Let’s talk about transportation choices in horror movies, because it seems to me our heroes are always making the wrong ones.
I am a big fan of horror flicks – of the zombie variety, especially. I don’t know what it is, but I can always be taken in by some post-apocalyptic brain-munchers. And inevitably, every zombie movie has that same scene of the abandoned, car-choked highway leading into or out from some major city on the horizon (this the original ads for The Walking Dead, for example) as shorthand for saying Things Have Gotten Really Bad.
Also as ubiquitous is the scene where our heroes are trying to escape in a salvaged car and something terrible goes wrong. Maybe they run out of gas, having siphoned everything they can from the nearby ruined town. Maybe the car’s engine finally fails. Or maybe they find themselves at the wrong end of that abandoned highway and that sea of immobile cars. One way or the other, the suddenly find themselves on foot – and, of course, that’s precisely when the zombies arrive to eat them.
As much as I like these movies, I ask the same questions of every group of heroes: Why don’t you just get on a bicycle? You’re faster, you’re quieter, you’re more maneuverable, you can go off-roading, and repairs are pretty easy. Yet, our heroes never do, and I never understand why. Maybe filmmakers think they’ll look goofy? Maybe it’s product placement for some car manufacturer? Regardless, from a storytelling perspective, at this point you’d think with the number of apocalypses we’ve been exposed to someone would have figured it out by now.
And then I watched Infestation.
OK, it’s about a giant bug apocalypse and not a zombie apocalypse, but the basic premise is the same. A buddy of mine and I sat down for our regular B-movie horror night and chose this from the Amazon Prime offerings. As the opening scene unfolds, I shared – not for the first time, I’m sure – my general annoyance with horror movie transportation decisions. Both my friend and I agreed that, were we to find ourselves in the zombie/bug apocalypse, we’d clearly be more likely to survive.
The characters, as they are wont to do in these kinds of films, have just raided a police station for weapons and, as they head to the cruiser outside the protagonist spots a row of bicycles and says, “Shouldn’t we take this?”
“Good idea,” his grizzled veteran father agrees. “They’re faster and as quiet as walking.”
I swear it’s true. Here’s a screenshot.
The characters used my own reasoning. And they got on the bikes! And they rode through a clear path in the woods rather than a traffic-choked abandoned freeway!
Suddenly a mediocre visual-effects movie with mostly unlikable characters became one of my favorite B-movies, just because it’s the first time I’ve ever seen Armageddon survivors make a wise choice!
And the bugs didn’t eat them,
Well, not yet.
OK, it’s a ridiculous movie and a silly thing to point out, but I do admit to being constantly amazed at the way in which the automobile seems to be the “default” mode for getting around, even in a horror story where we’re supposed to believe the characters we’re following are the last clever survivors. I’m not sure how smart it is to rely on a complex combustion engine for transport in a world where all the mechanics and gas station attendants have been eaten by zombies or bugs or killer robots or whatever.
Kudos, then, to the writers of Infestation for thinking this one through. It’s still a dumb movie, but when that guy grabbed that bicycle and rode off to fight the giant bug nest, he immediately became smarter than 90% of the zombie survivors out there.