Home > Dangerous Universe > So it's the end of the world.

So it's the end of the world.

Does that mean you've given up the right to be entertained?

By Bert Ehrmann

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Fort Wayne Reader

2004-08-16


Its a bit odd coming back to this column after the short break that The Fort Wayne Reader has taken off the last month. Who knew that trying out a low carb diet during the break would lead to a race that would start at the rim of the Grand Canyon and end on the surface of the Moon?

And if you're wondering, this column is NOT about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. When have I ever touched on important or timely subjects?

I was going through my VHS collection last week (VHS tapes are the vinyl records of the 21st century) and took note of the high number of apocalyptic type movies I seem to have collected over the years. In some of these movies, the world ends with a bang as nuclear missiles drop out of the sky launched from mother Russia while others depict a landscape ravaged by the undead, slowly eating their way to planetary dominance.

It's not that I started out to obtain this sick and twisted collection, but that's what seems to have happened. One by one over the years, these movies just seemed to appear out of nowhere showing up in Amazon.com or eBay packages on my front porch.

Looking through my collection, it's easy to pick out the decent apocalyptic movies from the mediocre. (Let's face it; most of these types of movies are horrible at best.)

The Day After (1983)
If Helen of Troy was the face that launched one thousand ships, then The Day After was the movie that gave millions of children, me included, nightmares. I remember seeing The Day After as an eight year old, shivering in our recliner at the images, and then crying myself to sleep that night just waiting for the bombs to start dropping. Aahhh, the wonderful memories of childhood!

Basically, The Day After takes place the day after (get it?) a nuclear war between the United States and Russia. The entire story is told from a few different perspectives in a little town in Kansas. We see the effects of radiation, blasted buildings, and the loss that comes from characters loosing their entire families to the war. (Just the sort of things that eight year olds should be watching.)

The odd thing is that I saw The Day After again many years later on cable television and the movie still freaked me out. (Though I didn't cry myself to sleep over it. I waited until the next night)

Threads (1984)
Threads is the British answer to The Day After except Threads is told in (almost) documentary style. The plot follows tensions rising between Russia and America, the eventual war, and then the after effects of the war. Threads doesn't stop a few weeks after war like The Day After, though. It goes on. We visit the characters at different points in their lives and see what this war has done to them.

To say that Threads is one of the most depressing movies I've ever seen is an understatement. (Everyone knows that the Brits have such a sunny disposition anyway.) People die in very bad ways, which I won't go into, and the survivors spend the rest of their lives living day-to-day, eking out a pitiful existence one scrap of food at a time.

Day of the Dead (1985)
If there ever were a movie that scarred me for life, this was it. I originally saw Day of the Dead as an eleven or twelve year old when the cable channel USA aired it, heavily edited, as their movie of the week. Even this version of the movie lacking, much of the gore and violence of its original release, scared me.

It frightened me so much so that I found myself sleeping on the floor of my parent's bedroom for a week. (I'm sure after finding me asleep on their floor they were thankful for letting me watch that movie.)

In Day of the Dead, the entire planet has been overwhelmed by zombies who have trapping the last of humanity into small-fortified enclaves. And there's something that being trapped in a confined space by creatures that want to consume you alive really gets to me even to this day.

The Stand (1994)
Another made for television event, The Stand was Stephen King's take on the end of the world. Here, humanity is put on the brink of the extinction chopping block when a human created strain of the flu gets loose and spreads across the world like wildfire. If you're interested in seeing The Stand for these apocalyptic sequences (and really, who isn't), then all you need to see is the first half of this series. The second deals with a war between the plague's survivor's lead by God and Satan.

By Dawn's Early Light (1990)
If there ever were an ultimate end of the world disaster movie By Dawn's Early Light is it. I remember seeing the previews for By Dawn's Early Light on HBO and just knowing that it was going to be a winner.

In By Dawn's Early Light a game of nuclear brinksmanship is sparked when terrorists launch a missile into the Soviet Union, causing an automatic launch of nuclear weapons to the U.S. What follows is retaliation upon retaliation, as mistakes and misunderstandings between these two superpowers ratchet up the conflict and fire up the tension. In an odd twist of fate, when the President's helicopter is forced down and he is presumed dead, THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR fills his position! (That's the powers of succession for ya!)

Powers Booth stars as a B-52 bomber pilot, the same scene chewing Powers Booth that now stars on HBOs Deadwood as shady saloon owner Cy Tolliver.

Though I haven't met an end of the world movie I didn't like, there are many more that I left off the list than I included. I still can't quite figure out why I like that sort of movie so much. Is it because of the beauty of a mushroom cloud rising over the remains of a city or the subtle ways a zombie shambles across a gravel road? I guess only God and the inner workings of my brain knows for sure.

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