We here at Castle Blogferatu pride ourselves on giving credit where credit is due. A while ago, a blog I read had a discussion about identifying with characters in books and movies. I tried desperately to find my comments about that. No dice. And I can’t for the life of me remember what blog the conversation started on (I read lots of ’em). If it was you, and you’re reading this, let me know, so I can give you credit damn it!
Right. So my response to this discussion was that I often feel more like I want to be the character (and I’ll explore the implications of that another time). To be completely above board though, I have to admit that the character I would want to be hardly ever matches up with the character I actually would be.
Case in point, victims in horror movies. Many of us probably like to think we’re brave, tough, level-headed, resourceful, and quick-thinking. We’re Buffy. The Winchesters. Ripley. MacGyver (but with monsters and willing to kill people). If not, a lot of us would probably like to at least be as plucky as Tucker and Dale.
The truth is very different. I submit that vast numbers of us would qualify much more quickly as victims and not just any victims. Not even the first victim. A big ol’ heapin’ heppin’ of us may very well be Victim Zero.
What’s Victim Zero?
Like Patient Zero starting an epidemic, Victim Zero starts the process by which some monster or evil begins its attempted takeover of the world. That’s why Victim Zero isn’t the same as merely a first victim and why you don’t see Victim Zero in every horror movie.
I’ll give you an example. My co-conspirator and I were walking home from Café Stella, a coffee shop we frequent and that I’ve been known to practically live at. I saw something on the sidewalk. Specifically because I didn’t know what it was, I poked at it with my shoe. I’ve seen enough horror and science fiction to know better. I did it anyway.
Turns out it was just a black, plastic handle off of something. Sigh. So much for becoming Venom. But what if it was some unknown, fast-moving, alien bug thing that gets inside you, takes over your body, reproduces, and makes you seek out other victims so it can spread?
Hey, you never know. And that would have made me Victim Zero.
Here’s a typical scenario. Something from space crashes to Earth (usually a meteor). Some guy (always a guy) finds it. More often than not he pokes at it (usually with a stick). I read somewhere that when they find mammoth remains in tar pits or that may have fallen off cliffs or through ice, the overwhelming majority of them are adolescent males and hardly, if ever, adult females. That makes sense, and some things literally never change.
This is why the person poking and/or looking into the weird meteor/space pod thing is always a dude (I sheepishly refer you back to my previous personal anecdote). So much for Darwin. Anyway, once the badger is poked, as it were, any number of things is possible. For instance, if some parasitic, alien, slug-thing jumps out and takes the guy over, you end up with a Slurpie Movie, something like Slither or Night Of The Creeps.
Some things literally never change, and if you take away the crash landing, you end up with Alien (arguably the ultimate Slurpie Franchise).
This is by no means limited, however, to Slurpie Movies. Take away the parasitic alien slug-things, and you still end up with “The Lonesome Death Of Jordy Verrill” in Creepshow. And all of these scenes pay homage directly to the first person to ever pick up a stick and poke the gooey center of a meteor: the unnamed Old Man from The Blob (1988 remake included).
All of which brings me to 2017’s not great but still kinda fun Life. Daniel Espinosa’s take on the “poke it with a stick scene” is right there in the trailers. Again, some things literally never change.
Ironic since Life pretty much played out like The Blob meets Alien. Still, it was fun to see Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal get taken down by a giant space amoeba.
But that’s only one scenario. There are plenty of variations. Take the geniuses who break into the lab and free the chimps in 28 Days Later. One chimp attacks and infects one of these fuckwits, and we’re off to the races (literally since the infected are pretty damn quick). There’s also Hellraiser to consider. Taken on its own instead of a massive story arc, Victim Zero is Frank Cotton.
So what have we learned boys and girls? Exactly what my dear old dad used to tell me when we he was working in his gargage: “Leave shit alone.” Then again, as a kid, he got bitten by a rat when he went digging through a wood pile to find it. Hypocrite.