Monday, June 30, 2003

Zombie-induced Insomnia

At 7:48, I left the theater with my tail between my legs. Somehow, 28 Days Later was more horror than I'd bargained for.

I wasn't sure what it was that made my heart pump and my hands shake so much. I haven't had that sort of movie experience since... well, ever. It's just a movie, right?

I got home and spilled my panicked guts out to Margaret, who was suddenly happy she didn't join us.

My first reaction (to the whole half-hour of film I was actually present for, regardless of my attention paid to the screen itself) was that the plot combined a few things that scare me on different levels--zombies on a gut level; the apocalypse on a more cerebral one--sans the campiness or sense of removal that allow me to enjoy other horror films. The hugeness of its scope filled me with dread--the whole world is plagued with this zombie infection, or at least all of frickin' London. The fifteen minutes with slowly building tense music where the main character wanders around looking for someone, anyone, make this eerie emptiness seem gigantic, and knowing it's a goddamn zombie movie makes it all the worse. Moreover, it was filmed with total realism--like a documentary or news piece--without flashy whiz-bang eye candy or horror movie cliche camerawork.

Later, Chris came home and wanted to talk about it. He spoiled the rest of it for me--not that I'm likely to try to see it again anytime soon--and I got somewhat panicked all over again. He said it freaked him out, too, for the reasons I suspected before. But I was still troubled that I found it so unsettling.

I used to watch horror movies with glee. The only one that ever honestly scared me for its content was The Shining, which still played by my rules of being removed from my reality somehow. It was limited in scope. Though Chris said this movie later narrowed its focus (and away from the zombies, which is nice), the hugeness was still there. In The Shining, all they had to do was escape and everything would be okay (well, save the severe emotional scarring of having your husband/father go psychotic and try to murder you).

In this, right from the start, I could see the potentially endless and senseless killing with no real escape. It just didn't look like things could get any better, and I just didn't want to watch.

So I left.

I don't mean to go all CAPpy on y'all and analyze movies that I walked out on, but seriously. I got less than an hour of sleep last night, and I place the blame squarely on this movie.

Every time I was about to fall asleep, I remembered zombies. Or something else terrible. And I couldn't push past it. I couldn't force myself into restless sleep. And I tried to figure out why.

The best I could come up with was that difference in levels of scaring. When I tried to get around my fear of the zombies by tricking my limbic system with higher-level reasoning, bam! I came back to the scary apocalypse stuff. And vice versa.

So, Danny Boyle, you made a really great, scary-as-hell movie. Congratulations. I hate you.

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