As those of you who have been returning to Celluloid Zombie over the last few months might have noticed, my site has become something of a barren wasteland, starved of shiny new content and increasingly reliant on dusty old posts and hapless passers-by. Truth is I’ve been gut-wrenchingly busy lately and just haven’t been able to find enough of your Earth minutes to sit down and write new stuff. I need minions but unfortunately they’re too expensive. So, failing that, my good friend, fellow writer and proprietor of the entertaining Conjuring My Muse, Margaret Reyes Dempsey, has kindly offered to donate a blog post to the cause.
For many of us who read novels or watch movies in genres that are outside the realm of “this could happen in real life,” there is a willing suspension of disbelief before we enter the theater or open the cover of a book (or press whichever Kindle button). We’re excited. We’re ready to be entertained. And we participate in the experience by opening ourselves to what realists would call the impossible.
In an instant, vampires and zombies walk our streets. Strategic great whites have a place in our oceans. A writer and his guests encounter aliens at his cabin in the woods and we not only accept it, we’re chilled to the bone.
It seems so easy and natural to let go of reality and believe the incredible. Then, all of a sudden, some trivial detail rears its ugly head and we are blasted out of the zone. At least, that’s been my experience, but this is where the kind host of Celluloid Zombie and I disagree and begin yet another heated debate.
Case in point: I watched the first two episodes of The Walking Dead – Season 2 on Sunday night and was enjoying it. Their RV is stranded on the highway, death and devastation visible for miles in either direction. Still, the guy on the roof of the RV is using binoculars and that’s okay with me. You can’t be too cautious with hungry zombies roaming the earth. But then, he raises the binoculars to his eyes again and gasps. The camera angle shifts and there are 300 zombies in view…a mere 10 feet in front of him. Did 300 slowly shuffling and loudly grunting zombies materialize out of thin air? Did no one see them coming? Smell them? Hear them? Come on! I laughed out loud and threw a piece of popcorn across the room at the TV, which my cat gobbled and then coughed up with a hair ball. (Okay, that last part is just a bit of gory fiction.)
The fact is, the inattention to detail grabbed me right out of the moment, and the suspense that I had been enjoying up until that point lost some momentum. Some 3500 miles away as the crow flies, Rich is screaming over a static-filled Skype connection. “You have no problem believing in 300 zombies but the manner in which they show up is a deal breaker???”
I wouldn’t say it’s a deal breaker because I did enjoy both episodes. However, I’m unable to gloss over stupid stuff like that. Especially when it happens twice in the same episode.
Another example of things that can make me willingly unsuspend disbelief can be found in the movie Hereafter, a two hour and ten minute film that follows the lives of three people dealing with mortality. Despite wonderful performances by Matt Damon, Bryce Dallas Howard (wasted in a go-nowhere role), and the McLaren twins, this movie could not be redeemed. Afflicted by bloated, plotless scenes and poor pacing, it is slow and sleepy. And pausable. Yes, I admit two-thirds of the way through, with nothing much going on yet, I paused to get a snack. But the moment that turned what was supposed to be a serious movie into a comedy was the opening scene. Oh no!
On vacation with her lover, journalist Marie Lelay steps out to buy souvenirs and gets swept away by the Indian Ocean tsunami. Just before it hits, she purchases a bracelet for a dollar from a woman and her young daughter. (We won’t question why the merchant requests dollars instead of, say, rupiah or why a French woman on vacation there would happen to have dollars in her possession.) Suddenly, there’s a deafening roar and palm trees snap in the distance. (For a moment, I thought I was watching an episode of Lost.) The impressive special effects result in genuine horror as the huge wave comes into view. The journalist grabs the little girl’s hand and they run, but the wave takes them down. She claws at the water and air with both hands, trying to recover the child but it’s no use. Seconds later, she gets caught on something underwater and rips herself free only to be knocked unconscious by debris.
All is working for me until Director Clint Eastwood decides to go for the nice shot and has her slowly open her hand as she sinks in the water, allowing the bracelet to float free. The bracelet? She was still hanging on to that bracelet? That meant when she was stuck underwater, minutes from drowning, she kept one hand tightly closed around the bracelet and tried to free herself with just the fingers of her other hand? Right. For this, Clint, you are unforgiven. As the bracelet floats to the surface, it’s as perfect looking as the moment she bought it. That’s one well-made bracelet and what a bargain at only a dollar.
Once again, Rich responded to my emailed rants with e-laughter and an e-shake of the head.
So, I ask, do any of you out there ever have challenges suspending disbelief and staying in the zone?