Review – You Know, There Just Aren’t Enough “Zombie” Movies… (“World War Z”)

First off, this ain’t yo’ daddy’s zombie movie.

If you’re a fan of George Romero, Fangoria Magazine, or the cable series, “The Walking Dead”, you might want to think twice about seeing this thinking-man’s zombie apocalypse film, loosely based on the 2006 novel by Max Brooks (son of comedy icon, Mel Brooks). There’s almost no bloodshed here and zero dismemberment, bodies torn limb from limb, brains being eaten by the living dead, or other gruesome delicacies that are so prevalent in other zombie genre movies. Actually, it’s kinda refreshing!

Brad Pitt plays Gerry Lane, an ex-U.N. strategist and family man who is caught up in the sudden and unexpected (but really, aren’t they all?) zombie apocalypse. His wife Karen (Mireielle Enos) and his two kids, Rachel (Abigail Hargrove) and Constance (Sterling Jerins) out run the teaming hoard of really, really fast moving zombies and make it, thanks to some government connections, to a safety aboard a Navy aircraft carrier. But Gerry, being a smart guy and all, is sent on a fact-finding mission to find out A) what caused the pandemic and B) how to stop it. Treating this like a typical disease, Gerry initiates a hunt for Patient Zero and the source of the outbreak…while millions are being turned into zombies by the minute! (12 seconds is all it takes after you’re bitten, it seems)

His search takes him to Korea where he thinks he finds the alleged Patient Zero, but all that yields him is a mysterious e-mail clue that leads him to Jerusalem. There things go very bad there as zombies, like a swarm of pissed-off ants, storm the high walls of the city and Gerry barely makes it out with his life, with the help of a spunky female soldier simply called Segen (Daniella Kertesz). But, in the midst of all the chaos, Gerry sees something odd. Zombies NOT attacking certain people. Aha! Could this be a clue!?

On a plane trip to W.H.O. (the World Health Organization) in Wales, the plane crashes and kills everyone aboard… everyone, that is, except Gerry and Segen. (I know, don’t start with me on this point). Anyway, at the clinic (which was only a few miles away when the plane crashed, surprisingly), they discuss the zombie’s attitude with the remaining scientists there and a weird solution is reached… well, not so much a solution to the zombies end, but… shall we say… a way around it? A rather clever and brilliant one that I didn’t see coming!

This is “Quarantine” or “Outbreak” with a nasty zombie apocalypse thrown in for good measure. Incredible CGI effects heighten the level of excitement as Pitt runs around the globe trying to figure out the mystery. This movie has been noted for being plagued with productions problems, multiple script and cast changes, and generally bad press. Sure, it has some plot holes (like the ones I mentioned), but their not half as bad as the ones in “Man of Steel”. This movie stands on it’s own and delivers solid performances all around.

Personally, I liked it because of the fact it DIDN’T have all the ribald carnage and in-your-face eviscerations that most film makers feel the need to throw up on the screen to give the audiences the “shock ‘n’ awe” that replaces the quality of the writing. Can’t think of a quality scene with decent dialoge? We’ll just tear someone’s body in two! Go see it and you be the judge.

There have been SO may “zombie” movies, both American and foreign, that the saturation into the film market in unparalleled. But if you want to talk about the one single film that everyone with pretty much agrees set the standard for today’s zombie flick, that would be the quintessential zombie movie, “Night of the Living Dead” by George Romero. Let’s take a look at this genre-breaking movie that defined its own category:

THE ZOMBIE MOVIE THAT STARTED IT ALL

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Low budget ($114,000), shot in rural Evans City, Pennsylvania with local actors (and non-actors) and directed by a nobody film student, everyone thought George Romero was nuts. In fact, the original script was a comedy about runaway space alien teenagers! Yikes!

But from the opening shot in the Evans City cemetery with innocent’s Johnny (Russell Striener) and his high-strung sister, Barbara (Judith O’dea) visiting their fathers grave and delivering some gallows humor…”They’re coming to get you, Barbara!”, and THEN having a strange vagrant (i.e. a zombie) played by Bill Hinzman suddenly attack her, we know we’re in for a rare and different treat.

From there, it’s a roller coaster ride of mayhem with Johnny dying in front of her eyes, Barbara driving off in a crazed state, and meeting Ben (Duane Jones) at a seemingly abandoned farm house, where they both take refuge from others who are “coming to get them”. Barely an explanation as to who or why this is happening, inside they meet more scared people: married couple Harry (Karl Hardman) and Helen Cooper (Marilyn Eastman) and their little girl, Karen (Kyra Schon) and a teenage couple, Tom (Keith Wayne) and Judy (Judith Ridley).

Once the pleasantries are exchanges and Barbara stops with her rants and fits, they learn via the TV that the country is experiencing a wave of mass murders brought on by the reanimated dead and that “they” are consuming the flesh of the living. Yuck! Experts and scientists conclude that a space probe returning from Venus spread radiation when it exploded entering the Earth’s atmosphere. But it’s to late to figure that out, the zombies are hungry and it’s suppertime!

Faster that you can say, “pass me the Heinz 57”, the ghoulish groupies attack the farm house and the real fun begins with the gang inside going crazy trying to board the place up and NOT get killed in the process. Bickering, arguing, acts of cruelty, cowardice, and bravery all come out from each of these people as the night wanes. Unfortunately, one by one, each one gets picked off as zombie people chow.

In the end, full of pathos and tragic irony, the last man standing alive awaits to what he thinks is his rescue from the zombie attack, but he is in for a BIG surprise!

Okay, so the acting is community theater at times and the plotting gets a little absurd, but you can’t deny that this movie was not only revolutionary for it’s time, but was almost banned because of it’s explicit content (people eating entrails, blood dripping from orifices, tongues licking bones with flesh on them, etc). Eventually it did get critical acclaim and was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry as a film deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. How’s that for a no-budget film made by nobody film maker?

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