Give me an apocalypse…NOW!

“I like my films bleak!” I said to the stranger I’d just met in the pub. He didn’t know how to respond.

“Give me an apocalypse, perhaps a zombie apocalypse or at the very least a dystopian future and I’m a very happy man,” I continued.

Similar pub conversations I’ve had in the past tend to generate a response of “Oh. Right.” But this stranger didn’t say anything. He simply glared at me, shook a little bit and quickly stepped away from his urinal. Honestly, some people.

Sometimes I am asked to further explain my genre preference, or at least the tone of the “Oh. Right.” suggests it. This or I get the opposite response as soon as I mention ‘the Z word’ and someone will tell me their top three scenes of human devouring, traditionally extremely gory set pieces from an 80’s or 90’s video nasty. My response is usually “Oh. Right.”

You see it’s not the gore, the acts of violence or even the desolate landscapes that whet my large or small-screen appetite but quite frankly I find drama most engrossing when the world has gone to shit. The likes of The Road, Dawn of the Dead, Children of Men and 28 Days Later are some of the most enticing pieces of cinema for me as we question what human beings are really capable of in times of crisis.

My television tastes are similar in that The Walking Dead, Lost (forgiving the second and last season) and even, most recently, in discovering Battlestar Galactica – I mean how much more of a desolate landscape can you get than infinite space?

The key word? SURVIVAL. To me the best television shows and films ask a question of its audience, and the most compelling one for me is “What would you do to survive?” Only once did that question deviate to “WHY THE FUCK DID YOU END LOST LIKE THAT ABRAMS?!?”
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So it was with great pleasure that I man-dated with a friend of mine to see The Rover. David Michôd’s new film is set in a post apocalyptic Australia – look no further for a ready-to-order desolate landscape – where the only indication of what caused said end-of-world is a title card stating the film is set ‘Ten years after The Collapse’. If I wasn’t already hooked by the premise, the fact that the event itself is not explained hooks me in even further. It says to me “The world has gone to shit. Deal with it!” and then tells us a story. Personal slight man-crush, Mr Guy Pearce, please continue…

The film’s premise is essentially a lone stranger has his car stolen by a gang of thieves and spends the rest of the film trying to reacquire it. Pearce’s unnamed man is joined by Rey – Robert Pattinson with bad teeth and being far from the pouting teenage blood-lover he’s known for, a strong performance indeed – the brother of one of the thieves, left for dead with a gunshot wound in his belly. The question of ‘Just why does this guy want this car back so badly?’ is asked and is eventually revealed but part of me feels I would have been just as happy even if it was left open. Portraying such a bleak existence where survivors have to find something to live for and discovering what they’ll do to maintain their grasp on what little of their old lives remain made this one of my favourite films of the year so far.

So go and see it. And if a man suddenly turns to you in the toilets and shouts “I like my films bleak!” then please engage him in conversation. He only wants to chat. However if this happens and you’re in the ladies toilet I’ve probably had a few too many and though I mean no harm, I’d completely understand your survival instincts to kick me in the nuts and run.

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4 thoughts on “Give me an apocalypse…NOW!

  1. I’d stand with most of that. Except zombies: I can’t handle zombies, I think it’s the make-up, the thought of all that latex adhering to people’s faces… like nails on a blackboard.

    There’s something almost comforting about the concept of a “world gone to shit” – it appeals to the cynic in us all. The worst has happened. That thing, at the back of your mind, that you thought would happen if people didn’t wise up – it happened. The environment blew-up, the Bomb was dropped, the virus escaped, the plants became sentient… and now that the worst HAS happened, you can get on with (whatever’s left of) life.

    Of course, not all futures are dystopian – and not all dystopias are futuristic (I’m think of two of my favourites, V for Vendetta and Brazil). I come from the John Wyndham school of the alleged ‘cosy catastrophe’ (Brian Aldiss’ phrase, not mine) – I think dystopia, if it comes, won’t be any great collapse or lightning-flash doomsday, but just the gradual breaking down of everything, bit by bit. A situation, fortunately, for which the British have been preparing themselves for the last 50 years. I find something like Wyndham’s ‘Day of the Triffids’ more frightening than ‘I Am Legend’ because it might conceivably happen – the fallout, anyway, if not the cause.

    • It’s a good point Chris on dystopias. Ever more frightening is the world changing before our very eyes but at such a slow pace only once we are truly oppressed will we realise that we live in such a place…potentially. I agreed that for that reason I Am Legend is more complete escapism whereas the likes of V for Vendetta, Triffids, Blade Runner even are there as a warning to be heeded as well as entertainment.

      Zombies add that bit more to an apocalypse for me as the fear of death is man’s most primal one. To have it walking around and even hunting you adds just that more spice to a survival story. Though I do always feel for the zombies in make-up…but they seem to be having the time of their non-lives.

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