It's the time for tricks and treats, spooks and scares, and maybe we've been a bit stingy about covering a lot of that stuff because, well, we've all seen it all before, haven't we.
That makes "Save Mankind" all the better.
Much like Netflix's dark take on Sabrina the Teenage Witch—which is way darker than we remembered—what's expected in the video below is really not what's served up.
View the less-than-two-minute video in full screen, if you can.
"Save Mankind" was created with the aptly named Grease Films and Slaughterhouse, BBH New York's in-house production arm. It's drawn from the concerns that BBH's creative directors, Dean Woodhouse and Hugo Bierschenk, have about global warming and its repercussions on humanity.
Maybe they thought, "Feeling bad just doesn't cut it. Everyone feels bad and it barely registers; it's now felt so frequently—being, as it is, mixed with both responsibility and hopelessness—that it's just gone tepid. The inherent mediocrity of 'feeling bad' will never yield meaningful action."
Instead they went for terror—the kind of guard-down terror that's rare to feel, because we've seen all the gimmicks. Even if some part of us felt it coming—'tis the season and all—our eyes were riveted to the screen, unprepared for how violently this victim's rage expresses itself.
Speaking of the victim: We open with a deteriorating woman in a hospital bed. She is reciting the sins against her with a rancor, a bitterness—a hatred, really—that's slow and quiet, tangible. The moment we realize who she is comes when she hisses, "It's not this planet you're killing, you fucking egomaniacs; it's you."
Things go dark. Very dark. And as she sputters and shouts, blood and bile streaming from classic-horror orifices, it hits us: She's Mother Nature, in the fullness of her rage and lust for retaliation, and it's only then—shocked out of this pat image of Earth Mothers and grain-filled baskets, pastel-colored purple mountains majesty—that we remember how violent nature can be.
And yet in the end, she tosses us a lifeline: "I suppose there's still time to save your children, save your species, save mankind."
We know abstractly that environmental damage impacts our lives, but our civilizations are so good at muddying that connection that by the time the effects trickle into our wallets—the pulse connecting us to the economy, the world we made—it isn't really clear who the culprit was.
Maybe it was the overfishing, or the fracking, or a completely batshit president. Who can suss this stuff out?
But the great victory here is how convincing this treatment of Mother Nature is, however different she may be to traditional renditions. This is because she plays with those renditions composed of a stereotypical grab-bag about women, mothers and nature. Women are the "fairer sex"; mothers nurture; nature is abundance, so much abundance that the loss of finite natural resources are not even reflected in their cost.
These ideas affect our symbolism: Mother Nature is Gaia, warm and bright and bountiful. She is Demeter, mourning the loss of her daughter by giving us a change of seasons. She is the Wiccan white witch, all soft curves and gentle, miraculous sunset magic.
Women aren't just fair; mothers aren't just nurturers; nature is far from gentle bounty only. We've learned in recent years that women have long constrained a pulsating, unifying rage. Mothers can be defending, disciplinary forces of the most terrifying ilk, as anyone who's had one knows.
And nature? I've always thought the great weapon of nature is that she doesn't care who wins the long-term race of life; she only cares that life wins. Humans, in the history of living things, are a short subset of a longer chapter; our speed of evolution and capacity to manipulate all other life a dice-toss.
Currently we are the fittest predator. That's changed before, and it's nature that issued the correction without emotion, mercy or consideration of the species' merits. She doesn't mind starting from zero with something new, something not us. We do, and she does not.
Thus we learn that if nature seems delicate and fragile to us, it is only because of the delicacy and fragility of its ecosystems. The disturbance of these can unleash a remorseless violence. It's the dark sorceress to the Wiccan white, the unhinged force that we always knew was waiting just under a placid surface, then lulled ourselves into forgetting with platitudes about our own ability to control the situation. Haven't we made it this far without great complaint?
Here, now, is when we realize the latter is a Disney-caliber fairy tale … and that, like many an original Grimm, it probably doesn't end well. In many ways those are the most frightening stories of all.
directed by HUGO & DEAN
written by HUGO BIERSCHENK, DEAN WOODHOUSE, HEMANT JAIN, PETER ROSCH
starring CLAUDIA MUÑIZ as MOTHER EARTH
executive producer ED ZAZZERA
producers MEG VOLK & MARC F. BAILL
director of photography ERIC TETI
1st assistant camera TYLER PAKSTIS
2nd assistant camera BEN SCOFIELD
data manager STEPHEN VENEZIA
production sound mixer KEVIN HASTINGS
gaffer ALEXA CARROLL
best boy electric PRANNOY JACOB
key grip SANDRO MEDICI
best boy grip MACE VANNONI
set decorator JULIANA KUTTRUFF
sfx makeup artist ARIA FERRARO
a SLAUGHTERHOUSE & GREASE NYC production
music EXTREME MUSIC
editor JIM SCHWARTZ
vfx supervisor ILIA MOKHTAREIZADEH
vfx artist KYLE ZEMBORAIN
color by FERGUS MCCALL at MILL NY
title design LORI HAMASAKI
Business affairs LIBRADO SANCHEZ and CRISTINA CHOUZA
Special thanks to BBH NEW YORK, JESSICA O'BRIEN at INDUSTRY LIGHTING AND GRIP, INC. RYAN PAIGE at TCS, INC. BRIAN HAUGHNEY & JONATHAN OLIVELLA at LONG ISLAND UNIVERSITY