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27 Jan

Presentation at Fear 2000: 21st-Century Monsters

Written by Michael Fuchs
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"I can't believe this is happening!" Reducing Human Beings to Food in Recent Animal Horror

In 2000, the atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen and the biologist Eugene F. Stoermer suggested that we live in the "Anthropocene"—a geological period defined by the far-reaching effects human actions have had (and will continue to have) on our planet. While the Anthropocene thus reflects humankind's influence on this planet we call Earth, human beings have come to understand that "the world we are making through our own choices and inventions is a world that neutralizes [… any] meaningful link[s] between action and consequence" (Allenby & Sarewitz 64–65).

As early as 2001, leading ecocritic Stacy Alaimo remarked that animal horror cinema "could be the single most significant genre for ecocriticism and green cultural studies," since "[m]any of these films wrangle in messy but piercing ways with the fundamental issues of green philosophy and politics" (279). Accordingly, in my proposed paper, I will look at two particular examples of contemporary animal attack horror, both produced and set in Canada—Grizzly Rage (2007) and Backcountry (a.k.a. Blackfoot Trail; 2014). The two movies provide characteristic examples of two specific kinds of animal horror: Grizzly Rage relates a kind of "ten little Indians" tale in which a female grizzly kills one human character after another, while Backcountry focuses on a human couple lost in the woods and consequently attacked by a large black bear. As I will show, both movies depict bear predation on human beings as an existential experience that confronts human beings with them being nothing but a prey species, stripping them of their self-proclaimed exceptionalism. In so doing, the movies reflect the growing awareness that humanity's notion about its exceptional status on this planet is nothing but an illusion—an illusion revealed as an illusion by the 'real' power of animal monsters.