"We are never going in the woods again": The Poor Rural White Body in British and American Horror

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


The violent ‘white trash’ monster is a pervasive figure in American rural horror, from the backwoods savages of Deliverance to the deformed Hilliker brothers in the Wrong Turn series. This paper not only adds to discussions around the characterisation of Southern underclass whites in rural horror, but opens debate into the movement of the white trash identity to the violent ‘chav’ in British hoodie horror. I will do this by discussing the politics of class based hatred and perceived contaminated identity of both figures using both boundary theory and the concept of ‘sameness’. The influence of the eugenics movement and its comparison between the poor white body, animals, and insects is undeniable. The ‘us vs. them’ division and system of exclusion allows the audience to define themselves by what they are not. However simplistic this statement is, it demonstrates the boundary theory that influences much of white trash characterisation.
Using case studies of the Wrong Turn series of films and Eden Lake, this paper puts forward that it is the threat of pollution from the white trash body that is key to understanding its longevity in the horror genre. Rather than seeing the characterisation of the chav character as merely mimetic of the white trash character, I argue that hoodie horrors carry their own socially significant weight. I draw comparisons between American and British filmic representations of the poor white body and in doing so I can give a markedly different reading of white trash. This will be achieved by situating the white trash figure not only in an American setting, but by moving it transnationally into a British setting and reappropriating the white trash figure as the hooded chav ‘villain’.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 11 Nov 2014
EventCine-Excess XI: Fear and the Unfamiliar: Wrong Time, Wrong Place, Wrong Crowd - University of Brighton
Duration: 9 Nov 201411 Nov 2014


ConferenceCine-Excess XI


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