Attack of the New B Movies

Essays on SYFY Original Films


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About the Book

Since its inception in 1992, the Sci-Fi Channel (later rebranded as SYFY) has aired more than 500 network-produced or commissioned films. Campy and prolific, the network churned out one low-budget film after another, finally finding its zenith in the 2013 release of Sharknado. With unpretentious charm and a hearty helping of commodified nostalgia, the Sharknado franchise briefly ruled the cultural consciousness and temporarily transformed SYFY’s original films from cult fringe to appointment television. Naturally, the network followed up with a steady stream of sequels and spin-offs, including Lavalantula and its sequel, 2 Lava 2 Lantula!

This collection of essays is the first to devote critical attention to SYFY’s original film canon, both pre- and post-Sharknado. In addition to unpacking the cultural, historical and critical underpinnings of the monsters at the heart of SYFY’s classic creature features, the contributors offer a variety of approaches to understanding and interrogating these films within the broader contexts of ecocriticism, monster theory, post-9/11 criticism, and neocolonialism. Providing a further entry point for future scholarship, an appendix details a thorough filmography of SYFY’s original films from 1992 to 2022.

About the Author(s)

Justin Wigard is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Distant Viewing Lab at University of Richmond, where he works and teaches in the areas of popular culture, games, comics, children’s lit, and digital humanities. His work has appeared in INKS: The Journal of the Comics Studies Society, Genealogy, KULA and Cinergie—Il Cinema e le altre Arti.

Mitch Ploskonka is a professor at The Ohio State University’s Agricultural Technical Institute in Wooster, Ohio. His work can be found in Mississippi Quarterly, Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction, The Cormac McCarthy Journal and The Popular Culture Studies Journal.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by Justin Wigard and Mitch Ploskonka

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 317
Bibliographic Info: 7 photos, appendix, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2023
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8323-2
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4810-1
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii
Introduction: The Post-Sharknado Moment and the New ­B-Movie
Mitch Ploskonka and Justin Wigard 1

Syfy’s Creature Features and Features of Creatures
We Must Keep It Alive! Formal Taxonomy and Crowdsourced Archives of the SYFY Original Films
Justin Wigard 17
“Cabras, and Yetis, and Mothman, Oh MUHGAWD!” Crafted Cryptozoology, Cartoonish Cryptids, and Flawed Forteana in SYFY Creature Features
J. Rocky Colavito 38
Parodies of Monstrosity: SYFY Creatures and the Postmodern Monster Turn
Fernando Gabriel Pagnoni Berns 58

Genre Discourse in the Syfy New B-Movie
’Member Memories? Political Conservatism and the Degradation of Schlock Cinema
Zack Kruse 77
Small Towns and the Regional Gothic in Mothman and Wyvern
Cat Ashton 96
Shark Storms: SYFY’s Splasher and Splashstick Films
Christina M. Knopf 113
“The Imagination of Disaster” in End of the World
Thomas Britt 131

Ecocritical Responses to Syfy’s New B-Movies
Covered in Giant Fish Brains: Ridiculing Environmental Racism in SYFY’s Frankenfish
Christine Peffer 153
“The volcanoes and the spiders are one”: Insect Horror and Vengeful Nature in SYFY’s ­Monster-Bug Films
Alyce Soulodre and Sean Rhoads 167
No Monster to Us: Mansquito, Vector Control, and a Looming Ecocrisis
Hattie Peterson 190

Syfy Flicks in the Humanities, in STEM, and in the Classroom
“Chain of command is all you got out here”: Representations of the Military in SYFY Original Creature Features
Mitch Ploskonka 211
Clean, Limitless Energy or Catastrophic Chaos: Particle Physics as an Instrument of Destruction in the SYFY Universe
Kristine Larsen 229
Trust No One: The Construction of Science and Human Responsibility in SYFY Monster Movies
Vesta T. Silva and April Silva 249
Monster Movies and Science: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Teaching SYFY’s Filmic Monsters
Alissa Burger and Jack T. Tessier 268

Appendix: The SYFY Films 285
About the Contributors 301
Index 305