For an art form and technology so grounded in the act of creation, the movies really love to destroy everything. All-consuming havoc is becoming a mainstay of the modern blockbuster. The idea of a final bolthole for the remnants of humanity – whether nightmarish or idyllic – has become a recurring vision in a variety of features. Here are 10 worth considering escaping to, if and when the need arises…
A Shopping Mall (Dawn of the Dead)
The anti-zombie fortress has become quite the internet curiosity, but in George A. Romero’s seminal 1978 zombie flick it’s a shopping centre that the survivors of the undead apocalypse flee to, using trucks to block the entrances and becoming isolated kings and queens in a consumer castle. Luxury and isolation are never a handy combination, and it’s typical of Romero that he finds a more subtle threat to complement the one milling outside.
Distinguishing Feature: Added walls to secure their gleaming realm.
Weakness: Bikers. A motorcycle gang that raids the mall allows the undead in.
Melbourne (On the Beach)
As thoughtfully examined by Lawrence Johnston 2013 documentary Fallout, this horrifying adaptation of Neville Shute’s best-seller imagines a world where a nuclear war in the northern hemisphere has created a radioactive sphere slowly engulfing the planet. As society tries to prepare for the end of humanity – parents are taught euthanasia methods for their children – various characters played by Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, and Fred Astaire spend their final days in our surprisingly calm southern city.
Distinguishing Feature: An Australian Grand Prix where some of the drivers die.
Weakness: Inevitability. Nothing can stop the radiation spreading.
The Outback (Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome)
The third episode in George Miller’s mutating franchise is an iconic adventure, imagining a new beginning for society after the grim descent of the first two movies. As managed by Aunty Entity (Tina Turner), Bartertown is a mess of traders, survivors and an underground energy source that uses methane derived from an awful lot of pigs. It’s the classic jumble of post-apocalyptic influences – who gets a Mohawk haircut when the world is finished? – that comes with an unusually strict legal code and retributive justice, as Mel Gibson’s Max discovers.
Distinguishing Feature: The Thunderdome – a gladiator arena for the dystopic games.
Weakness: The entire operation literally falls to bits when its creator is driven off in an old truck.
A Posh Compound (Zardoz)
John Boorman's 1974 post-apocalyptic drama remains baffling to this day. The 1 percent are now the immortal “Eternals”, living inside their 23rd century compound (a luxe country estate dubbed the Vortex), while protected by force-fields and a supercomputer. Outside, the remnants of humanity - the “Brutals” - do their bloody bidding, until one of these not so noble savages, Zed, (Sean Connery), sneaks into the Vortex, where his presence upsets the fragile balance, impresses Consuella (Charlotte Rampling), and advances a plot to bring down the elite.
Distinguishing Feature: Huge flying Stone Heads the Eternals visit the Brutals with.
Weakness: Sean Connery’s chest hair. The elite have no answer to Zed’s virility.
A Train (Snowpiercer)
Just arrived in cinemas, South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho’s terrific allegory imagines the vestiges of humanity on a single train, circling the globe as power and privilege reside at the front of the train, with the masses living in subjugation in the final carriages. It’s a self-contained society ripe for ritual and revolution, with the efforts of Curtis (Chris Evans) to reach the train’s God, perpetual motion engine inventor Wilford (Ed Harris), taking him through increasingly unexpected environments.
Distinguishing Feature: Gelatinous black food blocks fed to the poor.
Weakness: 438,000 kilometres of unmaintained track, not to mention an upper-class drug of choice that doubles as an explosive.
A Dance Floor (The Matrix Reloaded)
In The Matrix, Zion is described to Keanu Reeves’ Neo as humanity’s last city, an underground base for the resistance against the machines. In the first Matrix sequel we see Zion, and at the first sign of invasion by the artificial enemy they… hold a rave. Probably not the best preparation, especially since it appears to be an otherwise viable hub with a functional political and military set-up.
Distinguishing Feature: Lots of defensive positions and obviously a swell sound system.
Weakness: The machines have no problem digging down deep enough to invade Zion.
A Castle (Reign of Fire)
Dragons have scorched the planet, ended society and almost obliterated mankind in this enjoyably dumb B-movie where Brit Christian Bale and Yank Matthew McConaughey eventually combine forces to kill the lone male in his London lair. Bale’s base is a restored castle in Northumberland, where they’ve dug down to create tunnels and vaults for the survivors, and – in the best scene – he and Gerard Butler’s character act out Star Wars for a group of wide-eyed children.
Distinguishing Feature: A reserve reservoir of water set to temporarily drench the lower levels in case of dragon fire.
Weakness: The dragon tracks the humans to the castle, and by landing on the top and breathing fire down, incinerates much of what has been built.
A Mansion (28 Days Later...)
A virus that turns people into rage-filled, mindless “Infected” has brought Britain to an end, and for a handful of survivors, led by Naomie Harris’ Selena and Cillian Murphy’s Jim, the sight of soldiers in a fortified country mansion is initially a sign of hope. But it’s another masculine environment, complete with a loopy commanding officer (Christopher Eccleston), that has run off the rails, and while they massacre any Infected that approach their positions, the warrior’s morality has already rotted away.
Distinguishing Feature: Motions sensors – crucial when the Infected can run.
Weakness: Soldiers without purpose or hope inside prove to be more dangerous than the Infected outside.
Anything That Floats (Waterworld)
With the polar icecaps melted and humanity now a seaborne race, eking out an existence without land or fresh water, the last hint of civilisation is ramshackle floating settlements known as Atolls. Befitting one of the most expensive movies ever made, much of the atoll visited by Kevin Costner’s Sailor With No Name, the Mariner, was actually constructed. The outpost comes complete with a grim composting system that makes use of any – absolutely any – available matter. It's yet another post-apocalyptic refuge with a questionable rule of law.
Distinguishing Feature: Discrimination against “mutants” with gills and webbed feet.
Weakness: No means of movement, leaving it exposed to jet-ski attack by the marauding “Smokers” commanded by a scenery-chewing Dennis Hopper.
James Franco's House (This is the End)
Not surprisingly, when the end times arrive and the Rapture comes, most of the famous people in Hollywood are left behind to face demonic creatures without their publicists. For the various bros playing exaggerated versions of themselves in Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen’s dilettante comedy, their place of respite is James Franco’s Los Angeles home. Barricaded in, and living off party supplies, it’s a makeshift base, as evidenced by Emma Watson gaining entry with a single axe.
Distinguishing Feature: A giant television that appears out of the floor.
Weakness: Danny McBride. The comic actor is impossible to live with.