Zombie Cliche Lookout: Can’t Make it Easy
Making things more difficult for survivors is a pretty essential element in horror stories. The characters have to be vulnerable, which means they can’t just bumble into easy solutions for things. It also means that they’ll have to struggle for everything they get, and that most of them simply won’t be up for the challenge. Let’s take a look at a couple examples, shall we?
In Night of the Living Dead, the survivors start off with very little. Any weapons they have, like Ben’s tire iron, are improvised and require getting up close and personal with the zombies. Almost all of the characters are from out of town, so they don’t know the area or any potential resources. They have a vehicle they could potentially use to escape, but it’s out of gas. They also have one very sick survivor, and one who’s in the middle of a psychological breakdown. Toss in power struggles and difficult relationship, and the deck is stacked against our heroes.
In Alien, the people on board have no weapons. They’re able to adapt some tools into weapons, but those don’t work terribly well. They also have no idea of the nature of the monster they’re fighting (which makes for a few pretty nasty surprises). On top of this, one character has a hidden agenda that puts everyone else in dire risk.
With a few more resources or some better luck, the characters in either of these films would have fared much better. But then that wouldn’t be scary, now would it?
About this Episode:
When it comes to framing shots, I like to use as many close ups as I can, especially in dialog heavy moments like this. Given the relatively small space, the number of characters in the room, and the need to accommodate word balloons, this can be a difficult thing to pull off.
Discussion Question: Some Handicaps
Imagine that you have suddenly been inserted into a horror film, and not necessarily a zombie flick. You have no clue who the monster or monsters are, and only have the resources around you right now. What are some hazards and trip-falls you’re going to run into? Are there other people (i.e. survivors) with you? Can you work together, or will that be difficult with everyone’s different agenda?
I’m writing this from the comfort of my office, and I am alone in the house. That gives me a bit of resource and latitude, but it also saddles me with a major obstacle: my kids are at daycare, and my wife is at work, both several miles away. I couldn’t just sit here, leaving them at risk, so I’d need to venture out to try to get them, leaving me open to whatever is out there.