The Evolution of Antagonists

If you’ve met me, you probably know that I like B-movies.  I find them more likely to be entertaining than a normal movie, because you’re either entertained with them or entertained at them.  I have seen WAY more than I can count, enough to notice trends.

One of the most interesting parts is seeing the evolution of the precipitating cause, the root evil.  It’s changed over the decades of movies that I have watched (which is to say, movies made from the 50s until today), and in a way I think that that cause is a reflection on society at the time.

In the olden days, it was nuclear waste/radiation (think Godzilla).  And at the time, with the recent use of the atomic bomb, and with the looming threat of cataclysmic nuclear war, that made sense.  These monsters were an expression of our fears that we could relate to, and ultimately defeat.

But as times change, so did the cause.  When I first started seeing these kinds of movies released, it was all about government experiments gone wrong (or gone right, but their results accidentally unleashed), with a heavy helping of mad scientists messing with things that should not be messed with.  It was technology and government that scared of, and nuclear weapons were relegated to the old horror movies.

The most interesting transition with this theme, at least in my opinion, is the change in culpability.  When I first saw this, the government or mad scientist was trying to make a super weapon, they were trying to make a monster.  They succeeded, it got out, ate the couple naked in the woods and the girl taking a shower, and then was defeated by the love interests (of course – love is almost necessary to defeat B-movie monsters, which is a whole different theme I could explore).

But as things progressed, there were more accidental creations, or side effect creations.  They were trying to cure cancer, or Alzheimers, and as a side effect, created zombies or super smart sharks or whatever monster they decided to go with.  It’s still on the dangers of science, but with a different moral; before, it was “don’t abuse”, but it became “careful how you use”.

Of course we’re not done.  In recent years, I’ve seen more and more movie horrors unleashed because of Global Warming.  Not just disaster movies, though there are plenty of those, but movies like Wyvern.  You have creatures that can only plague man because we are heating up the world (in the movies – this is not a comment on AGW in meatspace).

And this all circles around to zombies.  I rewatched 28 Days Later recently, and in reading the trivia, there was a line from the creators that I think could help explain why zombies have changed from the slow, shambling hordes of before to the faster, individually dangerous zombies of today.

They said, basically, “Every generation gets the zombies that it deserves.”  So with the changing times the cause changes, and how the creatures act changes, but it’s still about our fear of death and breakdown of society, just in different ways.

But what I really want is the first zombie movie attributable to Global Warming.  Heat Zombies, maybe, or Anthropological Global Cannibals.  Something good like that.

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7 Responses to The Evolution of Antagonists

  1. Lara Eckener says:

    I would watch the heck out of a movie about Heat Zombies. Right now I’m just trying to decide if they should be ‘people’ zombies or something else entirely.

    • cosmato says:

      The more I think about it, the more I think it could actually work. Intense heat and climate change could lead to the breakdown of society, and then you get some desert crazy and sun stroke, maybe combined with a dash of Hill People, and bam, you have Global Warming Zombies.

  2. Chris Hicks says:

    I remember a made-for-tv movie about a group that was hiking in the Rockies (or someplace like that) and the animals started attacking them because of the breakdown in the ozone layer. This was back when that was the big environmental worry. Somehow the intensity of some radiation was greater at higher altitudes and the animals went crazy. Leslie Neilsen was in it, if I remember correctly.

    That could be an angle for Heat Zombies. Although, once they die they would decompose more rapidly in the heat.

  3. Chris Hicks says:

    The movie was called Day of the Animals.

  4. Justin says:

    Way late commenting on this thing, but Kuru is more of a reverse zombie cause… You get it by eating the infected, instead of vice versa.

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