Who isn’t a fan of cinematic end-of-the-world scenarios? I love them. Really love them. To the point that I’ll excitedly talk about my favourite mushroom cloud scene in a movie (just for the record, ‘Return Of The Living Dead’) to the point where previously enthusiastic conversation participants sit back fall into deadly silence.
After the bomb drops, when civilisation is reduced to zombies, quasi-medieval motorbike-driving marauders, cannibals, or a little from columns a, b and c, then you’ve got the recipe for legendary b-movies. As we sit under the tabloid threat of dirty bomb extinction (go check the brilliant ‘The Power Of Nightmares’ for a little rational thought on the topic), I’m all about the apocalypse films.’ Everyone’s pondered the notion of how they’d survive in the event of shit hitting the fan, but mental over exposure to the deceptively grim kids’ book/film (word to ‘Plague Dogs’) ‘When The Wind Blows’, the equally laugh-free ‘Brother In The Land’, Chucky Heston chilling pumping up the volume over those moaning vampires in ‘The Omega Man’ and bubblegum packet mascot Adam Bomb was as potent as radioactive fallout.
After a length of time in which I could’ve grown a suitably shaggy last-man-on -earth beard, the suitably gloomy trailer for Dimension’s adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road’ hit the web over the weekend, ahead of its October release. A great, great book set for the big screen is normally the sort of thing that makes us duck and cover, when John Hillcoat is at the helm, no need to panic, seal windows or stand in a doorway. His ‘Ghosts Of The Civil Dead’ and ‘The Proposition’ are masterpieces, and once again, Nick Cave’s on board to score it. Esquire magazine got the preview hookup – they’re foaming at the mouth over it. They would do, but I trust them on this one. It’s in very safe hands
Thanks to Cold War paranoia, the ’80s were the most fertile time for post-apocalypse flicks. When those crafty Russians weren’t executing Harry Dean-Stanton, they were blowing us up. Then there was the fear of space comets turning us to red dust. Hopefully if anything comes out of 21st Century bomb scares and suspicion, it’s a great brace of films. It’s notable that there’s been something of a living dead renaissance lately, and a studio plowed millions into a third ‘I Am Legend’ adaptation. Fuck that – these are legendary…
‘Night Of The Comet’ (1984)
Imagine what happens if everyone goes out to watch a comet and gets either vapourised or goes loco on some Romero meets valley girl business. Imagined? ‘Night Of The Comet’ is exactly what you just thought up, but so, so, so much more. This sci-fi oddity is strangely bleak yet hugely enjoyable, subverting some ’80s stereotypes.
’1990: Bronx Warriors’ (1982)
Italian studios loved rehashing genre flicks. ‘Dawn Of The Dead’ and ‘Star Wars’ were manna from heaven for directors with few original ideas but a ton of ingenuity as to how to stretch a frugal budget to near breaking point. John Carpenter and George Miller were too obvious to include here, but their influence is all over this film. The video shops were awash with this kind of thing – great, lurid covers that betrayed the lo-fi content. The sadly departed Vic Morrow (killed on the set of ‘The Twilight Zone – The Movie’ a few years later)crops up in this bad boy, and they chuck shades of ‘The Warriors’ in there too for good measure. I never clocked just how camp it was until I was a ‘grown up’.
‘The Day After’ (1983)
TV movies are usually very lightweight, but people were very solemn about this after the bomb tale of survivors dealing with the inevitable sickness, hunting for food and generally dying all over the place. This was seen as a near- educational film at the time, cementing just how worried everyone was about being blown to smithereens. US viewers were obliged to watch it and educational establishments held special screenings. Me? I just like the fact Steve Guttenberg is in it and when, in the films piece de resistance the unthinkable happens, people turn into skeletons – a bit like ‘Mars Attacks’ but much more po-faced.
‘Miracle Mile’ (1988)
One of my favourites. Great b-movie idea. Man takes call in phonebox and finds out the world is going to end. Man tries to get out of this troubling situation. If this was made now, it’d be an oft-seen sleeper in the vein of ‘Arlington Road’, and it uses its theme with a great deal more offbeat touches and imagination than most. I’m not going to give the game away too much.Great – down to the Tangerine Dream score.
Kind of like ‘Kes’ (written by the same writer, Barry Hines) with radioactive fallout. You need to realise just how grim the north of England was when this was filmed. Take kitchen sink Ken Loach realism, then blow it to kingdom come. Many in the UK saw this when it was first shown and all suffered mental anguish as a result. It’s a testament to the out-and-out darkness of this made-for-TV film that I’ve blogged about its nightmarish qualities twice now.
This is a fun vacuum. ‘The Day After’ can’t touch this. It harks back to the time when we Brits were the undusputed drama kings (word to Dezzy Dez). Even the TV listings took on a forboding tone in the build up to ‘Threads’. It’s a thoroughly unpleasant viewing experience, so why do I treat it with such reverance? Because that’s the point, dummy. Getting blown to shit was never going to be a barrel-of-laughs. The last word in post-nuke miserabilism.
Don’t have nightmares.