Thursday, September 14, 2017

Chicanonautica: Aztlán Zombie Massacre

I don’t usually like the zombie apocalypse subgenre. Zombies are uninteresting non-characters. The mindless carnage gets tedious, even boring. It's usually an excuse for sliding into the paranoid/schizophrenic mind set of seeing other people as disgusting nonhumans, so better crank up on the firepower and blast them into smoldering roadkill—very close to racism, depending on how you fine-tune it.

Don't shoot until you see their decaying faces. Though you'd probably literally smell them a mile off. They'd make you gag long before you could see them. Better get a gas mask while you're at it.

And what are you going to do when the ammo runs out?

I’m familiar with the subgenre since its birth with Night of the Living Dead in 1968. For years it was an obscure cult film with an underground reputation (this was the Vietnam/Nixon era). It wasn't until it started appearing on the late night horror movie circuit, and the advent of video cassettes that it infiltrated mainstream pop culture. Now you have to staple your eyes shut to avoid all the manifestations of the living dead.

A lot of young people think that the zombie apocalypse is inevitable, the way my generation thought about nuclear holocaust. It's actually impossible—going against the laws of thermodynamics, zombies kick out way more energy than they take in, like biological perpetual motion machines. If they did exist, scientists would be studying them to find out how they work the opposite of the way the rest of the universe does, and harness this limitless energy source.

But now and then something comes up that that’s worthy of my praise, and this one is LaBloga/Chicanonautica material.

It's called Savageland. That's what local Anglos who can't deal with Spanish call the Arizona town, Sangre de Christo (it is never mentioned that it means Blood of Christ). One night, all inhabitants are killed. Except for one unemployed, undocumented Mexicano.

It's a faux documentary and an ingenious take on the found footage story. And it steps out of the usual white people's pop culture viewpoint early on when onscreen African American filmmakers start giving editorial comments.

The one survivor is accused of being the most horrific serial killer of all time, but he left some evidence--photographs he took during the incident. Bad news for gorehounds, there's no onscreen splatter scenes, just still photos of blurred mayhem. It's mostly unsettling interviews, still images, and animated computer diagrams, that make it all seem very real, plausible, like a grisly true crime show.

Sheriff Joe and Rush Limbaugh-style law enforcement and radio pundits are both stereotypical and dead on. Their rhetoric has gotten people elected in Arizona, even put a guy in the White House. They argue that the bad hombre is what Americans need to protect themselves from.

The filmmakers argue that the suspect couldn't have been in all the places he needed to be to kill everyone who was killed, and that this was a genocidal race riot.

The whole zombie issue in never brought up directly. The z-word in never used. “Just the facts, ma'am,” as Sergeant Joe Friday would say on Dragnet.

No, I won't reveal the ending

And if this show's on cable where people can surf into it without knowing what they’re watching, they may think it’s a real documentary--there’s a strong possibility of hysterical reactions as in Orson Welles’ radio adaptation of War of the Worlds.

Mind-blowing, gut-wrenching entertainment for post-Charlottesville America.

Ernest Hogan is the author of High Aztech and is trying not to confuse bizarre fantasies with grotesque realities.

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