Zombie Love: Relinquishing Fear… one horror movie at a time

In my quest to be my best Self as a parent, and pursue my own happiness in the process, readers of this blog may be aware that I hate horror films… and have seen a number of them this year with my younger son… who loves them.

Will and I set out to see The Crazies on Sunday morning, but were stopped by the LA Marathon, which ran a Berlin Wall of sorts through the middle of LA, leaving us on the wrong side of the movie tracks.  I thought, maybe this one just wasn’t meant to be, but unfortunately it was also at one other theater in a reachable location and so by afternoon, I was breathing deeply and reminding myself that, “it’s just a movie.”

It’s funny what scares us.  When Will was just born he had the smile of the Buddha and I will never forget that smile.  And if a central tenet of Buddhism is to relinquish, or see through, fear and desire, it seems plausible that Will’s movie-going predilections may also dovetail with my own need to work through my fears.

The Crazies, it turns out, is both terrifying and intelligent… which makes it all the more terrifying.  We open with a country western gloss on the final song in Dr. Strangelove (“we’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when…”) a quote most young people would not recognize, but which cues us into the ironic and cynical nature of the filmmakers, or at least their take on this story.

Without belaboring the plot, Will said, as we were driving back home after the film, “It’s interesting to see this right after Hotel Rwanda, because both films are about genocide.”  He also asked me if I thought our government would really engage in genocide on innocent people if something like an accident (in this case the release of a biological weapon) happened.  I said I thought that it could and asked him what he thought.  He wisely replied, “I don’t know, and that’s why I’m not signing up for that job.”

As I kept trying to distance myself during watching the film, The Crazies kept pulling me back in, making me believe the characters (good performances have a way of doing this) and leaving me to jump, squirm and sweat, all the while slyly quoting everything from North by Northwest to A Nightmare on Elm Street.

I’m sure it’s just me, but by the last image, as the two surviving characters head toward the city through a desolate and cut wheat field, I found myself thinking it a visual nod to Anselm Keifer, who once said, about a project of his being inspired by his childhood in post-Nazi Germany, “I did not have any toys. So, I played in the bricks of ruined buildings around me and with which I built houses.”

Movies like The Crazies may be a way that consciousness can help us avoid enacting a disastrous fate, but if you just like to be scared—it’s a good ride.  And if you’d like to be less scared, join me in spirit as this Clockwork Orange-like reconditioning helps me find my courage without, hopefully, losing my compassion… or my mind.

The Crazies would be an excellent double-feature (double-renter) with District 9 with which it shares both themes and an uncanny ability to place us in the place of the oppressed.  According to Will, it’s also an interesting pairing with Hotel Rwanda.

Finally, in the surreal world in which I live, the movie left me thinking about how George Romero was the producer of The Crazies, and how his Night of the Living Dead was the original film that set up my zombie-phobia, and how, ironically, he was the producer of the one television episode I directed (for more on that see “Divine Tears”).  And to cap the surrealism off for me, as the credits rolled, I realized that one of the stars of the movie is a parent at Will’s old elementary school—and so I now picture them killing zombies at one moment, and dropping their kids off or working at the parent workday the next minute.

As Richard Wright once said, “It’s a small world.  But I wouldn’t want to paint it.”

So, let’s dedicate today to facing our fears, hopefully relinquishing them in favor of loving kindness and compassion, or at least dark humor—in the service of all our collective (and too often traumatized) children.

Namaste, Bruce

p.s. Sometimes I think Will is rather grown up, but in the middle of The Crazies he whispered that the tooth he’d been hoping would fall out so it need not be pulled obliged him and he handed me the tooth in the dark.  I put it in my pocket and we didn’t remember it until dinner, because we got so swept up in the film… but when I fished his tooth out of my pocket, it turned out to be a popcorn kernel.  The baby tooth is gone, along with most of my baby as the teenager emerges more fully with every passing R-rated movie, but does the tooth fairy pay up for a popcorn kernel?

p.s.s. today’s kid art, by Will, was inspired by The Book of Eli, another horror film I get karmic parenting credit for suffering through—one that traverses a post-appocolyptic desert southwest and ends on a Jungian common island (a retrofitted Alcatraz) of all the world’s religious texts… and a west coast counter point to Shutter Island solemnly resting in the Atlantic of our disintegration, a film also evoking the holocaust, madness and the fragmentation of Self.  The Crazies, in Iowa, is heartland crazy befitting the heart-mind that must wake up in order to heal our collective situation.

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6 Responses to “Zombie Love: Relinquishing Fear… one horror movie at a time”

  1. BigLittleWolf Says:

    Darkness. Some of us are more drawn to it, even as kids. Not necessarily the violence; the infinity. But the zombies never did it for my kids (or me).

    Kiefer. Adore him. From detritus there may come art.

  2. privilegeofparenting Says:

    Some are drawn to it, some are dragged into it—but there’s more authentic horror and humanity in Kiefer. Also loved the art up on your blog today.

  3. Christine LaRocque Says:

    I’m with you, horror flicks are not my thing and I’m not sure what I’ll do if my boys decide they like them. I watched District 9, it’s completely unlike me to do that, but I found that movie strangely compelling, I just couldn’t stop watching, even though it bothered me on so many levels. I’m not fond of any movie that leaves me with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Even today, several weeks after watching I can feel it again. Ick…I don’t think I’ll be able to watch The Crazies. Here’s hoping my children won’t ever feel compelled either.

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      District 9 was masterful in bringing us into emotional and psychological places we don’t want to go… yet I felt it was worth the horror given that so much real genocide has gone on amongst our human ranks. To me films are like collective dreams—the nightmares are rough, but probably say something about us all as well. Here’s to scary films, whether we watch them or not, in the hopes of a less scary and alienated world.

  4. joely Says:

    I feel the same way about horror movies: they do not entertain me at all. But you did say something that resonated with me. You said they may keep us from enacting the same fate. If there is one thing that always repeats itself: it is history. The ugly just gets uglier, or so it seems. That being said the light always becomes brighter. So does watching something as entertainment have any chance of influencing out actions or is it really just a form of perverse voyeurism? I have not seen the Crazies but i have seen Hotel Rawanda and it makes me feel blessed to live in a democracy but so distraught to know how easy it is to brainwash intelligent peoples.

    Thank you for finding me so I could find your blog. I enjoyed the read.

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      Yes, one of my favorite ideas from Jung is, “That which we cannot be conscious of materializes and meets us as our fate.” I do believe that becoming more aware of our own Shadow natures helps us at least be less a part of the collective problem. Thanks for visiting me too.

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