“The trumpets of the apocalypse have been sounding at our gates for years now, but we still stop up our ears. We do, however, have four new horsemen: overpopulation (the leader, the one waiving the flag), science, technology, and the media. All the other evils in the world are merely consequences of these. I’m not afraid to put the press in the front rank, either. The last screenplays I worked on, for a film I’ll never make, deal with a triple threat: science, terrorism, and the free press. The last, which is usually seen as a victory, a blessing, a ‘right,’ is perhaps the most pernicious of all, because it feeds on what the three other horsemen leave behind.’ – Luis Bunuel from My Last Sigh (page 251-252)
I’ve been reading Evan Calder Williams’ book Combined and Uneven Apocalypse: Luciferian Marxism in which he relates capitalism’s most recent fall to the allegorical representation of the post-apocalypse in horror and science-fiction film. Williams proposes we search for new horizons in the face of the end of the world; one where the emergence of new possibilities faces off with humanity’s seemingly repetitive nature. Naturally, the zombie film encompasses a good portion of Williams’ exploration. And when considering his evaluation of the genre’s relationship to a capitalist society, I cannot help but think of The Hole (2007) by Los Angeles artist Jim Shaw.
Shaw’s first fictional feature, The Hole “…appears as an O-ist horror movie. In it, a new female convert to the religion, peering through a hole in her apartment wall, discovers a parallel world where zombies stroll in an ill-defined “somewhere”, beyond which space becomes abstracted.” Here, the space between the living “normal” world and the endless repetition of the continuous living in “zombie” world collapse, meeting through a hole in a wall in a domestic space. The zombies, all men, are dressed in suits aimlessly wandering, slightly bumping into each other. A close up into the zombie nerve center reveals the “brain” is a fuzzy television-like portal (Dani Tull’s soundrack is incredible), providing us an abstracted account of what goes on in the mind of the mindless. The film suggests a parallel world of zombies to our own, prompting the question of how do we look, evaluate, adapt, and change our own end of the world that’s so near by?
To consider this further, provided below is an excerpt of The Hole combined with excerpts from Williams’ book.
Combine and Uneven Apocalypse: Luciferian Marxism:
This is particularly of what the figure of the zombie does and its position in the mass culture of capitalism. It thinks how real abstractions work on real bodies, of the nastiest intersections of the law of value and the law of inevitable decay. (page 80)
In this way, zombie films are not about the living dead, at least not in any direct way. They are about the undying living. They are about surplus-life, the new logic of excessive existence: something has given us all too-much-life, an inability to properly die in a system that no longer knows how or when to quit. (page 92)
Following and moving out from Lacan, we could say that anxiety is never about the radically new but rather about the horrible possibility of the same persisting…Anxiety emerges with the creeping realization that there may be no lack, no space in which to move, leaving us crushed by the awful possible certainty of knowing how things are and knowing that they will remain that way. (page 101)
The anxiety proper to zombie films is the deep horror of something not being different, of everyone remaining as limited a category as we know it to be, of the same persisting, of the end of death and lack…People are not consumers because they are scared of change. They are scared of change because they are consumers. (page 103)
It’s about labor. It’s never been about consumerism gone bad, but the lost heritage of the zombie film, the horror from more Haitian origins: of being forced to work, of knowing that “choosing” to sell one’s labor has never been a choice, just a particularly nasty illusion of free will. (page 105)
…the innovation – and perhaps the underlying horror – is not just “how horrible to be killed and brought back to life as a slave” but: what if our past is never forgotten? Not remembered by historians or marked into the very landscape and bodies of the colonies, but smuggled back in, dark knowledge too powerful to be lost and too tempting for capitalism to ignore (page 111)
Image: The Hole zombie stills (2007)