Saturday, May 21, 2011

Five For The Apocalypse

Whelp it’s the end of the world as we know it. Er… again, so we don’t have any time to lose. Here’s five for the apocalypse. Now you might look at this list and go “Guh?” its true that I could have picked quite a few more iconic (or better) movies, in what people think of the apocalyptic genre. But I had only one hard and fast rule while composing this list which was The End Of The World had to be the actual end of human life on Earth, if not the end of the actual Earth itself.

No Mad Max prowling the wastes for the Gasoolleeene. No John Conner and the resistance no nothing. In these films when the curtain fell it fell. The end is the end.

Knowing: Say what you will about Proyas’s film, but it was not one of half measures. Love it or hate it you have to give it credit for the courage of its convictions. It’s a film built around a single moment. But man when the time came they went there (Unlike say the cowardly 2012). Flash flying the Earth with CGI of such loving detail that even the most ardent fan of Nicholas Cage Kitsch couldn’t help but get a bit peakish.

City Of The Living Dead: As likely to make you go “Huh?” as scream in horror. The ending of City Of The Living Dead seems to imply terrible things while making very little sense (which hell might have been Fulci’s motto for all I know. The Beyond, this film’s twin could have also easily had a place on the list.) Despite the fact that it makes negligible narrative sense there’s no denying the weird sense of dread Fulci creates in those final moments. How life can bottom out at the last possible second.

Frailty- Most religious themed horror films are designed to prey on the fears of the faithful. Frailty on the other hand, until its twist too far, seems like the ultimate horror film for atheists. A film about an awful nice guy who sure is sorry that the Lord told him to kill you. Never mind the fact that you look just like him, you’re a demon and Bill Paxton getting proactive about The Rapture. Taking his holy ax, gloves, and pipe and starts murdering people in preparation. It’s a deeply creepy, atmospheric horror film, that well deserves a cult following even if (SPOILERS) the revelation that the end of the world actually is at hand is more apt to produce sighs of relief than of terror.

Richard Kelly's Apocalypse Trilogy: Donnie Darko, Southland Tales, The Box: All of Kelly’s films feature soft apocalypses to one degree or another. From the seam of the sky opening in the haunting final moments of Halloween in Donnie Darko. To whatever the hell it is that goes on at the final moments of Southland Tales (a film that is every bit the mess its detractors say it is, yet I can’t help but like a whole lot.)

But the film that continues to impress is The Box. I was an early defender of the film and my admiration for it grows with every viewing. It’s quiet oppressive strangeness. The hush of it’s wintry setting and Win Butler’s sparse score. Where average Suburbanites seal their own doom. Proving their unworthiness to a soft spoken, unfailingly polite messenger of the divine with every click of the button (not a monster just a man with a job to do). For those wondering what this is doing on the list, its all about Mars.

For those who’ve been avoiding based on its mixed reputation, I urge you to check it out now that it is at most a dollar rental. It’s a wonderfully disquieting piece of work.


Yes the imagery here suggests fodder for several decades worth of couch time (And if you just watched that not knowing what was coming I can imagine you might need some couch time yourself). Yes if you’ve watched this at work you probably don’t have a job now. Yes if you’re not an anime fan you’ll probably never watch anything in the genre again. Yes the sheer amount of gobbly gook in it is enormous.

But if you’re talking about The End Of The World, something that is by its very definition beyond human comprehension, I think out of all the movies I’ve seen only The End Of Evangelion’s is strange enough, alien enough to really qualify. Coupling the meltdown of the psyche with the meltdown of the world it remains one of the most astonishing moments I’ve seen in a film.

So that’s the apocalypse see you tomorrow. That said if the joke is on me, and end is at hand, I’m going to be PISSED I went into work today.

Bonus Round: The Passage which was my number three book of last year came out in paperback today. If you haven’t read it and are looking for a summer read that will not allow you to put it down without severe psychic distress. It captures the end of our species with a kind of terrible beauty, while also serving as the best post apocalyptic novel since The Stand and one of my favorite adventure stories of all time.


le0pard13 said...

That's a great collection for this day [or, whenever... ;-)]. I have KNOWING on the hard drive and have not watched it yet -- I guess today would be perfect, huh? Good call, too, on CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD. I need to check out THE BOX.

If you equate THE PASSAGE with THE STAND, that's all the recommendation I need (btw, King's first epic was the only book of his I had to take a break from as I started reading it while sick with the flu).

If I would recommend one for today, mine would be Steve De Jarnatt's apocalyptic gem, MIRACLE MILE. It captures a specific time and place in L.A. extraordinarily well, too (I know, I was there). Fine and fun post, Bryce.

Henry Swanson's Glasses said...

Your novel recommendations are fantastic (I've picked up John Dies At The End and Horns, thanks to you), so I'll be going after The Passage on Kindle.

I like your list - absolutely ballsy putting Knowing on here, and I agree about the apocalypse angle. Frailty and City of the Living Dead were also inspired choices.

Simon said...

God, Evangelion is so weird. I could never get past the first few episodes.

I thought the Box was just implied apocalypse?

Bryce Wilson said...

@ le0pard 13: Thanks for the tip le0, if it's as good as The Guards I'm sure to love it.

Love your reason for stopping The Stand.

@ Henry: Thank you sir, that's kind of you to say. Hope you enjoy it.

Yeah Knowing might not make the list of usual kind of list. But I like it more than most people. You could retitle that film "Yeah We Went There: The Movie" I mean the flaming elk alone has to get it on the list.

@ Simon: Yeah Evangelion is definitely an acquired taste. I think it's one of those things you need to encounter at just the right time, and if you don't you're screwed.

Good point on The Box. I snuck it in by association. Then again things didn't go well for Mars and look where it got them...

Unknown said...

Nice list! I actually checked out THE BOX based on your review and thoroughly enjoyed. I also really dig Kelly's films, even SOUTHLAND TALES which most people poop on but I think is pretty amazing in a messy, flawed way.

Bryce Wilson said...

Glad to hear it JD. I too have a certain soft spot for Southland Tales.

Yeah that movie doesn't work, but it's a pleasure to watch not work.