The creepy, gothic version of the rural Southeast United States. Scenes show dying vegetation, decaying plantations, rusty farm implements, foreboding swamps with something lurking within, and frighteningly expressionless folk standing around doing...nothing, except staring at the protagonists. The Southern Gothic is its own subgenre of Gothic media, characterized by bleak settings in the Deep South, flawed (and often disturbing) characters, and the darker side of the Southeastern United States including racism, sexism, and Barefoot Poverty. If you're in Louisiana, Hollywood Voodoo might make an appearance. Unlike The Savage South where the southern areas are teeming with life (most of which wants you dead), Southern Gothic settings have a constant feel of decay, death and malaise. Anything living there will feel unnatural on top of possibly being very dangerous. Supernatural elements are popular, especially with themes of the undead or "things that should not be" instead of the typical wild animals and hostile natives usually seen in The Savage South. This trope is deeply rooted in American history. For most of civilization fabric tended to be either uncomfortable (wool, linen) or very expensive (silk), and for early adopters, cotton farming was like being able to grow gold. However, soil degradation and the development of overseas competition caused profits to plummet, and many Southern families built mansions only to find them impossible to maintain. As a result, the South became littered with decrepit properties occupied by bitter, downwardly-mobile planters. Combined with the insularity and tense social order of the region, this provided the writers who established this genre with ample inspiration. See also Deep South, Southern Gothic's mother trope. Compare Lovecraft Country, Campbell Country, Nordic Noir, and Überwald. Compare and Contrast Weird West, which could be thought of as the sun scorched counterpart to the dark and humid rot of Southern Gothic. Though distinct in tone and setting, the two can blend in border areas between the Deep South and the Wild West (which is to say, mostly Texas, though Oklahoma can do in a pinch).
open/close all folders
Anime And Manga
- Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter has the Old South be full of vampires who attack and kill Lincoln's family, incite a civil war, and eventually have Lincoln murdered.
- Children of the Corn is a rare non-Southern example (it's set in Nebraska) with an Amish feel, however, the decay, staring unnatural inhabitants and eerie isolation are still present.
- House of 1000 Corpses where it's not full of wild near-tribal crazies everything is decaying, depressing and/or dilapidated.
- Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte is set in a once-grand plantation house that's now decaying and about to be bulldozed. The protagonist may or may not be seeing the ghost of her lover who was murdered nearly forty years ago.
- The Skeleton Key has this feel, with the primary setting being an old, run-down plantation house in Louisiana, owned by an old, run-down couple. There's also a bit of Hoodoo mysticism thrown in for an extra creepy factor which later becomes a major plot point.
- Stoker, though set in Connecticut takes on a low-key, manicured version of the associated tropes (albeit populated with Fake Americans).
- The Waterboy is comedic example where the decay and depressing state of the world is used to highlight Bobby's cheerful and optimistic demeanor.
- Winter's Bone
- 1972 horror film The Other, along with the book it was based on. Set New England during 1935, and starring Creepy Twins, Niles and Holland Perry, it features old, decaying buildings, sun-parched yet oddly idyllic scenery, and horrible secrets.
- Elements in the works of Mark Twain could be considered the Ur-Example.
- To Kill a Mockingbird has elements of this, as well as being set in the Deep South.
- Carson McCullers' stories are soaked in this. She once accused Harper Lee of "poaching on her preserve".
- Anne Rice's Blackwood Farm has more mausoleums than people, not to mention an entire house sunk to the second story in a swamp.
- Pretty much everything Anne Rice does is Southern Gothic—with an emphasis on the Gothic part.
- George R.R. Martin's Fevre Dream is very much this. Nineteenth century, steamers in the South, vampires with slaves and a creepy mansion.
- A Rose for Emily, by William Faulkner. Emily Grierson's mansion, a symbol of better days long since past, is described in the most wretched terms of rot and decay—and the house hides terrible secrets.
- H.P. Lovecraft's The Call of Cthulhu abandons the traditional New England as a setting for monstrous buried secrets, wandering Southwards to the dank swamps of Louisiana, where Cthulhu's cultists gather for celebration with orgies and human sacrifices.
- Pretty much anything by Flannery O'Connor.
- John Saul set his horror novel The Right Hand of Evil in backwoods Louisiana and The Unloved in South Carolina.
- Robert E. Howard's short story "Black Canaan" fits here.
- Cherie Priest's Four and Twenty Blackbirds mixes this with Magic Realism is a story of a girl who sees ghosts dealing with the legacy of her great-great grandfather, an evil sorcerer. In fact most of Priests work fits here.
- Many of the novels by V. C. Andrews.
- Erskine Caldwell's Tobacco Road and God's Little Acre.
- Shane Berryhill's Zora Banks Urban Fantasy series is a modernized example with Chattanooga, TN's genteel Southern heritage contrasted against its modern-day sleaze and supernatural crime.
- The Caster Chronicles is not as horror-y as the classic model, but features a lot of the same atmosphere and elements, showing the Deep South as being full of things that aren't what they seem, that can't be explained, and that are often very dangerous.
- Eden Green is a modern take on the genre, mixing smartphone GPS and mysterious needle monsters. It also takes place in Gothic, an expy of the author's home city of Fayetteville, Arkansas.
- Charlaine Harris' The Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries, the TV series based on them and her non-supernatural Lily Bard mystery series all fit in here.
Live Action TV
- American Horror Story: Coven, which takes place in New Orleans, Louisiana. And American Horror Story: Freak Show takes place in Jupiter, Florida in 1952 (back when Jupiter was still part of the South, rather than the Northern-and-Cuban sprawl emanating from Miami). American Horror Story: Roanoke takes place in rural North Carolina and has so far included hillbilly stereotypes and extremely violent ghosts.
- The [adult swim] series The Heart She Holler wallows in the clichés of the genre, gleefully cranking the trashiness and degeneracy Up to Eleven.
- Justified has the Truth family, a household full of brash, maladjusted criminals in rural Kentucky.
- True Detective: The first season features two detectives investigating an occult-themed serial killing in the suburban and rural areas surrounding New Orleans. Although nothing is definitely supernatural, it's very much portrayed as a southern version of Lovecraft Country, with Thomas Ligotti being a major influence.
- The Walking Dead dove headfirst into this territory the moment the survivors left the Atlanta Metro Area.
- The Originals is set in storied and beautiful New Orleans. It weaves her extremely eventful history into the narrative, and makes use of the sometimes macabre beauty of the city's streets, cemeteries, and churches for visual interest. The story also ventures out into the surrounding rural areas of Louisiana—whose swamps and woods are both very different from the city, yet still have a similarly spooky beauty.
- Outcast, about Kyle Barnes, who lives in a small West Virginia town plagued by demonic possessions fits this trope. It helps that the comic it's based on was created by Robert Kirkman, who also created The Walking Dead.
- The collected works of Tennessee Williams, particularly A Streetcar Named Desire.
- Stephen King, T-Bone Burnett and John Mellencamp created a musical called Ghost Brothers of Darkland County which plays with a lot of the tropes associated with the genre. It also contains several shout-outs to Flannery O'Connor, Tennessee Williams and William Faulkner, but with a supernatural elements thrown.
- Sons of Perdition fits this trope to a T.
- A lot of the imagery in Beyoncé's visual special for her album Lemonade falls into this, much of it being shot in Louisiana.
- S Town, although nonfiction, is usually described as Southern Gothic (more in the William Faulkner-Flannery O'Connor mode than the "Supernatural South" one), as it focuses on a small town in the Deep South (Woodstock, Alabama, in Birmingham's southern hinterland) and its social divisions and problems. To top off the vibe, the closing theme is The Zombies' "A Rose for Emily", which is a Shout-Out to Faulkner's famous short story.
- Rage Across Appalachia, a supplemental book for Werewolf: The Apocalypse, runs on this trope. Memorable examples of horror from the book include the Bledsons, a rural family of bane-possessed men, and the Pigeon River Howlers, a bluegrass band made up of Black Spiral Dancers who corrupt their audiences through music and dancing.
- Realms Of Cthulhu, by Reality Blurs, is a Savage Worlds setting that uses Charleston, South Carolina, as the default location for its Cosmic Horror adventures.
- Most of the rural locations in Louisiana as seen in Left 4 Dead 2, though admittedly, a Zombie Apocalypse did strike down these places.
- Fallout 3's Point Lookout DLC could qualify for this, as it's an area crawling with mutant hicks, radioactive swamps, and deadly conspiracies.
- Ghost Hunter: you get to visit a haunted swamp filled with ghostly rednecks at one point.
- The Nancy Drew game Ghost of Thornton Hall dives into this full force, taking place in a creepy decaying plantation home.◊ Legend of the Crystal Skull has elements of this trope as well.
- Kentucky Route Zero nails the intersecting point between this and Magical Realism while setting itself in the modern decay of the South after the the Great Recession of 2008.
- Grand Theft Auto 2: The Rednecks' RV park. The roads are even replaced by dirt paths.
- Voodoo Whisperer: Curse of a Legend The town is under a voodoo curse and the player character must free the inhabitants. The ghosts of murder victims can be conjured up for a chat to gather clues and the grounds of her home include a family mausoleum and a swamp with an aligator in it.
- Resident Evil 7: biohazard is set in a derelict plantation in the fictional town of Dulvey, Louisiana, returning the franchise to its original survival horror roots in rural America.
- Marble Hornets takes place in Alabama, mostly shot in abandoned and wooded areas. Nobody is who you think they are, and the forest is hiding something supernatural.
- The SCP Foundation's newest canon, Dixieland Nightmare Magic, is set in a heavily gothic North Florida, full of witchcraft and religiously significant anomalous objects.
- Scooby-Doo has visited these once in a while. Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island is one of the best examples of the trope.
- Scooby and Shaggy both have ancestral (probably on mother sides) southern gothic homes. As depicted in "Scooby's Roots" and "Boo Brothers".
- Played with on King of the Hill when we get to meet Bill Dauterive's family. He's from Louisiana and his family home is a typical crumbling plantation with weird family members and a secret. In this case barbecue sauce, but still.