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Film / Savageland

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Savageland is a 2015 mockumentary horror movie about a small town of 57 in Arizona who all end up being murdered in a single night with only one survivor who ends up being the prime suspect in the murder case. The film is framed as a documentary dedicated to discussing the tragedy and the media circus that followed.

This film provides examples of the following tropes:

  • All Issues Are Political Issues: A major theme of the film is issues being hijacked for the sake of pushing politics. In this case, a small-scale Zombie Apocalypse is twisted into a debate about border control policies.
  • And Now For Something Completely Different: The epilogue switches from the documentary style of the rest of the movie to a more traditional Found Footage movie to show the start of a second outbreak.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: The sheriff comes off like a nice guy, but it’s implied he knows more about what’s happening than he lets on and knowingly let Salazar take the fall.
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  • By the Lights of Their Eyes: The beings in Salazar’s photos have eyes that apparently reflect light like an animal’s, making clear they aren’t entirely human.
  • Children Are Innocent: Dana, the little girl Salazar befriended and tried to save. He failed.
  • Death of a Child: Dana, despite being the main person Salazar was attempting to save, sadly is killed by the monsters attacking the town.
  • Deconstruction: Of the horror genre in general, exploring the aftermath of a typical gore-fest zombie movie; confusion and debate over what happened, an innocent man getting convicted for the crime because nobody believes that monsters did it, people hijacking the incident for their political views, and massive controversy ensuing when evidence of unnatural events become public.
  • Downer Ending: Salazar is convicted and executed for the tragedy, and the photos that could’ve saved him only come out afterwards. And it’s implied a second massacre is about to begin...
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  • Dramatically Missing the Point: Several interviewees keep trying to make the massacre a political issue and end up completely missing the obvious implications of what happened; most notably, a journalist keeps insisting it was a racist hate crime, while a Howard Stern-style shockjock tries to frame it as an attack by illegal immigrants. They’re both laughably wrong.
  • Everything Is Racist: One of the main interviewees is a journalist who keeps insinuating that the whole thing was a racial hate crime based on flimsy evidence and despite the fact that some of the victims were white. Becomes especially bad when it’s revealed he’s the one who found the photos Salazar took, meaning if anyone would’ve figured out what happened, it should’ve been him.
  • Forced to Watch: Salazar is unable to save Dana and can only hold her hand as she is torn apart by the zombies in front of him.
  • Government Conspiracy: It’s speculated by in-universe conspiracy theorists that the massacre in Sangre De Cristo was a racist attack of some sort that the government covered up for whatever reason. What they’re actually covering up is the Zombie Apocalypse that destroyed the town.
  • Here We Go Again!: The ending heavily implies that a second massacre is about to start, with a group of unlucky campers coming under attack by the monsters.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The monsters come off more like this than traditional zombies.
  • Hypocrite: Ross, the journalist, has his moral high ground rather badly undermined when it’s revealed that he had gotten ahold of Salazar’s photos, which could’ve exonerated him, but didn’t come forward until after Salazar was executed because he scared.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted. It’s explicitly stated that Sangre De Cristo’s children were amongst the many victims.
  • Leave the Camera Running: Not in the documentary itself, but Salazar kept taking pictures (the closest thing he had to film) throughout the whole night. When asked about it, even he doesn’t seem certain why he did so.
  • The Quiet One: Salazar says very little throughout the movie, too shell shocked to put his experiences into words.
  • Manipulative Editing: The in-universe documentary is blatantly editing things in such a way as to support Ross’s “it was a hate crime” theory and portray those who disagree in an awful light.
  • Mockumentary: The film is entirely shot as an actual documentary about the murder and trying to piece together what happened given the evidence presented.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: There is little to no explicit gore or violence and little to no explanations. Just photos of what happened and even then they don't cover any actual deaths. Pretty much all of the horror is left up to your imagination...
    • In particular, it’s mentioned that a few of the bodies weren’t even found, with evidence that the attackers dragged them off into the desert afterwards. We never find out why.
  • Police are Useless: Deconstructed; the cops probably could’ve done something, but it’s speculated that the residents of Sangre De Cristo were scared to call them, since many of them were illegal immigrants. Worse, the town was poor and many residents didn’t own proper phones, meaning they couldn’t call if they wanted to.
  • Off Screen Moment Of Awesome: Due to the nature of the film, all of Salazar’s badassery in escaping the mass murder is only talked about, not actually seen.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: The monsters that killed the town are much faster and more brutal than Zombies are usually depicted, and implied to be the result of a Hate Plague. They also look downright demonic at times, though this may simply be due to the poor quality of Salazar’s pictures of them.
  • The Scapegoat: The government of Arizona is accused of using Salazar as one to cover up what really happened.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Salazar in all the footage from after the attack, with good reason.
  • Shock Jock: One of the interviewees is one who tries to portray the incident as the work of some nebulous Mexican gang.
  • Sole Survivor: Salazar is the only survivor of the Sangre De Cristo mass murder, leading to him being the prime suspect.
  • Stylistic Suck: The movie is framed as a rather poor documentary that blatantly tries to equate an unrelated tragedy to the American immigration debate to push the creator’s political view. We also see several in-universe ads and PSA’s, all of which do this in their own way.
  • The Un-Reveal: While the nature of the massacre is strongly indicated (a zombie outbreak), the source of it is never revealed.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: It’s all but explicitly stated that this is what actually happened in Sangre de Cristo. The origins of the zombies go unrevealed, but they are implied to have originated in Mexico.

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