The monster mash

8 11 2010

Zombies give me nightmares.

Actually, scratch that: zombies onscreen give me nightmares. I read and enjoyed Max Brooks’s World War Z and have sketched out a short ‘story’ (basically, a fake journal article on zombies)  and nary a blip in dreamworld.

But put a zombie where I can see it? Shudder.

I don’t know why. I mean, in 28 Days Later—which jolted me out of my sleep for a week after, and then sent me lurching awake a full six months after viewing—what shocked was not the zombies (and really, not zombies, but rage-virused monsters) but the people. That military commander? The thought that one would become the rape-thing to a bunch of despairing soldiers?

Jesus, at least the monsters were just hungry, not evil.

And in the new show The Walking Dead, again, the forewarning that the problem will be with the people, not the zed-heads.

That’s what set this post off—the premiere to The Walking Dead. I watched it early yesterday evening on Hulu, figuring that gave me enough time before bedtime for me to forget it, but: no.

It wasn’t that scary, honestly, certainly not in comparison to 28 Days Later. And afterward, I thought, Eh.  Too soap-opery, too predictable, too somber, not scary enough. And the lead? Okay, so he needs to wear his sheriff’s outfit to keep himself in line, but is he really this innocent?

Dumb, actually. Or maybe not dumb, but not thinking. He needs gas, all those cars on the road, and he leaves the road to walk some ways to a gas station, which—surprise!—is out of gas.

He never heard of a siphon?

Then he ditches the car in favor of a horse, because, let’s face it, nothing makes more sense than leaving behind a steel-and-glass contained space (with storage!) for a pretty pretty equine bit of zombie bait.

Maybe if it all moved faster, carried some of the jangle that good B-movies like 28 Days Later or even the nausea-inducing Cloverfield managed to convey, I could enjoy rather than pick apart the predictability.

But nightmares for the boring? No thanks.

~~~~~

I should add that I enjoyed Shaun of the Dead, and that since it’s been so long since I’ve seen any of George Romero’s movies, I can’t remember if those gave me nightmares.

Anyway, it’s not just zombies. The Ring creeped me out, and I vowed never to camp in Maryland after The Blair Witch Project. Oh, and I recently made the mistake of watching the mediocre Event Horizon before bed—not a good idea.

I’m not generally a scary- or horror-movie aficionado, and have little patience for spatter movies, but I do enjoy a well-crafted bit of unease. (Okay, enjoy may be the wrong word; appreciate, perhaps?) The Others wasn’t scary, and even a bit somnolent, but I liked its meditative vibe.

The Sixth Sense and Signs? No.

I don’t recall any nightmares following The Road, but, then again, I don’t know that that would count as a horror film. It’s full of horror, true, but perhaps one reason my response was dulled was because I knew nothing would get better. The hope or possibility of escape or reprieve was gone, as with it the altertness that one holds on behalf of the characters. It was the end, that’s all, and I was sad for the characters, that’s all.

I had nuclear nightmares as a teenager, but as I had been experiencing those prior to seeing The Day After or Testament, I blame the miasma rather than the movies.

No, my worst nightmares when young were unrelated to anything I saw on t.v. or at the movie theatre—likely because my parents didn’t let me watch scary flicks. I’d already demonstrated the, ah, ability to scare myself shriekingly awake (Over vents. Don’t ask.), so I’d guess that they thought ‘Why tune her up even more?’

Still, there was that one episode of The Outer Limits, wherein the woman tried to vacuum up something in the corner. . . .

That probably set me off, too.

~~~~~

Still, I’m not eight and I don’t believe in zombies. In fact, I consider nuclear or environmental or even cosmic apocalypse, however unlike in my lifetime, still more likely than a zombiepocalypse. So why the scare at the latter and not the former?

Maybe because I don’t consider it likely at all, and thus don’t have the rational responses to the truly fantastical (the undead) that I do to the merely improbable.

Maybe there’s something about the uncanniness of the zombie: to be dead, but still restless, ravenous, recognizably human but demonstrably not.

Or maybe because I just keep watching these @#$!!$% zombie movies too close to bed. . . .

 

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Walking in your footsteps

26 04 2009

REM’s It’s the end of the world as we know it or Lou Reed’s Fly into the sun (opening lyric: I would not run from the holocaust/I would not run from the bomb) are the more obvious titles to a meditation on the apocalypse, but what the hell, we here at AbsurdBeats like to mix it up once in awhile.

Where was I? Ah yes, little blue-green planet goes boom, death, devastation, et cetera, et cetera. It’s a great theme for books, and I have a particular weakness for B-grade movies about an imminently-imperiled or just-toasted Earth. I’ve also had my share of nuclear nightmares, and the movie 28 Days Later added zombies into the nighttime bad-dream rotation.

As a general matter, however, I don’t much worry about the end of the world. Oh, I’m not really joking when I tell my students that I’m glad I’ll likely be dead before the environment collapses, and I won’t be suprised (though I will of course be shocked) if a dirty bomb is lobbed into some urban center. And yes, I keep my eyes open to the damage microbes can do (thank you, Laurie Garrett, for that), and am not uninterested in reports of a nasty strain of swine flu flying around.

Still. If the world ends, it ends. It’s sad to think that we as a species would have blown our chance (and the chances of our fellow creatures) to have figured out how to join the universe, and that in ending ourselves we probably will have destroyed the evidence—the art, architecture, music, literature—that we were more than just violent and greedy idiots.

But this is a detached sadness: if we’re gone, there’ll be no one around to mourn or regret. Death is sad for survivors, not the dead themselves.

C. recently posted on her ‘go’ bag, a pack to which she’s been adding what she’d need to survive if she had to get the hell out of the city. It’s not a bad idea, and given my predilection for preparedness, I should probably put a pack together as well.

But, as I noted in a comment to her post, I have no desire to survive a truly world-ending event. To tramp down ash-laden roads, as do the father and son in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, in search of some place beyond the fire? Forget it. Or to wait around a few days or weeks or even months for my skin to fall off? Pass. Maybe one shouldn’t go gently into that good night, but when the world ends, so do the good nights.

What of disasters which simply alter, but don’t end, the world? Rod Dreher at Crunchy Con isn’t exactly waving a ‘The end is near!’ sign, but he’s mighty interested in those who do. Sharon Astyk (at Casaubon’s Book) similarly waives any claim to apocalyptic thinking, but she’s preparing, nonetheless. Gather ye rosebuds (and corn and whatnot) while ye may, because the times they are a-changin’.

I dunno. I tend to skim those pieces on how This Time! we’re gonna be thrown back to the farm, what with this modern way of life collapsing under its own decadent, alienated ways and all. Neither Dreher nor Astyk is a particular fan of modernity, and each seeks a return to a less individualistic, more communal way of life. It’s not that I’m accusing either of actively wishing for The Big One, but they do sense opportunity in a series of little earthquakes.

I’m more po-mo than pre-mo, and have had my own arguments with modern theorists and my own criticisms of modern life. But it’s also the milieu of my life, and that of my friends and family, and we have been shaped by this modern world. Yes, I think there’s got to be a better way to live—but until I come up with that better way, for all of the inhabitants of this little blue-green orb, I’m not about to cheer the end of this fucked-up, violent, compromised, weird old world.

And if things change drastically? Well, that happens, periodically. Unless we do manage to blow ourselves to smithereens, we’ll manage with what comes next.

That’s what we do.