Hope on low supply in Hollywood
Last week I caught "28 Weeks Later" on DVD, a sequel to the 2002 pseudo-zombie cult classic "28 Days Later." In the movie (note: Spoilah Alerts abound), the virus that turns otherwise affable English folk into flesh-eating beasts has returned, and we watch as a young family attempts to survive a brutal hunt by both the monsters and the U.S. military. They don't. In fact, the movie's final scene depicts the nu-zombies climbing the subway steps adjacent to the Eiffel Tower. Would you like your freedom fries with BLOOOOOOOD???? Nice.
And then there was "Cloverfield," a movie about a mysterious creature attacking poor, beleaguered Manhattan. New York County is having a rougher decade than Fred Durst, huh? I was very excited to see this flick, and for the most part I enjoyed it. It's kind of how I hoped the 1998 "Godzilla" monstrosity would have turned out. And it definitely was scarier watching it in New York City; many of the neighborhoods of Manhattan are artfully re-created, and the manner by which they are destroyed seems horrifically realistic. (The sight of the doomed Brooklyn Bridge's American flag disappearing into the darkness of the night was especially chilling.) By the close of the film, the protagonists (a bunch of obnoxious 20-something yuppies) bite the dust hard core, taking 35 percent of Arcade Fire's fan base with it.
In each case, the movies left me disheartened. By the time the credits role for each film, there is little reason to hope. I'm not typically good with horror films for this very reason. I like happy endings. Like Brett Michaels, I need something to believe in. It's an attitude that would lead Rob Zombie apologists to label me "a pussy." I would then tell them to move out of their mom's basement.
And no, I don't need a ridiculous "Ra-ra Go America!" ending like "Independence Day" (though Bill Pullman's final speech remains highly rad), but I do believe leaving the viewer with a smidgen of hope can be done artfully without disrupting the bleak nature of the work.
Of course, the case can be made that "bleak" is what people relate to in the aftermath of Sept. 11. When the Twin Towers were ambushed, a generation of Americans learned that sometimes terrible things happen without either reason or a silver lining. Sometimes a bad situation allows no escape. It's understandable why a filmmaker wants to tap into that uneasy psyche. That's why you have a scene in "Cloverfield" where a neighborhood of terrified East Villagers are covered in the white ash of destroyed skyscrapers. And it may be why a key aspect of "28 Weeks Later" revolves around the U.S. military losing control of a situation they shouldn't have been involved with in the first place.
Then again, dead hipsters and a zombie-infested Paris may not be such unhappy endings after all. Everything in life is a matter of opinion, I suppose.