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Bad Vegetation

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A Top Ten List


Let your vegan, tie-dyed T shirt-wearing cousin explain this one as she lectures you on the evils of the capitalist patriarchy teaching us to kill and eat animals. Along with everything else the movies have taught us, there's plant life out there that wants to terrify us, enslave us or simply hunt us down and kill us all.

It must be the centuries of chainsaws, land clearing, firewood and a myriad of other abuses but they're fighting back, so take your whipper snipper in hand, watch for spoilers and let's go gardening…

1. The Ruins (2008)

The marketing didn't give too much away, and those whose interest was piqued wondered what sort of evil lay in wait among the South American ruins strewn with creepers and vines. Was it a long lost race of Mayan warriors, the smoke monster from Lost or the chupacabra?

Turns out the vines and creepers themselves are the villains. Sound lame? Get this – they either drag you into the depths to drain you or burrow into wounds and eat you from the inside out, driving you insane in the process.

2. Day of the Triffids (1962)

John Wyndham's novel has seen no less than three filmed versions, which proves not only how strong the idea is but how special effects are always trying to catch up. The monstrous walking plants of the title looked kind of stupid in the 1962 film and 1981 mini series, but the 2009 BBC series and Sam Raimi's forthcoming big screen version should help put the legend to rights.

When a mysterious astronomical phenomenon bathes the Earth in interstellar radiation that blinds most of the human race, those who survive the resulting cataclysm of crashing planes and exploding power plants face a new nightmare when sentient walking plants go on the warpath against humanity.

Whether escaped scientific experiments (in the novel) or alien vegetation bought by the lights (in the film), they're the floral equivalent of zombies - innumerable, never stopping and with only your flesh on their mind.

3. The Happening (2008)

The unforgivably flawed execution of M Night Shyamalan's thriller failed to stop his slide into mediocrity but the premise was actually quite good. Reaching a tipping point of the damage we've done to the planet, plants secrete a chemical that switches off the self-preservation drive in our brains, the ultimate Darwinian defense mechanism.

First you'll exhibit weird behaviour like inexplicably walking backwards, then you'll seek the closest and most decisive means of removing yourself from the gene pool - from walking off a tall building to laying down in front of a ride-on mower.

4. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! (1978)

More infamous for George Clooney's role in the 1990 sequel than the content, this film comes from the gleefully schlocky low budget school of the 70s as scientists and the military desperately try to fight back against mutated tomatoes that kill.

Director/writer/producer/editor John De Bello's romp is a broad comedy, not a horror film - the cheap effects and dodgy editing very much in on the joke. The nefarious vegetables are rubber models bowled down footpaths by off-screen crew, the soundtrack overlaid with the tomatoes' chattering babble sounding like gremlins on crack.

5. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1958, 1978, 1993, 2007)

Many versions, one essential message – they're already here, corrupting our way of life one helpless, wholesome, God-fearing citizen at a time. With Don Siegel's Mad Men-like early version a little too innocent Oliver Hirschbiegel's iteration an overblown turkey and monumental flop, Phillip Kaufman's bleak 70s vision remains the high water mark.

These aliens don't invade with spaceships the size of cities that blow up the White House and Empire State Building. They replace us one by one, growing genetic clones in huge plants that incubate emotionless versions of us. Draining our purity of essence indeed, but remember - you're next! You're next!

6. Creepshow (1987)

You can take the segment The Lonely Death of Jordy Verrill as a parable for creationist-led rural America's mistrust of science if you like. When hillbilly Jordy (screenwriter Stephen King, who based the tale on his own short story Weeds) finds a meteor he's as excited by the riches to come when he sells it as he is frightened by the strange green moss that starts growing on his body.

Haunted by visions of a grinning doctor with blunt, rusty amputation instruments, Jordy is too scared to seek help, letting the moss take over until he's left with just enough strength to raise his shotgun to his head, spookily hissing the words 'please, God'…

7. Minority Report (2002)

Steven Spielberg locked a bunch of futurists in a room and told them not to come out until they could tell him what the year 2054 was going to look like. Besides mag-lev cars that go up the side of buildings and electronic billboards that scan your retina and spruik to you by name, one of them thought plants might splice with animal DNA and create self-aware, defensive buds.

As Anderton (Tom Cruise) sneaks into the greenhouse of the future, the tendrils from a nearby plant strike at the unfamiliar intruder like tiny snakes. It's a throwaway moment but it makes your skin crawl.

8. Little Shop of Horrors (1960, 1986)

Completists may seek out Roger Corman's 1960 version starring a young Jack Nicholson, but most of us know and love Rick Moranis as Seymour. As he pines for dizty co-worker Audrey (Ellen Greene) he finds an unexpected ally to help him dispatch her psychotic dentist boyfriend (Steve Martin).

A strange new plant in the shop seems to have a taste for flesh and blood, grows to unimaginable size and bestows modern cinema with one of its most iconic lines; 'feed me, Seymour!'

9. Poltergeist (1982)

There's something in Tobe Hooper's urban ghost story from all of our childhood nightmares, whether it's the clown doll we were sure came to life at night, the old cemetery under our house or the TV people.

For Robbie (Oliver Robins), it's also the gnarled old tree in the yard. Despite his Dad's (Craig T Nelson) assurances it takes care of them all Robbie's sure it's watching him, and when it comes to life during a storm, bursts through the window and starts eating him, he's certainly not imagining things.

10. Evil Dead (1981)

It's only one scene and it lasts for less than a second, but it immortalised the trees surrounding the cabin in the woods forever. The book of the dead doesn't only bring bloodthirsty spirits to life - it recruits nature itself, as Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss) discovers to her horror.

After fleeing the terrifying apparitions at the cabin she plunges into the woods where vines and branches slither in her direction, hold her prone and brutally assault her in the worst way possible.

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