Apocalypse Now-ish: Horror and the End of the World

PART 1

Saturday, May 21, 2011: a date which will live in infamy. This is the day the world as we know it came to an end. Fire and brimstone came down from the sky, rivers and seas boiled, there were forty years of darkness, earthquakes, volcanoes, the dead rose from their grave. Dogs and cats lived together, it was mass hysteria.

Or…maybe not.

So maybe the odds of the Rapture occurring on Saturday weren’t particularly high. But you don’t need it to happen in your lifetime to see it. If you want to see destruction of Biblical proportions, all you need to do is head on down to the video store (or to keep it more hip and modern: log on to Netflix) and choose from the various titles out there. The destruction of the human race has been a staple of the horror genre for as long as anyone can remember. Some themes thrive, while others die out and go away. The Apocalypse is one of the lucky ones.

But why?

Well the answer is simple: because it’s scary. Not only that, but its something we face constantly. Every year the world is exposed to some zany theory about the end times. This year it was a crazy radio host and his illogical equations, last year it was the Large Hadron Collider and its apparent insistence on creating black holes, next year it’ll be the Mayans and their Americanized 2012 “prophecy”. We here these things, and we think “yeah right, that’s so ridiculous”. But deep down inside, there’s that little part of us that’s absolutely petrified.

And that’s perfectly understandable, because while maybe the movies might exaggerate a few things, the fact of the matter is that the world will come to an end. Not only that, but we can’t know for sure when it’s going to. Everyday we live under the threat that something, somewhere, is going to go wrong. And when it does, the chain of events it sets off could be devastating. And if it’s not something like that that gets us, then it’ll be something like pollution, disease, or any number of things. If you’ll notice, these are re-occurring ideas in the horror world.

The disease horror film has been around for years upon years, represented by movies like “The Last Man on Earth” and “28 Weeks Later”. “The Mist” weaves a tale of science gone wrong, and the consequences it unleashes. Even pollution plays its role with movies like…*sigh*…”The Happening”. But sometimes it isn’t what you know, but rather what you don’t know. Romero’s legendary “Dead” series has never explained why people are coming back to life. These are films that do their job as horror entertainment. They move along, they scare, they maybe even present an idea or two. As a whole, their stories may not be the most believe about there.

But, their power comes from their ability to play to very real ideas. Science can go wrong, and it has. Global pandemics are a constant concern for every health department across the world. Pollution is most likely going to make the Earth completely uninhabitable someday. Maybe the things that go bump in the night can be explained away, but if that one thing arises that isn’t so easy to brush off? It’s fun to watch a movie where the human race as a whole is fighting for their lives, but it incites a very real fear. And that’s the fear that one day, our luck is going to run out, and we won’t be around too much after that.

Though as some of these films might show, that might not be such a bad thing after all. Check in tomorrow for part 2.