When i was a kid, someone must have told me about gravity, because i remember reaslising that it was only the earth’s magnetism that kept our feet on the ground, and this is how people in Australia didn’t fall off the earth, even if they walked with their heads downwards. (i seriously didn’t quite grasp the concept that no one dangles off the ‘ceiling’.) Anyway i used to have terrible nightmares about earth suddenly running out of the magic gravity, and i would just float outthe window and free off into space. And it just got worse when i realised that space was infinite. I was terrified by the prospect that no one would find me. It is sorta cute, i didn’t realise i wouldn’t be able to breathe there or nothing, but that is not really important either, and sure as shit didn’t take anything off the nightmares.
When i years later saw Alien for the first time, i remember the most scary part for me was when Ripley was left alone with the cat, and had to float off into space alone, hoping someone would find her. Nevermind the monsters or things bursting out of peoples chests or whatever! No, the worst for me was the whole ‘what if she is never found?’.
I suppose i always had a special thing for deep space horror stories, because really all you need is a space ship and a person, and then i for one will think it’s unsettling. Even a Bergman plot would work in deep space settings!
I am thinking that it might be the whole isolation thing that is scary, because when you are lost in space, you are fucking lost. But then again if that was the fact then movies that take place far under the surface of the ocean would work too, i mean stuff like the Abyss. And while that is a decent movie, it doesn’t really leave you with an unsettled feeling like Alien do. So what is it about deep space? Maybe it’s the knowing that it you can’t just go home, and everything is alright. And true to the Alien saga, it does play straight into that, don’t it? That Ripley is not picked up my any sensors, and she drifts for over 50 years and returns to earth after her own daughter is dead from old age. And again when she is salvaged by that prison colony.
And that is what is eerie about apocalypse movies too, it’s not the whole why and how. it’s the isolation, and the knowing that life will never be the same. Like some force took a choice with your life, and you have no choice but to go with it, or die. Suppose that would scare just about anyone wouldn’t it?
That brings me to another absolutely brilliant deep space movie, Pandorum, has all the right things going for it. (apart from the crazy tribe men) And i realise that i spoil it all when i give away the ending here, but it was just so fucking amazing. The whole movie through you think that they are in deep space, but it is revealed that the space ship crashed in the sea, and the darkness outside the windows in infact the bottom of the sea of this forrign planet. So even if they get out, they have to make it to the surface, and then see if they can survive on this planet, and there is no way what so ever of going home.
Planet of the apes have the same moment in the end where this fella (whos name i forgot) discovers the statue of liberty in the sand, realising that he was home all along.
Sitting here, writing this, i remember that one of my other reoccouring nightmares was that everyone but me had turned into werewolves. If i were Freud then i would probably have said something about the fear of feeling distant and different, but i’m not. And so i just think it was about the world changing around me, and i didn’t have any means to change it back.
I honestly think that the survivor stories are much more scary than anything else, if we are talking apocalypse stories. That is what makes a movie like The Divided so ugly, twisted and deeply unsettling.
Maybe THAT is what the fear is about? That when you take away everything “normal” You also take away everything we normally hide behind, such as belongings, jobs, cars and so forth. And like that fella from American Psycho, then underneath all the hair products, designer clothes, SUVs and lactosefree diets, we are nothing but animals, struggling for the same thing.