It’s become a bit cliche in horror movies, but it’s very true that once the apocalypse comes and the world as we know it ends, it’s usually other humans that become the biggest threat rather than monsters, infectious diseases, and zombies.
The world changing in any way seems to give already terrible humans the idea that they can act however they want, and any pre-established rules were part of the old world, and can therefore get in the bin.
If you’ve ever shouted at the screen at how annoying post-apocalyptic characters are in horror movies, this article is for you! Let’s look at the worst things post-apocalyptic people can do, and see which one grinds your gears the most.
Hiding They’re Infected
It’s horror movie 101, but if you get infected by a disease, taken over by an alien parasite, or bitten by a zombie, don’t try and hide it! At this point, you’re already way past saving, and all you’re doing is putting the rest of your party in danger by not letting them know that you’re a hidden threat. Sure, it’s not nice to think you’re going to die, and potentially turn into a horrible monster, but there’s no need to be selfish and end up killing others who are just trying their best to survive.
In the Dawn of the Dead (2004) remake, Luda and her partner, Andre, decide to hide the fact she has been bitten by a zombie from the group because Luda is heavily pregnant. However, predictably, it results in Luda giving birth to a zombie baby, and Andre and fellow survivor, Norma, end up killing each other in the resulting fight. Instead, be more like J.C. from Night of the Creeps (1986), who figures out how to kill the alien brain slugs taking over the campus, and leaves a message for his friend, passing this information on before he kills himself to prevent his brain slugs from infecting others.
Exploiting Those Less Fortunate
As the apocalypse takes hold, some will seek to achieve power in this new society and wield their power over others to ensure that they have the best living conditions and supplies, while others suffer and die due to the selfishness of these new leaders.
In Land of the Dead (2005), civilization has returned to some semblance of normality, however, Paul Kaufman runs the city, which features a high-rise called Fiddler’s Green for the wealthy population to live in relative safety. Paul makes use of the poorer folk, having them do his work and put themselves at risk, while he dangles the promise of meeting the criteria to be able to live in Fiddler’s Green in front of them. While others starve and have to invent uses for zombies such as sideshows to make money, everyone in Fiddler’s Green lives quite normally, never having to worry about getting attack as they go about their daily lives.
Still Thinking of the Money
It doesn’t matter what happens to others or the world around them, some people will still tow the company line and always think of money and profit over the importance of human life. While it’s not set on Earth, the events of Aliens (1986) are definitely apocalyptic for the planet LV-426 and show that business and profit will always take first place, and people are dispensable in the greater scheme of things.
Despite coming up against the aliens once before, nobody believes Ripley when she tells them to be wary of Weyland-Yutani Corporation and their profit-driven motives. It soon turns out that Ripley is right, and Burke, Weyland-Yutani Corporation’s representative, is only there to try and retrieve alien egg specimens to use as biological weapons. He even goes as far as to trap Ripley and Newt in a room with a facehugger, in the hopes they will be impregnated with an alien egg.
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Going on a Power Trip
There are some people who are dying to go on a power trip and exert their control over others, but they still care enough about societal norms to act within the rules. However, once the apocalypse hits, they decide it’s the perfect time to seize power and control others as much as possible.
In the zombie musical Anna and the Apocalypse (2017), Anna and her friends have more than just the local zombie population to worry about, when their vice principal, Mr Savage, decides to take advantage of the situation and exert full control over the school. He does this by letting zombies into the school, allowing them to kill or turn any surviving pupils or teachers. So when Anna finally makes it to the safety of the school to hopefully reunite with her dad, little does she know she still has to face the big boss in the form of Mr Savage.
Not Thinking of Others
When the way the world works changes suddenly, it’s important that everyone adapts to the new way of life to survive. However, this isn’t always the case, and some people can be a little selfish when it comes to sharing the new world with others.
In A Quiet Place (2018), super sound-sensitive monsters have taken over the world, meaning everyone needs to be silent to survive. When father, Lee, and his son, Marcus, are making their way back from a fishing trip, they come across an older man and his dead wife in the woods. The man is clearly struggling with the emotional loss of his wife and is past the point of no return, but he doesn’t have a thought for Lee and his young son as he lets out a huge scream, attracting the monsters, who then kill him. His actions could have caused the deaths of another two people when he could have easily waited for them to pass by and get to safety.
Killing Others Under Cover
Once the apocalypse happens, all rules are off the table, meaning that people think they can kill others without any consequence just because they won’t get arrested. However, there’s still the massive moral consequences of killing others willy nilly, and robbing the world of another survivor to be considered.
In 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016), Howard kills Emmett for breaking one of Howard’s house rules, and so Howard can be alone with Michelle. In It Comes at Night (2017), Paul and Sarah kill an entire young family under the guise of protecting their family, when they don’t really know if they’re infected or not. In Night of the Living Dead (1968), Ben is killed the minute he emerges from the house before the mob checks if he’s a zombie. Basically, the apocalypse seems to give people free rein to kill others without much logic or any sound reasoning.
Refusing to Help Others
When the world ends, supplies are limited and having lots of survivors to look after can cause a lot of trouble, but it’s still particularly cold when survivors choose not to help each other in these stark circumstances.
In The Battery (2012), Mickey overhears a group of survivors call Orchard on his walkie talkies and becomes obsessed with joining them for some semblance of normal life after a zombie apocalypse. However, the group tells him to forget about joining, with member Annie insisting that it’s safer for Mickey to stay away from the group and their strict lifestyle.
However, when Mickey and his friend, Ben, later run into some fellow survivors, Mickey releases one of them is Annie. Addressing her directly makes her realize who Mickey is, and leads to her shooting Ben and throwing away their car keys to prevent them from following her back to the survivor’s group. She basically condemns Mickey and Ben to death rather than try helping them, because Orchard has decided to be selfish with their supplies and hiding place.
Thinking You’re Invincible
When it comes to either apocalyptic or near-apocalyptic events, it’s important to realize that you’re not beyond the reach of these terrible things. In fact, acting too smug can lead to you making mistakes and inviting karma to come and bite you on the ass.
That’s exactly the problem in The Cabin in the Woods (2011) and facility staff who are responsible for preventing the upcoming apocalypse by sacrificing a group of young college students to the powers that be. Sitterson and Hadley appear very disconnected from the events they are putting into motion, and are more interested in betting on the outcoming of the events than giving the ceremony the seriousness it deserves. Of course, this comes back to haunt them later on when all the monsters from the facility are released at once, and all the facility staff suffer horrible deaths at the hands of various creatures.
Sacrificing Others Without a Second Thought
Sure, everyone wants to do what they can to survive when the world becomes a scary place, but people in horror movies seem to lose their humanity pretty quickly and are quite happy to sacrifice others in an instant if it means keeping themselves safe. Rather than work as a team, and figure out how to ensure as many people are possible to survive, some people are quite happy to kick others in front of a bus and feel no remorse.
For some reason, trains seem to bring out the worst in people in horror movies. In Train to Busan (2016), Yon-suk would rather see others in his group of survivors die a horrible death, rather than risk opening the carriage door for too long in case the zombies get to him. He also later pushes other passengers into a pack of zombies to give himself enough time to escape. The Silence (2019) also sees a group of train passengers force a young woman and her crying baby off the train, and to certain death, lest the sound-sensitive creatures attack everyone on the train.
Using Religion as a Weapon
In scary times and unprecedented circumstances, people often turn to religion to help them through difficulties. However, others can use religion as a weapon, either to justify their own twisted actions as ‘God’s work’ or to manipulate the scared and weak people around them who need some guidance.
Probably the best example of this is Mrs Carmody from The Mist (2007), who begins preaching that the creatures from the mist are a sign of armageddon pretty much as soon as everyone gets stuck in the supermarket. When she somehow avoids an attack from some giant insects, she starts to grow a following who believe she has the power of God behind her. With that, she grows a larger group of followers, leading them to sacrifice a young soldier to the monsters outside.
Repopulating the Earth
If the apocalypse wipes out a huge chunk of the human population, then there is a chance survivors may be thinking about how to repopulate the earth a bit and bring the world back to some level of normality. However, some wish to turn the excuse of repopulating the earth and doing something for the greater good into a weapon, forcing women of reproductive age into horrible situations against their will.
When the group of survivors in 28 Days Later (2002) end up at a large mansion that has been taken over by a group of soldiers, they think their luck may have changed and they may have finally found some safety. However, they soon find out the soldiers have been hoping to lure female survivors to their base under the guise of safety, only to then force them into sexual slavery. Luckily, Jim releases a chained-up zombie when he realizes what is going on, and the soldiers get what’s coming to them while the women and Jim escape.
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Turning to Cannibalism
In some movies, turning to cannibalism is painted as the only choice. Perhaps if you are stuck in a confined space with nothing but a fresh, dead body for company, eating the flesh of your fellow humans may seem like the only choice available. But in other movies, some turn to cannibalism a little too quickly for my liking, as if they were simply waiting for a reason to explore this taboo.
In The Road (2009), a man and his son are trying to make their way to safety, while constantly avoiding the threats that meet them on the road. The main threat seems to be a group of violent cannibals, who are more than willing to raid other survivor’s supplies. We later see the group hunting down a woman and her child as they run for their lives. Rather than try and find another food source, or even eat those who have already died, this group is actively murdering others to ensure their own survival.