Archive for the The 50 Apocalyptic films Category

28 – Mad Max (1979)

Posted in The 50 Apocalyptic films on June 24, 2014 by Duane Patrick


“It’s that rat circus out there, I’m beginning to enjoy it. Look, any longer out on that road and I’m one of them, a terminal psychotic, except that I’ve got this bronze badge that says that I’m one of the good guys.”

mad_max_ver1When George Miller’s first feature film, Mad Max was released to audiences worldwide in 1979, the genre of the Action film did not exist as a genre like it does today. This is in part because films like Mad Max helped to define and establish such a genre. Taking a story idea and boiling its’ narrative down to a simple spectacle driven element gave Miller room to impose the aspects of typical film storytelling conventions, like character development and setting, and compress and infuse them into the action. With the films’ use of imagery, symbolism and metaphor account for most of the dramatic elements that would otherwise be found in dialogue and exposition in broader, more conventional films. Instead, that time is spent forwarding the plot with brilliantly crafted stunts, using innovative techniques. In this way George Miller was able to direct the visual narrative of the film into an experience as well as a story. This was the beginning of the modern day Action genre and few films could present a finer example of its burgeoning viability. In my opinion the first twelve minutes of Mad Max presents some of the hardest evidence in film of character, setting and plot compacted into sheer spectacle. From the opening shot we are being fed images of information that are never spoken of in the rest of the film. We fade in on, accompanied with the score’s triumphant anthem, the entrance to the Halls of Justice. The shot comes from street level, tilting slightly up, presenting the building as one of importance. It will come to be the film’s only physical structure representing the establishment. When we look closer at this shot though, we can see the minute complexities that litter the film. Framing the right side of the building’s entrance, yet obviously existing in the space before it, on the street corner, is a Stop Sign. Presented in this way it acts not as just a direction for the traffic, but a sign of caution in relation to the building. This begins a theme of intimidation that will run through all the films in the trilogy, to survive there must be the appearance of toughness, but underneath is just frailty mixed with hope, weaknesses in a lawless world. Looking at the words that hang above the entrance, Halls of Justice we notice that the letter U in Justice hangs a bit, and looks as if it has been that way for some time. Behind the entrance, examining the building itself, we see it looks rather in disrepair. Its physical appearance is rundown and used. The brick around the entrance is dirty and decaying. For a building representing the establishment’s form of order it is not paid much, or any, attention to at all, aesthetically. More tellingly, perhaps upkeep is a luxury not afforded in this world. Such signs and vagary leave us wondering, what is the rest of the world like? What brought it this way? These are question the film never answers. Mad Max 1 The opening shot quickly fades into an image of a desolate road lined with telephone poles. Across the screen appears to the sound of a typewriter, the words, “A Few Years from Now…” indicating to us that this is an undetermined point in the future. The shot quickly continues to fade to an image of a Skull and Crossbones painted with a stencil, in the middle of the road. That image fades out and we then fade in on a road sign that reads, “Anarchie Road 3 km“, panning to the left of the sign we see a yellow, blue, and red police cruiser parked on the side of the road. The road sign of course plays an integral part in the film’s hyper imagery. The word Anarchy, in this case misspelled, means a lack of order, and then there is the fact it is the name of a road, indicating the, what and where, at the core of the film. Order and chaos are going to fight for the right to dominantly exist and they will do it on the road.   What we do learn about the films’ setting is that society is running down, reducing itself to the primitive. As I mentioned before, this is never explained in the film and adds a complex layer to the movie. The film itself is considered by many, even its own makers to be set in a Post-Apocalyptic environment; however this is, in my opinion, really never indicated. Instead the setting seems to be more in the process of going through the apocalypse then existing in its aftermath. There are still signs of some form of society, the first indication of that is the existence of the MFP itself. It has funding, and vehicles, and answers to a commissioner. Then there is the fact there is still television and news broadcasting, meaning that there has to be people, and enough of them to warrant its continued existence. vlcsnap-2013-10-15-14h54m53s160 The action in Mad Max is where the film truly soars. Combining the visual spectacle of car chases and stunts with the emotional spectacle of the sort of suspense you normally would find in a horror movie, George Miller is able to bring the audience into this dystopian world. Doing what few, if any, other action film director had done prior, Miller mounted cameras rigs onto the vehicles themselves to capture the exhilarating veracity of the stunts by placing the audience in the center of the action, this coupled with the evolution of both Max, and the setting, as developing characters, arrive together for a dazzling and thought-provoking film. We witness the degradation of Max Rockatansky as a character driven towards the ultimate act of revenge, The bleak, mysterious setting, the tense exactitude of the action, and Max’s degeneration as a person stripped of humanity, come to a head in the climax. Max begins his final acts of revenge while coming upon a portion of the motorcycle gang as they are stealing gas from a moving tanker. This is an interesting moment because it establishes a theme that will become the center focus of the sequel, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, the world’s continuous need for fuel even after the apocalypse it caused. Here we witness Max viciously run down these bikers. Placing a camera mount on the top of Max’s V8 Interceptor, which in its own way is a character in the film still-of-mel-gibson-in-mad-max-(1979)-large-picture If taking the film and viewing it in the context of its two sequels we can see that both the character of Max and the setting he inhabits mirrors each other’s continual development throughout all three movies. Mad Max by itself is simply a great action story of revenge, but when placed inside the context of a trilogy it becomes an origin story, both for the character and the world.


29 – Reign of Fire

Posted in The 50 Apocalyptic films with tags , , , , , , , on April 2, 2014 by Duane Patrick

reign_of_fire_xlg Envy the country that has heroes, huh?

I say pity the country that needs them.


Reign of Fire, like the fire-breathing dragons, is a strange beast of an apocalyptic film, but one I fell in love with from the first time I saw it. As you have seen from this blog I do have a real passion for the apocalyptic genre, and perhaps it was this was one that was set in the UK, (even though it was filmed in Ireland) that drew me into it. This was an apocalyptic film set in my world, not in the United States, or in Australia, but it had fields and a big castle, it was my landscape, it’s what the apocalypse would be for me, however then there was the fire-breathing dragons. Reign of Fire certainly brought a new way of ending human civilization on earth.

Reign of Fire opens with a young boy called Quinn visiting his mother, and engineer on a construction site, he accidentally disturbs a fire-breathing dragon which has been sleeping below the earth, waiting for the right time to emerge again, The dragon proceeds to kill everyone at the site except for the young boy Quinn.

 Twenty years later, Quinn has grown up to be Christian Bale ( Batman!) and the leader of a small settlement in the North of England. We have the usual apocalyptic trope when he explains in voiceover while writing in his diary, the story of the apocalypse, that  the dragons reproduced with astonishing speed. Within months, there were millions, and they began laying the world to waste and feasting on the ash left over from the conflagrations they caused. The militaries of the world took up the gauntlet, of course, but there were a fuck of a lot of dragons, and they were extremely hard to kill. In the end, with most of the Earth’s land-surface already reduced to a tremendous ash-field anyway, those nations that had them resorted to nuclear weapons. Even that wasn’t enough, and by 2020, there is hardly anything left of the world we know at all. The only bright spot is that the dragons’ numbers seem to be falling off; having burned up everything in sight, the creatures are now beginning to starve to death.

     It’s that last part that is the lynchpin of Quinn’s survival strategy. He and the people he leads— something less than 100 men, women, and children— have set themselves up in a medieval castle (stone being damned hard to burn), beneath which they have dug out a network of insulated tunnels served by an ingenious water-cooling system devised by a man who once made blast furnaces for a living. Quinn’s village is more or less self-sufficient, growing their crops in fields too small to attract the dragons’ notice , and Quinn’s hope is that they will be able to hold out until the monsters’ self-created famine drives them back below the surface— as has apparently happened repeatedly in the distant past. (Among the none-too-useful insights into dragon biology that the old world’s scientists were able to arrive at before the apocalypse cranked into high gear was that the dragons had caused the Cretaceous extinction, along with other similar events.) The trouble is, Quinn’s people are hungry, too, and it is a very open question which species will outlast the other.

     Then one day, the castle receives a visit from a band of extremely heavily armed men riding a motley collection of military vehicles, up to and including a helicopter and a main battle tank. These men are, in the words of Quinn’s friend Creedy (Gerard Butler), the “one thing worse than dragons— Americans.” Specifically, they’re the “Kentucky Irregulars,” ex-military men under the command of one Denton Van Zan (Academy Award winner now, Matthew McConaughey) who have set themselves on a seemingly quixotic quest to eliminate dragons from the world. And to be fair, they really have enjoyed a tremendous amount of success as dragonslayers. The mere fact that they managed to fly across the Atlantic in one piece proves that. The day after their arrival at Quinn’s castle, the Kentucky Irregulars get a chance to demonstrate their dragon-killing technique, when one of the creatures attacks a tomato field. In the great tradition of the American military, it involves equal parts advanced technology and seat-of-the-pants improvisation, and despite an understandably high casualty rate, it gets the job done.


 But Van Zan is playing for higher stakes. As he scornfully points out to the Brits who are so riotously celebrating his victory that night, killing off one dragon here and another there isn’t going to do the human race a bit of good in the long run. But he and his top lieutenant, Alex the helicopter pilot (Izabella Scorupco), have come armed with a theory that casts the battle against the monsters in entirely different terms. You see, neither the Kentucky Irregulars nor anyone else they’ve been in contact with has ever seen a male dragon, and Van Zan is willing to bet that Quinn and his people haven’t, either. Van Zan figures that’s because there’s only one, that dragon society is in effect a mirror image of a bee hive. He and Alex have used computers back home to analyze the dragons’ movements across the globe, and they believe not only that the creatures first appeared in London .


 Reign of Fire makes a strong showing for itself. Its premise gives it a leg up to start with, and this is then reinforced by excellent casting and a few bits of really accomplished writing. The antagonism between Quinn and Van Zan, for example, is the best kind, the kind in which both characters have entirely valid reasons for behaving the way they do, and in which neither can claim to be entirely right about the decisions those reasons lead them to. Quinn’s wait-the-dragons-out approach really does seem to be the product of sheer wishful thinking, but he’s absolutely right in believing that Van Zan is about to bite off much more than he can chew. And though Van Zan’s is the only strategy that holds out any meaningful hope for humanity, the miscalculations he makes in carrying it out have an enormous cost which is borne principally by people who are essentially innocent bystanders. Bale and McConaughey do an excellent job with this material, so much so that it hardly matters that theirs are the only characters in the movie with any depth to them.reign-fire_l

The third act of the film is a pure homage to the final act of Jaws, just substituting Sharks for dragons, Dont get me wrong Reign of Fire has its flaws, but it is definitely a guilty pleasure of mine, and also an apocalyptic film you may well get away with talking a girlfriend into watching………. Christian Bale, Matthew McConaughey and Gerard Butler, just don’t mention the dragons.

30 – Day of the Dead (1985)

Posted in The 50 Apocalyptic films with tags , , , , , , , on February 23, 2014 by Duane Patrick


 That’s right, Bub! Say hello to your Aunt Alicia! Say, “Hello, Aunt Alicia!” “Hello!”

Hello!’ resourceful hard nut heroine Sarah calls down a deserted Florida street lined with drooping palm trees and abandoned cars. ‘Is there anybody there?’

Like its predecessor, Dawn of the Dead, George A Romero‘s Day of the Dead goes straight for the jugular, plunging us straight into a non-too distant future when the earth belongs to the zombies, and human beings are reduced to an embattled, threatened minority.In Day of the Dead, the zombies seem like a horde guided by some preternatural sense of duty, like a plague sent by a capricious God to wash away a mistaken creation. They move like sludge oozing through tunnels, spreading out into the underground compound where a group of survivors defend a tiny isle of (deeply flawed) society, a human inhumanity.

There is no glamor here in defending human civilization, and one of the shocking and disturbing insights of the film is that as much as we, in our progressive-utopian ideals, might want to dismantle society as it is currently constructed, we might find the resulting chaos brings about even more troubling forms of repressive fascism.

As the layers of civilization built up over the years are peeled back, we see a startling vision of misogyny, racism, and the barest desire for power and control. Intellectuals and the application of reason struggle for a voice, and the supreme authority of power witnesses the return of slavery, here in the form of zombies. As the mad scientist Dr. Logan (Richard Liberty) theorizes, we humans can domesticate the zombie and use him/her/it as a slave. And so Dr. Logan experiments with this line of thinking on a zombie he names Bub (Sherman Howard), who through training begins to display almost-human traits (such as a fondness for listening to music on his walkman). Romero’s characteristic ambiguity is key here: are the zombies becoming more like us, or are we losing our capacity to distinguish ourselves from them?

Day.Of.The.Dead.1985.Bluray.1080p.DTS.x264 15

Hiding out in a World War Two bunker is an isolated community of survivors, a handful of scientists and soldiers surrounded by hundreds of thousands of baying zombies. But this isn’t just a battle between the living and the dead: it’s military force vs scientific hubris, army bullyboys vs the eggheads – and the complete lack of cooperation between the two sides is creating a simmering cocktail of fear, tyranny and discontent that’s just waiting to blow up. The soldiers are supposed to be helping the scientists discover a cure for the terrible undead plague. But whilst they lose men left right and centre, the boffins appear to be making little headway. And when the army discover that top scientist Dr ‘Frankenstein’ Logan (Richard Liberty) is feeding dead soldiers to the ‘specimen’ zombies he’s experimenting on, it’s all the excuse they need to start shooting.

In early scenes showing the politics of this small group of human beings, there is a brutality to the disputes, a dangerous proximity of violence that could turn into action at any moment. Most horrifying is the way the prejudices of our own society, particularly misogyny and racism, reassert themselves without having missed a beat. The heroine of Day Sarah (Lori Cardille) is thoroughly modern, but she finds herself in a regressive society where her fellow human beings may pose more of a threat than the zombies do.


As Logan points out, our veneer of civilisation is all that separates us from the beasts in the wild, who, like the hapless zombies, operate by instinct alone, the atavistic urge to attack their motivating force. Yet in Day of the Dead, the brutality and inhumanity we see all comes courtesy of the human beings. Surprise surprise, we quickly discover that the trigger happy soldiers are no better than beasts. Rather more unexpected, though, is the ambiguous figure of Logan: in his blood-soaked butcher’s overalls and gory latex gloves, he’s part gentle father figure, part Cronenbergian/Reanimator surgeon, prepared to go to any lengths to further his hideous experiments. With both sides so thoroughly unpleasant, who are we supposed to root for? The zombie hordes?

Day-of-the-Dead-1985-2Actually, until the final, truly nightmarish scenes, we barely see them. Instead we have Bub, Logan’s pet zombie, a truly tragic figure, more like a brain-damaged adult than a monster. If you’re going to root for anyone, I suggest you root for him. Oh, and watch out for his final moment of triumph – it’s possibly one of the most brilliantly conceived horror scenes I’ve ever witnessed.

day of the dead 1985 movie pic1

Filmed when the Cold War was still looking fairly frosty, Day of the Dead has a lot to say about the fragile nature of human civilisation and the very thin line that divides us from our enemies. Dark, uncompromising and forthright, this is a thought provoking film that makes its point forcefully -with a thick coating of blood and guts, of course.

As in the previous two films, Romero’s last two survivors are a non-romantic couple consisting of a white woman and a black man (who, in Night, both die but who, in Dawn and Day, survive), and this is certainly no coincidence. In the first two films, this coupling seemed like an act of subversion and a hint at the hybridity and cooperation that Romero sees as essential for the continuing development of human civilization, but in Day, it is also something of a pointed critique. Take a look at who these two people are who are running away and then take a look at who they are running away from (not only the zombies but also other humans).

My own personal opinion is Day, is the weakest of the three films, however again with Romero’s other films it plays a massively important part in the journey of the apocalyptic and zombie genre, and certainly deserves its place on this list.

31- Dawn of the Dead(1978)

Posted in The 50 Apocalyptic films with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 16, 2014 by Duane Patrick

dawn-of-the-dead-1978.jpg  “What are they doing? Why do they come here”

“Some kind of instinct. Memory of what they used to do. This was an important place in their lives.”

George A. Romero’s seminal horror film Dawn of the Dead, a classic of the genre since its release in 1978, has been imitated countless times in the past three decades – from The Evil Dead and Re-Animator to Return of the Living Dead and 28 Days Later…. As Adam Rockoff writes for the DVD, “Immediately after Dawn‘s 1978 release, its bastard offspring began to claw their way through the fresh earth and onto screens all around the world.” However, most of these films ignored the subtext of racism, media cynicism, societal decay, and perhaps most importantly, the scathing attack on consumerism that were so integral to Romero’s vision.

It can be argued this is the best of the zombie classics, and for my this is the ultimate of the zombie apocalyptic genre, And yes a modern viewer may well look at this movie and see flaws, the zombie make up for one, but what we see here is a progression in the genre, here we see the survival instincts of a few, and every child at one point has fanatsised about being locked in a store over night and being allowed to run riot.

Dawn of the Dead begins where Romero’s Night of the Living Dead ended ten years earlier (albeit allowing for the advancements in technology, filmmaking techniques and societal progression in the ensuing decade). Romero is not content with rehashing the first films plot, like so many modern-day sequels, he expands on the concept and establishes a universe for not only his franchise, but for the many films that would come afterward. Zombies have continued to multiply and feed on the living, and while they may have not completely taken over, the stage is set for a final showdown between the living and the undead.

Again with this movie, like Night of the Living Dead, I have the problem that so much has been written on this movie how do I bring anything new. What we can do is celebrate the film and realise its place in the genre, if this film had not been made would we have the apocalyptic films, zombie films, or tv series like The Walking Dead today? Absolutely not. Dawn of the Dead is one of the key films in this whole genre, and should be celebrated.


In the movie we follow two SWAT cops who team up with a fleeing news helicopter pilot and his pregnant girlfriend, together the four of them occupy a shopping mall which the proceed to make their home. Romero takes a far more tongue in cheek approach here than in Night of the Living Dead but it only adds to the social commentary and enjoyment factors. The action is upscaled here too, and on-screen we have a great duo in Ken Foree and Scott H.Reiniger , their fearless and enthusiastic attitude towards zombie killing infects the film with an irrepressible sense of fun. Again without this on-screen attitude to zombie killing would we have Zombieland with its kill of the week?


The jackpot “dream” of being holed up in a shopping mall from the hungry zombie hordes is short-lived for Dawn‘s four protagonists. Peter and Stephen “hold up” the Shopping Mall’s bank of its money, now rendered meaningless. Later, a hapless ghoul is found sat in a wish fountain, struggling to make sense of the coins spilling from his cupped hands. The quartet start the film dressed and ready for action in combat gear but by the end, they’re smothered in opulent fur coats and chewing on expensive (pilfered) cigars… Roger, who gets chomped early on, is left a soppy faced half-breed zombie grinning at videogames and slurring “…I’m goooonna tryyyy … not to come baaaack” and sadly doesn’t. Most significantly, in the artificial trappings of a romantic meal between young lovers Stephen and Fran, Romero slams the door on any notion of reality within the walls of the mall when Stephen’s half-hearted proposal of marriage is rebutted…


 Romero’s consumerism metaphor in this movie, the mindless zombies wandering in a shopping mall, is probably even more relevant today than it was in 1978, a fact captured by that the mall it was filmed in was one of the worlds largest at the time, but looking at it now, it is no bigger than your average mall. . Consider that our current times are characterized by terrorism, wars, financial scandals, and economic and political turmoil. Romero’s apocalyptic vision looks more like prophecy than fiction.

Look past the zombie make up, and the strangely orange blood of this movie, and you will see one of the most important films of the apocalyptic genre, and a seminal film on this list, this was definitely the Dawn of the Dead.

32 – A Carol For Another Christmas

Posted in The 50 Apocalyptic films with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 30, 2013 by Duane Patrick


“When we stop talking, we start swinging,then we bleed. Then we got problems. Like winding up dead.”

You can imagine how hard it is to find an apocalyptic Christmas movie, this is the time of year for ‘feel-good’ classics. However A Carol for another Christmas is right up my street, written by the great Rod Serling, a man who has played a big part in my interest in the apocalyptic genre, this tv movie also stars, Peter Sellers and Sterling Hayden who earlier in the year had starred in Stanley Kubrick‘s Dr. Strangelove, and finally this movie was directed by two-time oscar winner, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, again who had earlier directed that year Cleopatra. This is the traditional retelling of A Christmas Carol, which has been adapted so many times, and with each adaptation tells a story also of the time it is made, and no more so than this adaptation from the 1960’s , instead of Victorian England’s Ebenezer Scrooge gaining a belated appreciation for the spirit of Christmas, this production would offer an isolationist U.S. industrialist who gains a belated appreciation of the spirit of U.N.-style diplomacy.

Back in 1964, the Xerox Corporation agreed to underwrite a series of made-for-television films that were designed to promote the positive humanitarian activities of the United Nations. Xerox, which prided itself as a leader in corporate social responsibility, agreed to spend $4 million on this endeavor, and that was no small sum back in 1964. A nonprofit organization called the Telsun Foundation was formed to produce these films; Telsun was an abbreviated version of “Television Series for the United Nations.”

“Carol for Another Christmas” opens at Christmas Eve in the isolated mansion of the terminally brusque Daniel Grudge (Sterling Hayden). Grudge’s academician nephew (Ben Gazzara) shows up to argue about Grudge’s role in canceling an educational exchange between a local university and a university in Poland. Grudge angrily believes the Cold War atmosphere should not encourage this exchange. However, Grudge is also nursing the bitter reminder that his only son, Marley, was killed on Christmas Eve during World War II.

Grudge then receives the Dickensian three ghosts treatment. The ghost of Christmas past is a World War I soldier (cabaret singer Steve Lawrence) “When we stop talking, we start swinging,” he tells Grudge. “Then we bleed. Then we got problems. Like winding up dead.” The ghost then takes Grudge to Hiroshima after the Japanese surrender in World War II – Grudge visited a hospital as part of his duties as a Navy commander and observed young girls who were gruesomely disfigured in the atomic blast. Grudge is unmoved by their plight.

Then comes the ghost of Christmas present (Pat Hingle), who is depicted as a reactionary glutton enjoying a huge dinner.  Next to his table is a barbed wire fence for a refugee camp where displaced persons live in squalor.  Grudge is appalled, especially when the ravenous ghost exaggerates Grudge’s isolationist politics.

[the Ghost of Christmas Present gorges himself at a banquet table, while barbed wired keeps out starving refugees] 
Daniel Grudge: How can you sit there and eat like that, when these people are starving? 
Ghost of Christmas Present: Oh? Do they bother you? 
[he snaps his fingers, the lights go out and the refugees disappear] 
Ghost of Christmas Present: Feel better? 


The ghost of Christmas future (British actor Robert Shaw, wearing a white robe) escorts Grudge to the post-apocalyptic remains of his local town hall.  A raucous meeting is being chaired by a character called Imperial Me (played by Peter Sellers in his first role following a near-fatal heart attack earlier that year). This individual wears a ten-gallon hat, speaks in an LBJ-worthy twang, and bangs a huge gavel that bears the label “Giant Economy Size” while spouting the philosophy of every man for himself. “Each behind his own fence!” he exclaims. “Each behind his own barricade! Follow me, my friends and loved ones, to the perfect society! The Civilization of ‘I’!” Grudge’s African American butler shows up to make an impassioned speech about brotherhood, but a little boy holding a huge gun assassinates him.


The film itself receives a very negative review at the time, and scanning the internet it still does, however, for me it sits well on this list, it is heavy-handed, but for me it was at a time that needed heavy-handed, it is a very bleak future that Serling and Mankiewicz depict here, there is no big change in Grudge’s attitude at the end, it feels like the apocalyptic nature of the future in this film is inevitable.  But without these heavy-handed films like this and ones that followed , perhaps the apocalypse would have been inevitable.  Mankiewicz  only uses a limited amount of big sets, but he does use them very well, the ghost of Christmas past, on a boat full of coffins of world war I dead, the ghost of christmas present eating a luxurious banquet, while the starving refugees stand on the other side of a fence, and of course the ghost of christmas future in the post apocalyptic setting of town hall, where the talking would have happened. This allows for Serling’s great script, characters debating with each other, Sterling Hayden gives a great performance as Grudge, and of course Sellers, who cannot fail when ever he is on-screen.

I may have rose-tinted glasses for any of Serling’s work, but I am firmly a fan of this adaptation of A Christmas Carol, the film itself is not available on dvd, but you can watch the whole film on you tube, linked below.

33 – 28 Days Later

Posted in The 50 Apocalyptic films with tags , , , , , , on December 2, 2013 by Duane Patrick

28-days-laterHave you got any plans, Jim?

Do you want us to find a cure and save the world or just fall in love and fuck?

Plans are pointless. Staying alive’s as good as it gets.

Before 2002, the ‘zombie film’ had reached the self deprecating joke stage, the flesh-eating monster that Romero had given us, had now become a mumbling slow-moving joke figure looking to digest ‘brains’. Director Danny Boyle, and screenwriter Alex Garland here not only reinvigorated the zombie movie, but also the actual monster, with the now running jumping sprinting zombie hordes that would crash through windows, with the infection Rage.


28 Days Later is not just a typical horror film, in fact if you look closer it is not a horror movie at all, we have two very clear messages in this film, how fragile even 21st century civilization is and how our society looks at women in this modern age.

Similarly to The Omega Man, 28 Days Later relies on a powerful use of mise-en-scène to convey feelings of isolation, abandonment, and despair to the audience.  Framing and composition have an enormous impact on the way the characters in 28 Days Later are viewed. In a recurrent succession of tight and loosely framed shots, characters are placed into positions of insignificance and vulnerability, completely at the mercy of their surroundings. This is clearly evident in the second scene of the film. Jim (Cillian Murphy) awakens in a hospital to find nothing but empty halls and rooms, completely devoid of all forms of life. In a high-angle shot, we perceive Jim as helpless and exposed, wired with tubes and apparatuses. A close-up of Jim’s face reveals his perplexity and malnourished.  Upon exiting the hospital, a series of bird’s eye and long shots envision a desolated London, all the while portraying Jim alone in a desolated city.


One of the most provocative shots in the film was the last shot of the second scene. The camera starts at eye level, overlooking a gigantic board of missing people flyers. It then quickly zooms in toward one specific missing child, invoking a sense of uneasiness and grief within the viewer. This shot directly played on the mind of the viewer, bringing back those same images we had seen so recently before in New York after the World Trade Center attack.

After we have now seen the new improved ‘zombies can run now’, the film quickly moves on to depict humans as always, are the actual evil in the film, especially in apocalyptic movies. Many of these films will include an obligatory scene in which a female character (sometimes the heroine, but it rarely matters) is nearly raped by one out-of-control male in order to be saved by another, thus exhibiting the moral and physical superiority of our hero and savior over all the other men around him.

Christopher Eccelston’s Major Henry West appears to be the leader of the last outpost of civilised humanity in Britain, having sent out a radio message encouraging survivors to join him and his men in the safety of their northern retreat. When Hannah, Selena, and Jim arrive, they are initially welcomed, but the Major quickly informs them of the real reason for the radio signal.

“Eight days ago, I found Jones with his gun in his mouth. He said he was going to kill himself because there was no future. What could I say to him? We fight off the infected or we wait until they starve to death… and then what? What do nine men do except wait to die themselves? I moved us from the blockade, and I set the radio broadcasting, and I promised them women. Because women mean a future.”

Monstrous is the only way to describe the behavior of West’s men. They separate Jim from Selene and adolescent Hannah, making it clear they have no problems sexually assaulting both of the females. They taunt them and even make their victims dress up in preparation for their rapes.

Yes, the women escape their attackers, and yes, Jim saves the day.

But consider for a moment. The Major who has orchestrated the entire thing, this panderer of rapists, isn’t just any man. He is the last representative of the government. He is a highly trained professional soldier who has sworn to protect the people of Britain. He is order in the face of chaos. And because his men want sex, he deprives the only women he believes are left alive of their right to say no. He reduces them to the role of toys.

He doesn’t even order his men to spare young Hannah (Megan Burns was about 14 when the movie was filmed). In fact, he does nothing to rein in his men, regardless of the outright brutality they seem to be looking forward to inflicting on the women.
What we have here is a film that discusses the way our society hangs on a knife  edge, held together on threads, but not only that how as a society we view women, What Boyle points out, is that however far we think we’ve come as a society in relation to women’s rights, we are still too frighteningly close to having made no progress whatsoever. If men want sex, women will be made to provide it. It’s not a particularly well hidden message in the film. This is the real horror of the film


28 Days Later, was a box office success, it had a budget of £5 million, and made £6.1 million in the UK, before being a surprise hit in the United States, taking in $45 million with a limited screen release, it has a legacy that we still see today, it reinvented the zombie genre, and we got films like the Dawn of the Dead remake, Shaun of the Dead, and the opening of the TV series The Walking Dead definitely tips its sheriff’s hat to 28 days later. 28 Days later is a genre defining important film that deserves a place on this list. If you have never seen it, go watch it, its worth a second watch to look past the zombie movie.

34 – Last Night

Posted in The 50 Apocalyptic films with tags , , , , , , on October 19, 2013 by Duane Patrick


“What I do find pathetic is people who, as soon as they hear that the world is ending, they rush out and try to hook up with someone like it was closing time at Studio 54”

Last Night is one of the films that hopefully this blog will point you in the direction of, a hidden gem. It’s a black comedy, that looks at the ridiculous nature of people and how they might deal with the end of the world, it is funny and poignant all at the same time.

I have a theory about American movies and the American mind: Americans use violence as a substitute for emotions. Canadians definitely don’t. So when Hollywood makes a movie about the end of the world, it comes in the form of conniving terrorists, invading aliens, hurtling meteors or even stomping reptiles, and it’s up to our muscle-bound, well-armed hero to shoot the evildoers down.

When Canadian Don McKellar makes a movie about the destruction of the world, the end is caused by . . . well, we don’t know what it’s caused by. It’s just coming, everybody knows it, and the question is, what does this knowledge bring out in the human psyche? How do we spend our last night on earth? We are told that the world will end, exactly at midnight, however there is no mention of how, there is clues, as in there is constant daylight now, so perhaps the earth is getting too close to the sun? It’s not important though, what we see is people’s emotions played out, and how the deal with the cataclysmic event, certain death.last-night

Part of the fun of “Last Night” is seeing how people use their last hours. Young mobs take to the street, mostly to party as if counting down the new year, but also to take advantage of the end of civilization. They overturn cars and some thrill-seekers wander around shooting people — and who’s to stop them? The government has become irrelevant and the victims are about to die anyway. We here the radio, a dj counting down his top 500 songs ever, which will end at midnight, the director David Cronenberg plays a gas employee, who goes to work diligently
to call every customer and assure them that there will be no interruption of service up to the end.

Callum Keith Rennie, plays a character who wants to fulfil every sexual fantasy he has ever had, he makes a list to fulfil them, he has no trouble finding willing partners.

“Just use the Internet,” he explains. “That’s what they made it for.”

And yet, true to their stereotype, many of these Canadians maintain a sense of propriety (if not sobriety) as they seek some final fulfilment. Everyone finds some personal way to spend the end, including a tense, stunning, unforgettable finish by the lead characters. But my other favourite is a minor character who takes over a concert hall and gives the piano recital he never got a chance to give in normal life. His surprising music provides a handful of listeners a transcendent serenade for the end of the world.


In the end, a film that began light and irony-filled has grown tremendously in intensity. The final countdown — when people presumably are doing the things that most define them, in their infinite variety, as human beings — is as exhilarating as a great action movie, yet every fast-moving second is packed with significance. It’s an amazing expression of our humanity.

I would thoroughly recommend Last Night, it’s a different kind of apocalyptic film and begs the question what would you do, to spend those final months, weeks, hours, minutes. Its full of the black humour, which apocalyptic films do best.

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