Top Ten Post-Apocalyptic Horror Films

The many post-apocalyptic horror films are intriguing and terrifying by giving viewers a dreadful glimpse of our potential future. In other words, they’re a fine blend of sci-fi and horror, as well as fantasy and even comedy. Here now are the ten best films in this sub-genre.

10. This is the End (2013)

Seth Rogan, Jay Baruchel, James Franco and Danny McBride play fictional versions of themselves as the world experiences the Rapture then the literal end of the world as demons ravage the planet. The film is actually quite funny and raunchy as the hapless actors do their best to survive the Apocalypse while trying to be worthy enough for salvation.

9. Zombieland (2009)

The how-to guide to surviving the zombie apocalypse is a quirky laugh fest that pokes fun at many zombie and survival tropes. The film is elevated by inspired performances by Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson, plus a hysterical appearance by Bill Murray as himself. Warning: despite what Zombieland claims, twinkies do not have that long of a shelf life, which should have disappointed Harrelson’s Tallahassee.

8. Stake Land (2010)

Taking place years after vampires have devastated civilization, this quiet and poignant road movie is very moving as it focuses on the journey of a sensitive young man (Connor Paolo) and his mentor, the tough-as-nails vampire killer known only as Mister (Nick Damici). Their ongoing struggle against the vampire hordes and the people they meet in their journey highlight this film.

7. Carriers (2009)

A pre-Star Trek Chris Pine leads the cast in this horror survival film about four young people living desperate lives after a virus wipes out most of humanity. Carriers is a brutal and unflinching character study that exposes the worst instincts of humanity and is frightening portent of what might happen to us in a hopeless situation where a disease causes our society to completely collapse.

6.  I Am Legend (2007)

The third adaptation of Richard Matheson’s classic novel is a flawed yet exciting examination of a lone human (Will Smith) and his dog after a virus turns most of humanity into savage mutant creatures. Smith’s performance and the production design are some of the best aspects of this version of I Am Legend; the landscape of New York City after nature reclaimed it are just stunning to watch. Although many have decried the film’s ending because it deviated so wildly from Matheson’s message, there is an alternate ending that is more faithful to the spirt of the novel. 

5. The Mist (2007)

This bleak and harsh adaptation of Stephen King’s novella puts viewers through an emotional wringer. Thomas Jane stars as an artist who is trapped with his young son and several shoppers in a supermarket after a mysterious mist engulfs their town and brings deadly and bloodthirsty creatures. Even deadlier than the monstrosities in The Mist are the trapped people themselves as they allow fear to overwhelm their sense of decency and common sense. The ending of The Mist differs greatly from King’s story but in this case actually outdid what Stephen King wrote and is a genuine and agonizing gut punch.

4. A Quiet Place (2018)

John Krasinski and his wife Emily Blunt star in this post-apocalyptic horror film where civilization has been destroyed by nearly invulnerable alien predators that hunt by sound. Forced to live a life of near silence with their children, the couple do their best to survive their new normal and stay ahead of the alien creatures.  A Quiet Place is a film that oozes with tension and fear as we see this fragile and resilient family doing their best not to make sounds even in their own homes. Additionally, the film is beautifully directed by Krasinski who wisely keeps the focus of the story on the characters themselves, which pays off since viewers are engaged with the characters’ plight.

 

3. 28 Days Later (2003)

Director Danny Boyle reinvigorated the zombie genre with an ingenious twist. The zombies, actually infected and mindless humans, run! After a pre-credits sequence shows how an engineered virus is released from a lab, 28 Days Later jumps ahead and takes viewers through the journey of Jim (Cillian Murphy) a messenger who wakes up from a coma and finds himself in a mysteriously abandoned London. Before long he discovers that the city has been overrun by the savage infected who spread the deadly virus through a bite or a single drop of blood. During his voyage to find sanctuary with a group of survivors, Jim struggles to adapt to his new normal while holding onto his sense of humanity. The sequel 28 Weeks Later is not as good as the original film but further examines this frightening world. 

2. Threads (1984)

The most terrifying look at nuclear war since the American television film, The Day After. Threads takes thing much further than The Day After with a gritty, documentary tone. Taking place in London during the 1980s, the film bombards us with horrifying imagery and events which illustrate how fragile society is following a devastating nuclear war that levels the city and all of civilization. Threads leaves a disturbing impression on viewers with its depiction of a brutal and barbaric life after a nuclear holocaust. Before long, viewers will realize the luckiest persons in the film were those that perished in the opening salvo of World War III as the survivors are faced with a crumbling societal infrastructure where chaos overtakes law and order and humanity. 

1. Dawn of the Dead (1979)

Possibly the greatest zombie film ever made. George Romero’s sequel to his classic Night of the Living Dead takes place some time after the original. The zombies are gradually disrupting society as they feast on humans. Before long civilization collapses and the film follows the plight of a group of survivors who take refuge in an abandoned mall and keep the undead outside at bay. Dawn of the Dead is partly a thrilling survival film and partly a humorous commentary on society through the scenes of zombies clumsily acting out their past living lives in the mall). The film was a revolutionary and controversial post-apocalpytic horror film thanks to its uncensored and unflinching violence. Nevertheless, the film is a horror classic and the best post-apocalyptic horror film of all time. 

Notable Mentions: 28 Weeks Later, Bird Box, The Day, Day of the Triffids, Daybreakers, Hardware, It Comes At Night, Legion, The Night Eats the World, The World’s End, Zombieland: Double Tap

 

A Brief Look At Stephen King’s Cell

Stephen King’s Cell was written in the post-9/11 world and published in 2006. At the same time was a tribute to the horror sub-genre of lone survivors coping in a world overrun by maniacs, monsters and other terrors. Oddly enough the novel has some new relevance in today’s world in showing how society has abruptly been turned upside down by a “virus”. In the book’s case this virus is not biological but technological with devastating results.

On the surface, one might want to compare this to a flesh-eating zombie movie and the book’s dedication to George Romero (and Richard Matheson who wrote the classic post-apocalyptic thriller I Am Legend) adds to that comparison. But that isn’t necessarily the case, it follows the spirit of those zombie films but there aren’t any zombies in Cell. Rather it’s more comparable to Romero’s film The Crazies or 28 Days Later where civilized society is turned upside down when formerly normal people become raving murderous lunatics. Meanwhile, complete strangers band together to deal with a suddenly dangerous world. Note, although the film adaptation was not as terrible as most critics claimed, the less said about Cell (2016), the better.

The novel begins in Boston with Clay Riddell, a struggling freelance comic book artist who just caught his big break by landing for a graphic novel. He is on his way home to Maine, eager to break the news to his estranged wife and son Johnny when the Pulse hits. A signal goes out instantly over all cell phones everywhere that scrambles the brain of anyone who happens to be using a cell phone. Within seconds, anyone affected by the Pulse is turned into an insane murderer without any reason or intelligence. Clay witnesses to his horror seemingly normal people viciously attacking each other and those who weren’t affected by the Pulse. The sequences described are quite horrific and brings to mind the chaos and sense of being overwhelmed that the nation experienced during 9/11. People are running everywhere as explosions rock the city and no one can understand what is exactly going on.

As Clay evades the “phoners” (the people who turned into maniacs during the Pulse) he meets Tom McCourt and Alice Maxwell. They decide to get out of Boston,  and avoid any cities since the chaos is intensified in the urban landscapes. Eventually they reach Tom’s residence just outside of the city and discover after the chaos dies down that the phoners have developed a sort of hive mind. The phoners are seen migrating toward an unknown destination.  Clay’s own goal is to reach his hometown and find his wife and child. The other two decide to join him so they gather supplies and guns hike up north.

Along their journey, the group meets other survivors and battles more phoners  as the novel’s pessimistic mood gets even deeper. The reader is made to feel discouraged and broken by the characters’ hopeless plight as the phoners consolidate their grip on the world. They reach Clay’s hometown and discover his wife became a phoner during the Pulse but his son did not and fled further up north to Kashwak. Apparently the phoners are psychically herding all normal people up to this place by suggesting that it is a safe haven. During this trek, Clay and the others have had shared dreams that they were rounded up in a carnival-like arena surrounded by hordes of phoners. Despite knowing that Kashwak is a trap, Clay decides to go anyway in the slim hope of finding his son.

The ending itself is rather ambiguous and open-ended. Basically the reader has to decide what was the ultimate fate of the characters, although by the novel’s end the pessimistic tone seems to subside a bit to offer a glimmer of realistic hope.

Many have compared this book to Stephen King’s earlier book, The Stand, but there are diverse differences. While The Stand had an epic apocalyptic feel to it, Cell does not. Also the religious overtones and themes from The Stand are absent in Cell. Unlike his previous novel, this one focuses on a small group of survivors who are just trying to get by, whereas The Stand had a huge dramatis personae. One thing Cell has that the older book lacked are the 9/11 references, which adds a level of immediacy. And this is evident in the origin of the Pulse. Believed to be caused by terrorists, the incident represents the feeling of the world unexpectedly turned upside down.

The Pulse also shattered many illusions about our feeling of security in our civilization and the horror comes from learning how fragile our society is from how easy it falls apart. This fragility takes on an urgent relevance given our current situation. Of course, we are not on the verge of collapsing because of the coronavirus, but it has had a decided impact on how we live day to day. Despite its grim tone, the novel illustrated how human connections and relationships are key to our survival and why we will persevere in this crisis.

Top 10 Stephen King Live-Action Adaptations That Should Be Remade

There have been countless live-action adaptations of Stephen King’s books and stories. Some are classics while others are best left forgotten.

Then there are the lesser or flawed adaptations that need to be remade. With some changes, these remakes could faithfully capture the true horror and thrills of Stephen King’s bibliography. The best example right now is It, which is the second live-action adaptation of the book and considered superior to the first adaptation. Now what other live-action adaptations of Stephen King’s works should be remade? Here are the candidates:

10. The Lawnmower Man Stephen King fans know all too well that the film adaptation did not have anything to do with King’s short story about a mysterious landscaper and his supernatural lawnmower, which would make an interesting film.

9. Dreamcatcher  – The Stephen King novel about old friends haunted by an alien entity was made into one of the most reviled Stephen King films. Still, the story and characters are interesting enough for another crack at a live-action adaptation.

8. The Langoliers The novella of the same name did not have enough material to warrant a mini-series as seen in the 1990s mini-series. This off-the-wall yarn about plane passengers dislodged from time would be better translated as a tightly edited film with a good F/X budget.

7. The Running Man The original film is best remembered for being a standard ‘80s Schwarzenegger action flick. A remake should better reflect the novel by casting an everyman type and ditching the original film’s revolution subplot as the hero tries to survive a deadly reality TV show in the future.

6. Cat’s Eye This anthology film from the 1980s doesn’t need a remake but deserves a sequel. The original adapted Stephen King’s short stories and worked them into a story surrounding a stray cat. A followup could simply adapt some more stories within the same framing device.

5. Cell Anyone caught the awful DOA adaptation that came out recently? Don’t bother. A properly executed film should be able to capture the disturbing essence of the post-apocalyptic horror tale about humanity turned into mindless killers due to a cell phone signal.

4. The Tommyknockers The mini-series was actually an underrated gem that could’ve used some sprucing up and a tighter pace. The story’s premise of aliens invading a small town is ripe for a terrific sci-fi/horror film featuring all of the novel’s thrilling and eerie elements.

 

3. Under the Dome The horrid TV series that ran for several summers was an injustice to the Stephen King book about a town cut off from the world. The story simply did not work as an ongoing series and deserves another shot as either a film or a mini-series.

Roland and Jake

2. The Dark Tower The film based on the epic Stephen King series of novels just came out and it already needs to be remade. The Dark Tower film left out so much from the epic novels that made them great. Thanks to its poor box office, plans for sequels are doubtful at this point. The best option going forward would be to forget about films and faithfully adapt the novels into several mini-series or an ongoing TV series on premium cable.

1. The Stand The mini-series based on the seminal Stephen King epic while competent, felt lacking. The Stand was hampered by TV network censors that worried that the post-apocalyptic story of plague survivors would be too much for audiences. Also, to be honest, The Stand meandered too much, which is a complaint about the unabridged version of the novel. A planned film trilogy was abandoned but talks continue for another adaptation. Whether as a new mini-series, films, or an ongoing TV show, The Stand must be remade and thanks to the success of It, this may happen.

Waldermann Rivera

The Dark Tower Film Adaptation Aims With Its Hand

After decades, we’ve finally gotten a live-action adaptation of Stephen King’s epic novels of The Dark Tower. Unfortunately, as many of us feared The Dark Tower is a pale and hollow adaptation. Actually it is not even a faithful adaptation (never mind the casting of Idris Elba as Roland the last Gunslinger, he was superb as the Gunslinger) but a mish mosh of the seven novels in the series. As you can expect, it is impossible to do the sprawling storyline any justice with a paltry 90 minute screen time.

For those who don’t know the background, The Dark Tower novels are about a lone, Jedi-like Gunslinger from another dimension who is pursuing his arch foe, the Man in Black. This bad guy  wants to destroy the mythical construct called the Dark Tower, a nexus point of sorts that connects and separates all the universes. Destroying the Tower will unleash chaos across dimensions and obliterate reality. Part Western, part fantasy, part sci-fi and part horror, the novels were some of King’s best works and actually revealed that all of the Stephen King works are interconnected. The wild and wonky storyline was complemented by memorable characters. Not just Roland but the small band of Earthlings from different time periods who join his quest. Too bad only one of them makes it into this film, young Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor).

Roland and Jake

Of course, it is unrealistic to expect this one movie to cover the entirety of the novels, but as an introduction to this rich mythos, The Dark Tower cannot adequately do it. There is a popular line in the books “I do not aim with my eye, he who aims with his hand has forgotten the face of his father. I aim with my eye.” This film commits the sin of aiming with its hand not its eye or heart. On the whole, the entire film is a barebones adaptation that lacks the nuance and for the most part, the epic scope of the novels. It does a just an average job of enticing viewers to want to learn more about Roland and his quest. We never feel the animosity Roland has with the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey), who is not well developed. The film just moves along so quickly we don’t have time to absorb any of the information given to us. And with the rushed editing and running time, there isn’t enough in the film to win over non-fans or satisfy die-hard fans of the novels. In fact, many of them will be enraged with the missed opportunities and the thin surface details.

Idris Elba as Roland

This does not mean that the film is a disaster, but a rather frustrating watch because there are nuggets of wonder that struggle to get through the film’s banal tone. For one, the actors in the film are quite good and it has several fine moments. We get glimpses of why Roland is to be revered as he wields his guns with near-supernatural precision. For Stephen King fans, there are more than a few Easter eggs of his other works and overall, the film is not dull. It’s just that so little time is spent on these highlights because the film is so intent on getting from point A to point B and in the end, we cannot enjoy the ride. The bottom line is that fans know that the source material is rich and enticing and most of that is missing in the film. This is beyond annoying for fans who have waited so long after so many false starts for a film adaptation. These novels have such sprawling stories with off-the-wall imagery that they deserved a film or a film series that would adequately adapt them. Unfortunately, this film does not accomplish this goal and instead of being a monumental film experience it is just your standard summer film.

The sad thing about The Dark Tower is that it will wind up being forgotten and unlikely to be a hit film. Meaning, that it is doubtful that future films will follow that will better explore Roland’s world and his epic quest. There are plans for a TV show that will tie-in to this film but who knows if that will ever come and the film’s reception will probably mean that it will be a long time before fans get a proper adaptation.

C.S. Link and Lewis T. Grove

Under The Dome Is Underwhelming

under the dome

After sampling the first few episodes of the CBS summer series Under The Dome, it’s very clear that the series strayed detrimentally from its source book. Based on the mammoth novel by Stephen King, Under The Dome tells the story about a small town, Chester’s Mill, that is suddenly and inexplicably sealed off from the outside world by a huge, transparent dome. The novel focused on the townspeople trapped in the Dome and was about how they coped with this bizarre situation. Under The Dome raised obvious issues like what would be the environmental impact? How will people behave when the food supply dwindles? How long before chaos and anarchy take hold of normal law-biding citizens? The strange circumstance brought out the best and worst in the book’s characters.

deputy cut off

While the book was captivating and really explored the ramifications of the event, this TV adaptation feels formulaic. It does have some nice visuals, explicitly the shots of the Dome cutting off Chester’s Mill from the outside world. In a recent episode, the U.S. military launched a missile at the Dome to destroy it and it looked great, as was the aftermath outside the Dome.

crewYet, the TV show is a bit bland and bogged down with melodramatic developments. Some of those were covered in the book and were written expertly, but in TV feel mediocre. There is this storyline about a sociopathic creep called “Junior” Rennie (Alexander Koch), who is obviously insane and has a dangerous obsession over this waitress Angie McAlister (Britt Anderson). In the book, this obsession turned truly macabre, but in the show, it’s toned down and the subplot is now a tedious cat-and-mouse game. Junior catches her and imprisons her in a bomb shelter. Angie tries to escape and is eventually freed. Junior chases her and so on. Then there is the matter of character judgment. In the book, Junior was made a special deputy and started a reign of terror with his gang. It was believable because his father, “Big Jim” Rennie, a local politician, pulls strings for his son to be made a special deputy. This doesn’t happen in the show. Instead, the sheriff’s deputy, Linda Esquivel (Natalie Martinez), who is in charge after the sheriff dies early on, makes Junior a special deputy. Esquivel can’t see what a slimeball his Junior is and deputizes him with little thought. Talk about lack of judgment! Then he is hardly ever shown performing his duties, he’s too busy chasing Angie. Meanwhile, Esquivel complains every now and then about how he’s missing when he’s needed. Continue reading