6 of the Best Native and Indigenous Horror Movies
And no, they are not movies about "Indian Burial Grounds."
Media featuring Native American and Indigenous people in leading roles can be hard to come by, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. So, in celebration of the spookiest month and Indigenous Peoples Day, here are some of the best Native and Indigenous horror movies.
Also, quick note: I’m sorry, Stephen King fans, but stories centered around Indian Burial Grounds are not Native horror as they are almost exclusively about white people, with the “Native” aspect only existing to provide some “explanation” for where the magic comes from. If you want to learn more about the history behind those kinds of stories, the Dead Meat podcast has an episode dedicated to it:
Similarly, most movies featuring the Wendigo are about the highly Westernized understanding of the Wendigo and are frequently about white people dealing with them (*cough* Supernatural *cough*). This list is focused more on stories about Native people, told by Native people.
General trigger warning: Many of these movies will deal with violence against Native/Indigenous people. Other trigger warnings will be provided in the descriptions of these movies, but be warned, there will be blood.
1. Blood Quantum
Blood Quantum is basically a rebuttal against the idea that humanity deserves to be eliminated for what it has done to the planet. In this zombie apocalypse, Native/Indigenous people are immune to the disease that ends the world, which is a commentary on how previous generations of Natives were decimated by foreign disease but also on the “Blood Quantum” that decides how much Native ancestry you need to have to be considered Native. It also has one of the saddest endings of any zombie movie.
2. The Dead Can’t Dance
This was Blood Quantum before Blood Quantum, with a bit of Shaun of the Dead/Juan of the Dead comedy thrown in, when 3 Native men find out they are immune to the zombie virus. The full movie has been put up on YouTube by the director, free to watch, so go ahead and watch it.
Prey is groundbreaking, not only because it is the first good Predator film in decades, but also because it features an almost entirely Native cast. Great care was taken to capture the authentic Comanche experience, including adopting a dog for the shoot that was descended from an Indigenous to America breed. It even has a dub in the Comanche language, which only has one hundred native speakers left, for which some actors got tips from family members on pronouncing words and phrases. It’s a wonderful way to show the beauty of the Comanche people both past and present.
A unique take on home invasion horror, with a Mohawk woman fighting against American invaders in her homeland. This movie brutally reminds us of the horror behind “Manifest Destiny” and western expansion. The production value isn’t quite as good as Prey, but it’s worth a look at a subversive story about one of the many dark truths about our country’s foundation.
Nightingale is technically not a horror movie (it’s officially a thriller/drama), but it is a movie so horrific that the Sydney Film Festival had to have counselors on standby, and 30 of the 600 audience members walked out. Warning, this movie features rape, the murder of a child, and the genocide of Indigenous people, but it’s not for shock value. It deals with the horror of colonization and the dehumanization used against people seen as inferior. Also, the movie is about a white woman (an Irish convict named Claire) as much as it is about the genocide of Tasmanian Aboriginals, but the ending shouldn’t be discounted.
6. The Dead Lands
The Dead Lands is not exactly a horror film as much as an action film, but it features ghosts, “monsters,” and cannibalism, so I feel that the spirit is there (no pun intended). It’s interesting that it’s an action film that critiques the warrior culture that leads to senseless bloodshed, though that commentary might get lost in the incredible action sequences. Either way, it’s always interesting to see pre-colonial Māori culture being depicted in film.
What’s your favorite Native/Indigenous horror film?
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