Ch. 13: Neo-Western and the Southern Gothic Film (filmmaker interactions & video essays)

Logan (2017) stands as one of the best superhero movies ever made. But it also functions in a subgenre of Western movies called the Neo-Western. This new brand of Western often focuses on the clash of traditional values in the face of modern living. With movies like Hell or High Water, No Country for Old Men, Sicario, and Logan, it appears that the Neo-Western resonates with contemporary audiences. But what is a Neo-Western and what makes it different from typical Western movies?

Taylor Sheridan has written Sicario, Hell or High Water, and Wind River and this analysis of all three films looks at their place within the Neo Western subgenre. We explore some of the themes and ideas of the genre and what it says about society as a whole.

Screened: In today’s video we explore the neo-western genre, how it came to be and why it feels different from the western genre. There are a lot of different descriptions of the movies that make up the neo-western genre, mainly because it’s still a new genre that lacks defined rules but for the sake of this video, it will be described as the following: Movies that share the same themes as the westerns but in a modern setting. We take a look at five movies that could be considered neo-westerns and the recurring theme they share.

Characters of Southern Gothic
One of the defining features of southern gothic is the cast of off-kilter characters, many of whom are “not right in the head.” The genre is riddled with many broken bodies, and even more broken souls. When southern gothic authors examine the human condition, they see the potential to do harm. Morality is in question for many characters. A major theme for southern gothic writers hinges on innocence, and the innocent’s place in the world—where they are often asked to act as redeemer.

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Lane and Ruckus Skye are the writing/directing team behind the Southern Gothic tale, The Devil to Pay, starring Danielle Deadwyler. Here, the two chat with Noel T. Manning II about the making of this film and the unexpected collaborations that played out.

Actress Danielle Deadwyler shares her love of the arts with Noel T. Manning II. They talk theatre, dance, music, film and the joy of acting. Danielle chats about her lead role in the film The Devil to Pay, and even reflects on doing aerials for a Tom Jones concert. Embracing the opportunities and taking on challenging roles are a couple of things that motivates Deadwyler.

“The Hero” star Sam Elliott joined the Variety Screening Series presented by FilmStruck to talk about his pot-smoking character, his confidence in director Brett Haley, and the current state of Western movies.

Elliott explained that, while he wish Western movies were more successful today, he has doubts about where Hollywood has taken the genre.


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