I watched a zombie thriller last night on Netflix. It received only mediocre reviews but that is fine with me. I hold zombie flicks to a lower standard. They are all basically working the same plotline. Something goes terribly wrong with an experiment or a virus begins to wipe out the human race except instead of killing its victims it turns them into subhuman, half-dead creatures who walk the post-apocalyptic urban landscape attacking and killing for no reason. It’s the randomness of the zombie’s agenda that titillates the scare-reflex. Something about zombie movies bypasses my usual filters for weeding out senseless violence. And as for the innocent lives that are lost? Those people are just being spared having to live in a world that is no longer worth saving.
Whenever my wife leaves for a few days, such as now, (which is not that often but right now she is at a workshop), I make sure I take in a few sci-fi flicks. It’s one thing I enjoy that she and I don’t share. I’m not hooked on them but I have a soft spot for certain film genres (mostly low budget, class-B beauties) that satisfy a facsination that dates back to my childhood.
Sometimes my parents would let my brother and me “camp out” in the basement to watch the “late” show and, if we could manage to keep our eyes open, the “late late” show. Come to think of it, they didn’t know we were watching late-night TV. My parent’s, who, like many parents in the 1950s and early 60s, were simply oblivious to what we were up to half the time. They trusted that we would limit ourselves, per our agreement, to watching Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits when actually we were more interested in the “Creature from the Black Lagoon” or the “50 Foot Woman”, who, to our delight, when she grew, outgrew most of her clothes. (She was scantily clad, but inexplicably clothed none-the-less in 50 foot rags.)
My favorite sci-fis, as I grew into adulthood, were the post-apocalyptic thrillers. These got better as the special effects improved. The stories were all very similar but different enough to feed some psychological craving for objectification of the doomsday fantasy that haunted the dreams and waking life of every American who lived during the Cold War — ie., the civilized world was hanging by a thread . . . And these monsters from outer space or from inner space (denizens of the shadow-world of the deeply disturbed American psyche) were preying on the smoldering remnants of the American dream. We, most of us Americans, (but most acutely, we WASPS), were exhausted by trying to hold it all together when everything we fought to preserve in WW 2 was crumbling around us. Everyone was ripe for therapy — old and young, and these films of world calamity and future disaster gave expression to our thinly repressed terrors and insecurities. Basically I’m saying we were all borderline nut-cases.
As I began to express some of my repressed fears and worked with my collective shadow (in therapy) I grew out of my craving to dip into a post-civilized world that mirrored the world I fully expected to wake up to any day. As my anxiety dreams eased up (if not the actual causes of my fears), I continued to watch sci-fi for pleasure. Fact is there is still some boyish part of me that is camping out with my brother in the basement, illicitly watching the late-late show.