Apocalyptic stories are kind of like Jelly Bellys; many flavors, common and gourmet. And possibly that’s one of the reasons we writers are drawn to them because our imaginations can really fly in a menagerie world of horrors: zombies, mutants, crazed biker gangs, cannibals, deep space monsters, deep earth beasties, all the natural disasters one can think of, and on and on. What ever scares you, we have the monsters to fit the bill.
Now, let me say this: I believe nightmares are healthy, at least, the occasional ones. We’ve all had them (and if you have Night Terrors, or nightly nightmares that disturb your sleep, please see your doctor) and we have much in common in our shared dream symbolism. We are all practicing, when nightmares occur, resolving some issue or facing some fear in a safe place. Children do this more frequently in their sleep, adults less so, and as adults we turn to movies and books to help us face our fears, once again, in a safe place, practicing for the day when such events may arrive in real life. Certainly, apocalypse is possible and it’s okay to face the fear of such in a movie or book. It brings into question how we would face the event, and it’s telling to our own particular psychology when we pick a certain character in the tale that we identify with the most. And that is the point of world-end stories: it’s not the monster or the event that is important, they’re just the mechanism, nor is it the fear of death that scares us most (that is the foundation of ALL horror). Apocalyptic tales are about the SURVIVORS, and how their individual word views are challenged, and whether they will work in the aftermath. The horror is not the possibility of death, but the fall of everything we know, the shattering of certainty and delusions, and how our beliefs before the fall, may be a load of fecal matter.
George Romero’s zombie epic is exactly about that, so is Mad Max and Road Warrior, as is The Road, and to some degree (and with a large degree of spectacular silliness), the modern disaster movies, Deep Impact and 2012 and their ilk. The best world-end stories raises questions and offer few answers. They challenge on an internal level, and ask us, “Just who are you, really?”
And that brings me to the apocalypse movie, The Book of Eli…
Part 3 and the end of this rambling, coming soon.