JULY 28 — People often call Hollywood, and of course movies in general by association, the dream factory. It’s where people go after a hard day to forget the real world and enjoy the fantasies that are being sold on screen by the film-makers. Some even go as far as calling movies “opium” for the people.
While that is definitely true for a large majority of mainstream and studio-associated movies, dreams aren’t the only things people want to buy.
The continued success of even the most clichéd horror films are proof that nightmares make pretty good business too, maybe even better business than dreams in some cases.
Then there are disaster films like The Towering Inferno, Armageddon and The Day After Tomorrow which have also proven to be big business as well, but these are, of course, pretty ridiculously expensive to make.
For film-makers at the more impoverished end of the spectrum, outside of horror movies, another “nightmare” genre that’s far more achievable on a limited budget is the apocalypse or post-apocalyptic movie.
From the relatively bigger-budgeted Mad Max to more low key and minimalist ones like The Road and It Comes At Night, an apocalypse (of whatever kind) gives the film-maker the perfect excuse for a small cast and very sparse number of locations.
With the post-28 Days Later zombie craze, the zombie and post-apocalyptic genre have even merged to produce a pretty long string of zombie apocalypse movies, from TV series like The Walking Dead and Z Nation to big blockbusters like World War Z, remakes of 70s classics like Dawn of the Dead and smaller scale films like Stake Land and The Battery, the modern pop culture landscape is so littered with examples of the zombie apocalypse movie that finding something unique is pretty damn hard.
Yet all over the world film-makers have not stopped trying to put a fresh twist on the genre, and so far this year I’ve encountered four notable ones that anyone who calls him(her)self a fan might find worthy of checking out.
A Tropfest finalist (as a short film) in 2013 has now become a Netflix film (as an expanded, feature length version), directed by the same directors, and even though by now its minimalist story of a husband and wife and their one-year-old daughter trying to survive on their own in a zombie apocalypse world is nothing new, right down to the heart-wrenching choice of what to do when a beloved family member gets infected, Cargo is still an emotionally affecting experience. So if you like your zombie flicks with more of a beating heart, this one’s for you.
Another zombie apocalypse film, but with the twist that a cure was found and that 75 per cent of those infected were indeed cured with only 25 per cent still resistant to the cure.
Another twist comes in the form of memories, as the cured can actually remember everything they did when they were infected. This one’s a pretty beautiful meditation on the concept of memory, guilt and helplessness, and would’ve worked perfectly fine as a full-blown drama, but regretfully the film-makers couldn’t help but fall into the clichéd trappings of genre, making the climax nowhere near as interesting as the build-up.
The Night Eats the World
Cargo was Australian, The Cured was Irish, so it’s more than fitting that the third film here is also not from the US. While it is still predominantly in English, The Night Eats the World is a French film, and set in Paris where overnight a zombie apocalypse occurred while its hero was asleep in a locked room in an apartment while attending a party.
What follows is pretty unique and very minimalist even in this usually minimalist genre, as the film plays sort of like Robinson Crusoe with zombies (or Castaway with zombies, for those in need of a more modern reference), except that the island is an apartment and the dangers of Nature and the sea are replaced with zombies.
We follow our hero as he scavenges neighbouring apartments for food and entertainment, and generally do whatever he pleases to amuse himself while being marooned in the apartment.
With such a minimal set-up, it is to director Dominique Rocher’s credit that he still manages to produce something as interesting and involving as this.
The only non-zombie movie here, The Domestics is also, ironically, the one most dedicated to providing the traditional pleasures of horror movies.
An apocalypse was caused by a biological weapon, wiping out the majority of the population, leaving those immune to the plague divided between gangs (who are in an endless fight for territory) and just your typical domestic survivors.
For the interest of our hearts, the movie focuses on an estranged couple who are trying to get back together while on a journey to get back to the home of the wife’s parents.
For the interest of our guts, the movie gives us plenty of guns and violence a la The Purge movies, courtesy of the gang members they encounter along the way, especially during the impressively explosive climax. If you want fun, this one’s an easy pick.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.