Friday Favourites: Disasters
By The Hodderscape Team
Posted on January 24, 2014 in Friday Favourites with tags Science Fiction
Everyone loves a fictional disaster and here are the Hodderscape team’s favourites:
The Day of the Triffids (1951) by John Wyndham
Oh yes! Why bother with books that have merely ONE global disaster when you can plump for the TWO in Wyndham’s science fiction/horror masterpiece? Brian Aldiss called this a ‘COSY catastrophe’ but reading it at the impressionable age of twelve, I never found it so.
First up we have the eponymous plants of the title: these are like mean badass artichokes that walk on their roots, have nasty, acidy tendrils and love ingesting the corpses of their victims. Of course, as it’s a Cold War parable, we are led to understand they are the result of a Soviet bioengineering experiment gone wrong. The end scenes where our heroes Bill Masen and Josella Playton are holed up in a Sussex farm surrounded by a encroaching hedge of these things still remains vivid. I never again looked upon my mother’s shrubs with equanimity.
Nothing here that a good dose of Pathclear couldn’t fix you might say, but those pesky Soviets are behind yet another accident, this time out in space that produces a meteor shower that blinds anyone who happens to be looking at it. Only our hero Bill, happily already half-blinded by a squirt of Triffid juice, and a few others escape the scourge. So now we have the uber uncosy scenario of folk wandering around blind in a world where a malignant herbaceous border is always waiting, impatiently tapping its tendrils for the moment you come blundering into it….
28 Days Later (2002)
It’s probably cheating to choose 28 Days Later as my plague/outbreak/disaster film for this week’s Friday Favourites, but the mode of zombification is nominally a virus. I mean, yes, it’s called ‘Rage’ and Is Symbolically Meaningful, but it still counts, right? Right! So. 28 Days Later exploded into my life, spitting infected blood at me at a time (2002) when I thought no zombie film could ever get my attention again. The zombies are fast and angry, which is part of the fun – and Cillian Murphy’s a very good looking guy, which is also fun – but the film grabbed my attention with that rightly famous sequence where Murphy’s Jim wanders an abandoned London, the sun rising over a city that’s horrifyingly still. The scene is profoundly effective, featuring only an increasingly baffled Jim as the score picks up in eerie intensity and the camera pans further and further out. Until the moment Jim touches an abandoned car and sets off the alarm, scaring himself and the audience in equal measure. That sequence alone told me that 28 Days Later was a film worth taking seriously, and it was. Indeed, I took it so seriously that I’ve never seen the sequel, not wanting to let something change my perception of the original.
Also, I can’t believe it’s twelve years old.
Now, just to be clear, I am not claiming that Titanic is the best disaster movie of all time; whilst the sinking ship part is pretty epic, I found the first 45 minutes or so slow going. But it just so happens that my friends and I were having a discussion earlier this week about one oft-debated issue in the film – that is, that Jack could totally have survived if Rose had just moved up and made room on the floating door, right?? – so it seemed fitting to mention it here.
Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus (2009)
I could say more, but, as with all great cinema, words cannot accurately convey the terrible majesty of Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus.
Independence Day (1996)
Hands down my favourite disaster film is Independence Day. Even though the film holds so many of the clichés that really irritate me about Hollywood movies, e.g. Americans consistently saving the world and the president being a youthful, good-looking man, and not to mention the best person in the whole world, it is still absolutely great.
Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum. They MAKE the film. The story is good but the aliens are honestly not very frightening or in any way understandably designed. Quick rant here guys, why are aliens always made to be ridiculous looking, it stands to reason if aliens did exist their bodies would function perfectly to their environment – so WHY the sharp claws when they evidently are too sophisticated to go traditional hunting… Okay, maybe I’m looking a bit too deeply into it but I like consistency and sense!
Back to the film… What makes this film great are their two performances. The rest of the cast, with perhaps the exception of the irritatingly perfect president (and little Nicky from Fresh Prince), are pretty much replaceable. Though the story has its merits, it is pretty much standard alien/disaster movie. It’s not that often that only two members of a cast can hold up an entire film so well, so let’s give a shout out to Will and Jeff for a job well done: smoke a cigar guys, the fat lady has sung…