Judging by our entertainment, people in the United States appear to share a common apocalypse fantasy. We all seem to want to witness the end of civilization viewed from a safe distance, preferably while armed to the teeth with automatic weapons. Zombie apocalypse seems to be a favored expression of the fantasy, likely because it doesn’t involve radiation or poison in the air or anything complicated that prevents an individual, through the sheer force of their individualist, survivalist powers, to set themselves apart from the weak, pitiful masses who just don’t seem to know how to take care of themselves when their extended support network fails.
Unfortunately this fantasy isn’t always limited to expression in fiction, so today I’m sharing two films that depict the “apocalypse” in a manner completely unappealing to assholes.
THREADS is a film made for British television about the effects of a nuclear war on social interactions. It is about 20 times more terrifying than THE DAY AFTER.
THE QUIET EARTH is a “post-apocalyptic” film which shows what happens to a man who wakes up one morning to find that he is apparently the last man on earth. There have been a lot of films and television shows with this theme, but this one is perhaps a bit more realistic in its treatment.
Neither of these films are what would normally be classified as “horror”. However, even the most fantastical supernatural horror films are rooted, at their hearts, in very real human experiences of horror in the world. One of the most frightening realities we face is the fact (in my opinion) that “civilization” is a fragile construction upon which our personal identity, including what we find “horrifying” or “evil”, is entirely dependent. Though we consider ourselves good people who would maintain our gawd given sense of right and wrong into the pits of hell on earth, the experiences of those who have actually lived through it (and there are many…too many…) prove otherwise. One minute you are a good neighbor, the next minute you may be a stranger to yourself, selling children to rapists to keep yourself alive. (That’s a strong example, I realize, but not an unusual one in its extremes.)
The disturbing reality of our own tenuous nature is unacceptable within the concrete bunker fantasies of Hollywood and the self-bolstering conspiracy theories of backwoods survivalists, but it is often addressed honestly and without sentimentality in the genre of horror fiction. Much was made of how the film THE PIANIST, by Roman Polanski, echoed his own experiences during World War II, but I would suggest that REPULSION, THE TENANT, and ROSEMARY’S BABY just as accurately depict a civilian who is struggling to survive in a world reversed by war. Perhaps, in a way, they are more accurate.
THE QUIET EARTH (1985):