Red, and From Dusk Til Dawn are all westerns at heart, and rely upon the freedom of the road, and the freedom to make your own way (and hide) out in the great expanse of the west. It’s not just cowboys vs ghosts. You’ll find all aspects of the horror genre here if you look for it. Zombies. Psychological Horror. Cannibals. Vampires. Dinosaurs. Mutants. UFO’s.
The Scariest Crew examines all sides of the horror-western and picks out some films for you to get familiar with. Here’s a roster of notable horror westerns, including our top picks for you to check out!