Friday, June 13, 2008

The Plants are Watching

What evil lurks in the chloroplasts of plants? More than being beneficial to mankind—providing food, shelter, and oxygen—our green friends have often appeared in cinema as the enemy of mankind.

The untamed forests and jungles have long sheltered an unnamed specter of malice. The greedy tendrils of vines have plagued the virtue of women most memorably in Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead 2. Other shambling mounds of vegetation have lain their leafs on gals in Charles Saunders’s The Woman Eater, Mel Welles’s Island of the Dead and Reginald Le Borg’s Voodoo Island.

Plants are untrustworthy. In Jonathan Sarno’s The Kirlian Witness spooky Laurie (Nancy Boykin) talks incessantly to her plants, until she’s untimely murdered. Her sister, Rilla (Nancy Snyder) tries to communicate with Laurie’s foliage, the only witness to the foul play. Rilla studies the plant’s aura via Kirlian photography, exemplifying just how deeply steeped in seventies new age touchy-feelie gobbledygook this low budget flick can get.

Plants are weak-willed. They can be patsies of mad scientists, crazed criminals, or shirtless behemoths. Written by Ed Wood, Devil Garden features James T. Craig as the insufferably cranky Dr. Bragan who tries to prove that mankind came from plantkind by turning his Flytrap into an anthropomorphic mutant. In Oldrich Lipsky’s absurdly fantastic Nick Carter tale, Dinner for Adele, the villain utilizes a voracious plant (animated by Jan Svankmajer) to dispatch of his enemies. Finally, the inarticulate Joe Dallesandro skulks through James H. Kay’s The Gardener, an odd melodrama of lonely women, hulky household helpers, and spurious verdure.

Not of this earth. The most notorious chlorophyll-filled killers came not from the Earth but outer space. The pods from Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the hungry Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors, the creature featured in The Thing From Another World, and the titular terrors from The Day of the Triffids; they’re all invaders from distant reaches from the galaxy intent on global domination. Yet, they’re not to be outdone by our own homegrown greenery.

In a world where we’re slowly learning an inconvenient truth about global warming, it appears that the human race needs to clean up their act or the planet will do it for us. After an isolated outbreak in The Ruins, the metaphytes in M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening attempt genocide of the human race on a massive scale; a threat that not even Corn Man or Swamp Thing could combat. It’s horticultural homicide when plants start emitting an undetectable poisonous gas that causes creative suicides.

With these sneaky plants plotting against us, it’s all enough to make you want to pave paradise to put up a parking lot.

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