Living in Florida for most of my entire life, I am accustomed to a few things:
- Heat isn’t just for the summer. In fact, summer lasts all year (you know, in Florida)
- Snow is something seen on a screen (unless you have family up north)
- And then, there’s hurricane season. It’s a sometimes scary and an all-the-time insane roller-coaster ride (but we love the memes)
After the meteorological cluster that was Hurricane Dorian, I thought about all the storms I have experienced while living in Florida. I took notice how often my home, as well as the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and other neighbors have been in the national news because of these storms.
And then, I do what I usually do — caught myself thinking about movies.
Don’t ask me why but my brain works like a Bing commercial sometimes. I started to consider, much like life in the Sunshine State, maybe our collective fascination with disaster movies as cinephiles comes from our fascination with disaster itself.
(Pretty deep, right? I know, stick with me, it will all come together.)
From the moment we press “play,” we enter the danger zone and there’s no leaving. That’s the power of a great disaster or “doomsday” movie–it reaches out and grabs hold of the audience, captivating until its bitter end.
Inside the Danger Zone
Think about the last time you watched a juicy apocalyptic flick. Now tell me your Apple Watch wasn’t freaking out sending you “breathe” reminders or notifying you of your erratic heartbeat.
Disaster movies are designed to take every irrational fear we have about our little, blue-and-green planet and leave the theater saying: “Yeah, that could totally happen. Here’s how…”
The Day After Tomorrow is one of the most successful movies at accomplishing that feat. Not only did it capitalize on irrational fears, but the premise of the film was a completely rational one.
As the rest of the film unfolds, we’re transported to a nightmarish ice-age. Of the more than one dozen times I’ve seen this movie, I’m always in awe (and slightly terrified) of that cold–and hypothetical–future.
Twisted Up in Disaster
When it comes down to it, doomsday films are attractive because of the [insert crazy Earth-ending disaster here]. Sure, the blockbuster actors and actresses help, but the winning formula is ‘stardom plus the impending apocalypse equals Ka-ching!
Movies like San Andreas, The Core, and Twister are as popular as they are because of the epic proportions of the disasters portrayed on the screen. It’s simple: moviegoers love the spectacle and nothing is more spectacular than a disaster.
The Day After Doomsday
When the dust settles, when the sun comes out, when tomorrow finally comes… only then are we able to see why disaster movies are so entertaining.
They are bone-chilling and exciting, but more than anything else, they remind us of what’s important in life. They invite us to take stock in our own lives. Even though the disasters aren’t always real or plausible, these movies tap into a primal fear for most of us.
When disaster strikes in real life, the world takes notice. Then, when it’s memorialized or depicted on film, we take notice. Why? Disaster movies remind us of our humanity and in that finality is the ultimate ‘cine-feels.’