MELISSA DU PREEZ: Is COVID South Africa's ultimate horror movie?
If you’ve seen 1986’s The Fly you’ll be familiar with protagonist Seth Brundle’s rapid physical deterioration after accidentally fusing his own DNA with that of the eponymous fly - I don’t know why she swallowed that fly, I guess she’ll die, sorry! - while using his revolutionary transportation device. Seriously, it’s the best movie, please watch it so we can be friends?!
Every anti-vaxxer I’ve heard defending their stance has struck me as someone with enormous fear. People are dying, it’s right that we’re afraid. But I wonder whether these fears would only really be justifiable in the scenario above. If getting the vaccination were to transform you into something not quite human, then the fear would make sense. As a horror fanatic I’d be lying if I said this wouldn’t be fascinating.
Only, it’s not. Because it’s just NOT true.
Mutations aside, there are a lot of reasons why COVID is a dystopian horror movie. Think The Road (not technically horror but still the scariest movie I’ve seen), A Quiet Place, 28 Days Later - the list is endless!
We have the scientists and doctors scrambling about, desperate for us to let them "do their damn jobs!"; sleepless, unwashed, emotionally battered and ignored by stubborn masses. To help to visualise it, cast your mind back to ANY public briefing by the World Health Organization since 2020.
Thinking about it, all these scientists have done is ask us to go get vaccinated and try to stay safe for the sake of the rapidly unravelling mental stability of healthcare professionals.
If we can ask these people to risk their lives to save ours, surely they can ask this of us?
While we’re on it - the masses who pretend it's all alright until it's not then swiftly collapse under an existential breakdown, panics and scrambles to pull communities together.
Well … at least until they get bored and realise it’s easier to complain than change - which is realised pretty fast (am I right?! Ahem).
Then there's our always entertaining conspiracy theorist (read: influencer) who spends their time in the movie in a cabin in the woods and "living in a world of reefer". They sprout theories on evil vaccines and government mind control (OK, so there's definitely something here but I digress).
My favourite ones include a redemptive arc. Some faceless hero takes a stand for the greater good at great personal loss. A good example everyone might know is the ferry scene in The Dark Knight, when hostages take back control, however limited it may be.
Not a horror but I’m a classic people-pleaser so I like to offer something for everyone.
The climax is often as bleak as the beginning but with more tears and death. Sound familiar?
If realistic pandemic horror is what does it for you, I recommend 2011’s Contagion. In it we see the power and responsibility of the media in distributing truthful and accurate information to save as many lives as possible – as with COVID. In the film, Jude Law’s character ends up using false information to turn a profit – a cash-for-lives scheme (cites every example of misused South African COVID money) and he’s swiftly arrested. But not before causing a devastating loss of life by punting information that he knew was wrong.
Considering how much of the money meant to combat COVID has ended up in back pockets, I hope people will start realising that our health is literally for sale.
Fear is normal – if you’re not afraid, you’re not growing. But let’s grow together to create a horror movie whose aim is to save as many lives as possible instead of end as many lives as possible.
Most dystopian films end on a teaser of the future, if it can be called that. Spoiler alert! It's always sh#t! But inevitably life goes on in a dismal monotonous struggle to survive, cope with grief and come full circle on the consequences of the choices made in the moment.
While these films follow a formula, real life -the one you're in while reading this - does not. You're not trapped by a script, you get to CHOOSE your future so make sure that when life goes on, which it will, you go on with it.
When this is over we'll have to confront how many lives we've unnecessarily traded for what will truly be a NEW normal and need to ask ourselves honestly: was it worth it?