Have you ever noticed that people in movies don’t watch movies? They have no cinematic reference at all, as if they’d never seen a single film in their entire lives.
This may not seem so strange at first, but imagine if the characters in a contemporary movie didn’t know what televisions were, or had never heard a radio.
Imagine if, at a crucial moment in the plot, they couldn’t warn their loved ones that the bad guys were on the way, not because they weren’t getting any reception, but because cell phones just didn’t exist. The audiences would throw up their hands in disgust.
In fact, filmmakers go to great lengths to reflect contemporary culture in their stories. They make sure the right cars are used, the right slang, the right clothes. Still, very few characters in films have ever seen a film.
Of course there are exceptions, mainly in comedies (Throw Mama From The Train) or plots that turn on specific film references or knowledge (Scream). But these are the rare exceptions that prove the rule, and it drives us crazy.
Just once we would like characters on screen to see a zombie walking towards them and yell out, “Holy, crap! That’s a zombie! We gotta get outta here before it bites us, and then we turn into zombies too!”
That’s the first thing we’d say.