Friday, July 2, 2021

Black Summer

Naturally, at the peak of an infectious disease, everybody wants to watch zombies. I tried a couple of episodes of Black Summer on Netflix, but the pace was all wrong

And it's not the speed at which the zombies move--in this show, they can run pretty quickly--it's the pace of transition.  One minute, she's a loving mother of three, next minute, dead-eyed creature with foaming mouth. 

Another problem with this genre, the hero can never be infected.  It's not like the old Westerns where the sheriff could sustain a 'flesh wound' and make it through to the final reel.  There is no such thing as a 'little bit zombie.'  

What we need is a movie where the hero/heroine gets infected on page 7 and finally succumbs on page 90.  A disease is only scary if you can actually catch it.  If we had a zombie vaccine, there would be no zombie movies.  Unless the action was set in Mississippi or Alabama where Zom-Vac rates would remain obstinately low.

Here's my movie:

Late evening. A walled compound.  It's not a terribly high wall, maybe ten or twelve feet.  A line of electrified wire on top.

Outdoor tables laden with food.  A celebration. A birthday?  Balloons.  Champagne. People laughing, enjoying themselves.

CLOSE-IN.  A small dog is digging at the base of the fence. It's probably a little white fluffy dog,  shooting out soil between its paws. 

TOM and MARIANNE sit at the head of the table.  It her 30th birthday. Loving glances pass between this happy couple.  Anecdotes.  Raised glasses. Cheers.

And meanwhile the dog digs deeper, until it is almost halfway out underneath this fence. 

Eventually, Marianne says "Where is Jessie? And everybody looks around until we zoom in very slowly on Jessie, who is now two thirds of the way underneath the fence.

Alarmed, Tom rushes to retrieve the dog. He grabs the dog, but the animal appears to be stuck. Whimpering. Is it being pulled from the other side? 

A tug-of-war between a frantic Tom and whatever it is on the other side of the fence. And the next thing we see are TWO FILTHY, BLOODY HUMAN FINGERS with long jagged fingernails coming under the fence. One of these sharp fingernails scratches Tom's hand. Just a tiny little scratch. And he immediately leaps backwards, with the dog. 

Nobody else has seen the fingers. The scratch.  The dog is the centre of attention.  Everybody is concerned about the dog.  JACOB, a tall, stern creature who was glancing at Marianne during the meal, snatches the animal and carries out a full examination.  The dog is declared unharmed--and nobody notices the speck of blood on the back of Tom's hand. 

Somebody fills in the hole under the fence and tamps it down. Order is restored.  The group returns to the table, but nobody has an appetite.  Under the table, we see Tom's hand, and the speck of blood.  It could be that he doesn't even notice it himself.

But NO!

Tom excuses himself from the table, goes to the bathroom and opens a cabinet where he finds a straight razor which he sharpens and strops.  He looks into his own eyes in the mirror, touches his neck, and the next thing we see is BLOOD filling up the sink.

No.  Tom hasn't cut his own throat, but he has slashed open his hand and is now bleeding himself into the sink. He KNOWS.  We KNOW.

The rest of the movie is about concealment and dread. What do you do when you know that you have 83 minutes left to live?  You can't tell Marianne.  You can't tell anyone. You have to tidy things up, make amends, put things right. 

And how does it end?  What's the image?

Jessie the dog wakes in the middle of the night. He sees Tom coming towards him, pants, no shirt. Body covered in blotches. Eyes glazed. The dog whimpers and backs under a chair.  Tom gets down on one knee and strokes the dog, then rises, leaves the house and climbs the wall.  He stands atop and looks down. Marianne turns in her sleep, not realising the bed beside her is empty. 

We don't see the horror on the other side of the wall, but we hear the chattering and the clucking of tongues.  A mob preparing to welcome one of its own. Tom launches himself over the wall. FREEZE: The image of a man in flight. Into the unknown where a new, terrible life awaits.

Remind me again. Why am I wasting my life thinking about zombies?

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