With the “Apocalypse” issue of Neon slowly rumbling over the horizon, we’ve been exploring the end of the world in a variety of literary forms. Last time we brought you our top five apocalyptic books. This time it’s films.
If any of these cataclysmic endings sparks something in your imagination, please do send along the end result – whether it revolves around a plague of zombies, an asteroid or a devastating nuclear attack, we’d love to consider it for the magazine.
In Alfonso Cuarón’s gritty dystopian thriller, women everywhere have become suddenly infertile, and the world is shambling slowly towards its own self-destruction as a result. The ageing population is encouraged to commit suicide, migrants are turfed out of a newly-fortified Britain, nukes detonate in cities across the globe, and the roads beyond London are no longer safe to travel (not that the capital is exactly lovely either). The film is notable for its brutal realism, journalistic long takes and really, really good action sequences. It also presents a terrifying and grimly-credible portrait of a Britain which has given up the pretence of civility in favour of isolationism and violence.
A zombie story which re-invograted the genre by turning zombies from shambling comedy-fodder into a reasonably credible threat. The straightforward story is brought to life with strong characters and some brilliant visuals of an empty London, courtesy of director Danny Boyle. Our protagonist, Jim, wakes from a coma to find that the world as he knew it has all but ended. As one of very few survivors he must seek out companionship, shelter and safety in a world now infested with the wandering dead. The sequel, 28 Weeks Later, doesn’t capture quite the same feel as the original, but is nonetheless a passable continuation of the story.
A 1984 British television drama produced in collaboration with the BBC that, despite its age, still retains its ability to shock and appall. Writer Barry Hines opts for realism over any notion of heroic survival in his story of a nuclear attack on the United Kingdom. After spending the first hour or so getting to know various characters in and around Sheffield, we are then party to their sudden or gradual demise when a flurry of bombs detonate nearby. Gruesome, visceral and sickening, Threads is among the most compelling end-of-the-world dramas that exists – all the more so because it depicts an apocalypse that could very easily actually happen.
Director Bong Joon-Ho brings to life a rather weird apocalypse based on a graphic novel by two French artists. The world has frozen into a giant snowball, and the only living humans that remain are those fortunate enough to have scored a place on board a implausibly-long train which constantly circumnavigates the globe. After years of opression by the gits in first class, however, the third class passengers have had enough of being trodden on, and begin a revolt. Despite being utterly bizarre, this is a masterfully-done film with much to commend it, not least its striking visual design. For a more in depth look at Snowpiercer, check out our full-length review.
These Final Hours is set in Perth, not long after a massive asteroid has collided with the earth. With an all-encompassing firestorm fast approaching, our protagonist James has just one day to live the rest of his life – and he intends to spend it at the (literal) party to end all parties. His journey, however, don’t go quite to plan. It’s a simple story, but plays out exceptionally well in the hands of writer and director Zak Hilditch. With constant radio updates on the approach of the apocalypse, there’s a very real sense of threat and urgency. Spoiler: there’s not exactly a happy ending.