Horizon at Sandy Point

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Zombie apocalypse

The thesis that the human animal could be overtaken by a virus or disease that turns us into zombies in twelve seconds may not be plausible, but it is believable. This is the underlying premise presented by the 2013 film World War Z. Fast travel and the multiple connections across a growing global population (seven billion at latest estimate) are the basis for the spread of contagious disease in our largest cities, and from continent to continent. The ferocious spread, the virulence of a condition that takes seconds to overpower a healthy host may be a tad far-fetched, but not impossible to imagine. Dramatise the scenario with the stuff of horror - the undead - and there's the recipe for a zombie apocalypse. At least, you'll have a very good cinematic yarn.  World War Z is a horror of the order of the 1968 Night of the Living Dead. It stopped short of the nihilistic conclusion of the latter film in which the hero Ben - having survived all assaults from the undead - is shot by the military who comes to liberate the farmhouse in which he is hiding.

Humans have been on the earth barely 100,000 years since we stepped out of Africa. In that time, we have re-arranged the face of the earth, with our cities, with transportation and commerce and energy transformations, with wars and our massive appetites, depleting land and ocean stocks, removing stored mineral resources, dealing extinction to many species, and spoiling landscapes with our waste. In this century, it is seriously feared that humankind may already have altered the balance of climate and the survivability of remaining species, not to mention the sustainability of the whole fabric, past the tipping point. It's not just the fate of the dinosaurs that awaits us. There is a fate worse than death that we have concocted for our many sins. This is to be the walking dead, the "undead."

It is thought that the word zombie entered the English language in the 1870s. It might be West African in origin, nzambi means ghost. From Haitian folklore, a zombi - in a state that may be drug-induced - is a person who died but whose body is revived for the use of a manipulator or sorcerer. The jumbie in West Indian dialect is a ghost. Zombies are the dead who would not rest, the  "undead" or the walking dead. The tradition of the undead or walking dead in films goes back to the Night of the Living Dead by George Romero, set in rural Pennsylvania where the dead rise out of a nearby cemetery to feed on - and infect - the living.

Leap forward almost 50 years, and mankind's great fear is not only that his species will be wiped off the face of the earth, but that "walking dead" might be punishment for all the ills that he has perpetrated. To sin against nature results in this perversion of the "last judgement," where the dead do not die, but plague the living.  The end is coming not by war, but by pestilence. This story/ film, however, does not envisage the ultimate end. There is hope, it offers, when there is time to change.

The film follows Gerry Lane (played by Brad Pitt) as a UN investigator who is sent in search of a cure for the aggressive zombification. From an aircraft carrier in the Atlantic where he hides his family, he sets off to South Korea where the condition first manifested itself. This mission is doomed when they need to make a fast getaway.  To Israel, where a high wall surrounds an area where there is yet no infection. But high walls do not keep out a virus so determined that the zombies scramble and climb over each other to reach their victims.

Zombie virus - undead humans swarm over the face of the earth. 

At the film's end, there is no cure, only a way to hide from the zombies. And the fatalistic words of the dead scientist, "Mother Nature is a serial killer. No one's better, more creative. Like all serial killers, she can't help the urge to want to get caught. What good are all those brilliant crimes if no one takes the credit? So she leaves crumbs. Now the hard part, for which you spent decades in school, is seeing the crumbs for the clues they are. Sometimes the thing you thought was the most brutal aspect of the virus, turns out to be the chink in its armor. And she loves disguising her weaknesses as strengths. She's a bitch."

And I remember being told once that terminal (cancer) patients rarely catch colds or any virus. Their bodies are too busy dealing with (not) dying. Hmmm

What fun the costumiers must have had creating masks and antics for the walking dead!
(Photo from IMDb)

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