As you can see in the first article that I have done as a contributor to the platform NativesInAmerica, I’ve always been so drawn to hip hop. Though, I don’t think people quite understood how non mutually-exclusive that passion was with my longstanding affinity to horror. Scrolling back through the memories of my early-adolescence, I recall one of the first professionally released independent and Indigenous-created albums I had ever come across and owned - Maniac: The Siouxpernatural’s “Nightmerika” released in 2005 under Night Shield Entertainment.
I was so drawn to Maniac and this album because it truly sounded like what I was familiar with growing up on the specific rez of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. To me, that mix of horror elements here and there sprinkled in with the nostalgic hip-hop/boom-bap soundstyle was what fit in my life and experience living around Eagle Butte, South Dakota. The style of it screamed “DarkSide” to me, a small neighborhood that I walked through often, hoping to not get chased by unchained dogs in darkened streets below lights that usually never worked. The most influential track from that already influential album in my life was the very first song called, “The Invasion”.
The track itself has so much of everything that I like in that style of hip hop. A creepy beat that builds in momentum and anticipation. Lyrics that talk about nearly every ideology behind “invasion” in its many forms. And the film quotes inserted at the beginning and end are what caught me the most. Overall, it’s such a good track, and probably one of my favorite intro’s to an album ever.
“Our official opinions are this IS genuine. What you’re about to see, may disturb you.”
As I think back to that song, probably one of the most ear-catching soundbyte samples comes from the film “Signs”. There was something about that idea of invasion being broadcasted that really encapsulated the whole theme for me. The ideas of mass hysteria, panic, or even how one would react in a rural area to events that affect the entire world. But as I got to appreciating this song more and more, another interesting topic came to mind.
The most frequent question that comes to horror-fans is one that requests reasons “Why?”. Why horror? Why scare yourself? Why do these specific things frighten us? Why do we then watch those specific things? After admiring this track by Maniac, I found myself asking, “Why Alien Invasion?” Within the subgenre of aliens in film, there are different categories to which I believe either make up an entire film or combine in a film: sighting, contact, abduction, and invasion (there are others, but I mostly recall seeing these four in particular the most in film). So, then, with all of these categories, why is invasion the most prevalent?
Personally, I really like movies of invasion in particular, just like the rest of the country when you look at the amount of films with this theme. It was the only kind of horror that got me to walk out of a theatre (as I candidly discussed in this episode of #NeverDeadRadio). To me, that anticipation of an invasion was so anxiety-provoking and… fun! The news broadcasts preparing the masses for the unknown in the film “Signs”. The sudden shock of seeing an invasion begin live on television like in the film “Mars Attacks!”. A Silent Hill siren-esque sound-off that the tripods from “War of the Worlds” let out as silence and awe-struck crowds would soon be running for their lives. The same anticipation that late-comedian Patrice O’Neal talked of being the better part of the film “Independence Day” on the classic Opie and Anthony program. I remember specifically LOVING just the film trailer to “Skyline” - as it showed people from afar simply being sucked up into spacecrafts (no plot device, just straight up terror). I could go on and on, but still, something recently was getting to me concerning this aspect of the sub-genre, and I had to just hash it out a little.
Ultimately, what essentially felt odd about Americans and the concept of “invasion” was just the irony. Of course, various Indigenous artists throughout media have taken this stance in their independent art, video games, etc. and in re-listening to Maniac’s “Nightmerika” release, I couldn’t help but go through the motions, so to speak.
Firstly, there’s a real trend of narcissism in American-film’s portrayal of “invasion”. The aliens are always intelligent beyond comprehension, as if that is the only way in which humans/America can truly be taken over. Not by outnumbered resources or overpowered soldiers, but the idea that the minds of the extra-terrestrial are so far beyond us, and THAT is why they would be able to invade and succeed. When thinking about the Great American Invasion that began in 1492, wasn’t it moreso cutthroat trickery, injustice, lies, and deception that led to a near successful genocide? Who’s to say the aliens won't come in claiming to be peaceful only to backstab us while we teach them agriculture? “Can you teach us to plant digital corn?” Perhaps that’s not as exciting, or that that does not give sufficient explanation as to how aliens would reach us in the first place, but it just seems like an odd occurrence that this often is the case.
Secondly, could this be a subconscious fear of the collective colonial mind? I’d like to think so. Imagine the original “War of the Worlds” for example. The invasion occurs, and suddenly humans’ worlds are “turned upside down” as they become slaves, must adapt to a new way of living, and have to abide by laws foreign to their natural way of life that they once knew. Really uncomfortable to have to assimilate and compromise huh? Life’s hard, bro.
Thirdly, now that I think about it, is this catharsis for a colonized America? Could an oppressive majority (that indeed still oppresses) feel the need to feel oppressed, and thus the conception of aliens invading Earth is simply a way to “be oppressed” when that’s clearly not the open case for most people? I make the case of catharsis, because it is one that is made in the “Masters of Horror” documentary, in which some directors talk about how death (be it human, animal, etc.) is not one that people in modernized society see so much of anymore. In this theory, it is pointed out that certain duties of surviving that used to be the norm (i.e. butchering one’s own food, if you’re a meat-eater) is now replaced with supermarkets and distanced delicatessens that don’t show you exactly what happens to your food before it reaches your cooking pan or mouth. Could the oppressor have been in illusionary power for so long that there is a need for feeling “oppressed” or “threatened”? Does it kind of sound like I’m just talking about scare tactics that the news and media uses now to act aggressively towards other possible “invaders”? I honestly don’t know anymore.
My last thought on this whole matter overall is, with all of this irony, is there a way to construct a horror-film that takes the story of American Genocide of Indigenous peoples and form it into a way similar to alien invasion films? “They Came From Europe” or “War of the ‘Discovered’ Worlds”. Something that basically states, “Hey, you know that thing you’re afraid of? It’s happening to us.” Think of it this way: due to genocide my blood and affiliation is questionably documented in tribal ID form. The identity I hold, according to the U.S. government, is dependent on my enrollment, blood quantum, and overall documentation - all factors that have always only been geared towards extermination (a fraction can only go down). On top of that, when I go to create a bank account, fly a plane, cash a check, etc. that same forced documentation is then denied by banks, TSA agents, and postal offices who are inconsiderately ignorant to tribal sovereignty. So, technically many Indigenous peoples are documented while simultaneously that documentation is deemed insufficient by the oppressor in order to function in their controlled world and economy. That’s the real horror. That’s the real invasion. And maybe, that’s why I’ve always liked those kinds of films. One of my favorite films of all time speaks to this idea closest, in my eyes, in terms of consumption and control: They Live. Hopefully the trailer below says enough to make my point:
Overall, there are so many other questions and ideas I have concerning this topic, and so much more hashing out that I need to do with this idea, and thus I invite you all to comment your thoughts/opinions/differences/similar views! Or even submit a piece to our graveyard section! What other ways do you see the subgenre of aliens or abduction specifically as speaking to larger/deeper aspects of society and its history? What are some other films that come to mind?