Monday, August 28, 2023

Anthology - Revisiting Personal Cinematic Landscape

I’ve been sick for a few weeks, which is why these articles have been a little slow to come out, but I’m finally on the mend.
Moving on.
One of the things that have happened since the first time I wrote about my personal cinematic landscape was the pandemic. Say what you will about that time, but it felt pretty apocalyptic when it was going down. I’m from New York, the city that never sleeps. During that time, it slept. The streets of Times Square were barren, the sounds of the city quieted, and even the food trucks went on their way. Reports of deaths mixed with the sour tone of conspiracy theorists telling the world that our vaccines had tracking chips in them. People faced the fear with everything from a strange game where astronaut jellybeans killed each other in secret, to splattercore books (a genre I didn’t even know existed until then), to video chatting, to straight-up denial. I kidnapped my mother so that she wouldn’t be alone for, what was supposed to be, a couple of weeks but it stretched into almost a year.
I’d seen some scary things before COVID, but that was the first time it felt like the apocalypse could be more than just something that happened twice a season on Supernatural (2005-2020).
The pandemic definitely altered the way I view films in the apocalyptic genre.
I’m not entirely sure I still agree with the list I originally gave. Although I enjoy Zombieland (2009), I don’t think it’s really altered my cinematic landscape the way I once did. Same goes for This is the End (2013). They’re good films, but my take on apocalyptic movies would be the same without them. At least now. World War Z (2013) also doesn’t feel like an addition to the apocalyptic genre to me, but more of a flick to consider where adaptations are concerned.
World War Z, the book, is a compilation of various tales of people entering a zombie apocalypse. It’s set up as a kind of case study. None of the characters in the film are ever even seen in the book. I think the flick shows an interesting way to adapt that kind of novel. Instead of telling a story already told by author Max Brooks, the creators opted to add another to the anthology. From an adaptation stance, I think that’s brilliant. From an apocalypse perception, however, it’s basic zombies.
Cargo (2017) is the only film I originally listed that would still be a part of my apocalypse landscape today.
So, what apocalyptic films DO alter the way I view the genre?
I’ll start with the one that that means more to me now than it did before the pandemic: 28 Days Later (2002).

Watching that film in the aftermath of COVID gave me chills. Seeing London as empty as Times Square in 2020 was much more harrowing than it had been before. There’s a certain hollowness, a hopelessness, that grips me when watching that scene now. It’s the embodiment of what an apocalypse feels like, and it puts me on my heels as I watch the rest of the events unfold.
The zombie aspects are better than in most undead movies (fast, easier infection, etc.), but it’s that overall feel in the beginning that reflects something I’ve now actually felt. It allows me to relate on a deeper level and creates a more frightening experience.
There’s something to be said for pulling from real situations for a horror film. It makes the impossible seem more realistic and terrifying.

Then there’s Train to Busan (2016). Although it came out before 2018, I only saw it after my original articles were put out. It instantly became one of my favorite zombie movies. It also opened me up more to Korean cinema, which is where I prefer to find my horror these days. The story of a not-so-great dad taking care of his daughter and redeeming himself as the world turns to rot is one that tugs at the heart strings and absolutely destroys me by the conclusion.
Without Train to Busan I’d have seen maybe half the apocalyptic films I have by now. Most of them I watched because this one Korean zombie flick opened my eyes to them. Without it, my taste for the sub-genre would be much more basic.
The last addition to my personal cinematic landscape for the apocalypse sub-genre is A Quiet Place (2018).

I had to choose between three options for this spot because they all felt like a possible entry for the same basic reason. The other options were Bird Box (2018) and Blood Quantum (2019).
In all three films there’s an entire group of people that are unaffected by the subject of the apocalypse. In Blood Quantum, indigenous people have a quality to their blood that keeps them from being infected with the virus. While in A Quiet Place and Bird Box it’s a disability that protects people from invaders.
I decided to choose A Quiet Place for this article because it’s the one that does it best. I almost put it in the minimal dialogue category, but there’s actually quite a bit of talking that happens. The majority of that conversation just happens to be in sign language.
The idea of an entire group of people being protected from an apocalypse was relatively new to me with these films and, as it turns out, it’s an idea I really love. That idea that something can protect a person that’s completely out of their control – whether it’s heritage or a physical issue – is something that I feel gives a lot more depth to a story. I see it done more now, and I do tend to gravitate toward those plots when I see them. If A Quiet Place wasn’t as amazing as it was, it might not be something I looked at all that hard in the future.

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