Zombie Movie

World War Z

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2013

Paramount Pictures

Directed by Marc Forster

Produced by Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner & Ian Bryce

Screenplay by Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard and Damon Lindelof

Story by Matthew Michael Carnahan & J. Michael Straczynski  

Based on “World War Z” by Max Brooks

For me, it’s strictly the curiosity factor. Kinda like when I heard that Russell Crowe was in “The Man With The Iron Fists.” I mean, the guy’s an Academy Award winner. What the hell was he doing in a Kung Fu movie? That’s the same reaction I had when I heard about WORLD WAR Z. I mean, Brad Pitt’s a guy who’s been nominated something like four or five times for an Oscar and he’s won a Golden Globe. Moly Hoses, what’s he doing in a zombie movie? I’ve heard that he did it primarily because his sons wanted to see him in a zombie movie. I dunno how true that is but I do know that WORLD WAR Z may just be the first family friendly Zombie Apocalypse movie. Seriously. Finally we’ve got a horror movie you can take the whole family to see.

The Earth is infested with a global outbreak of what can only be described as zombies. They run around like roadrunners on crack, spreading the plague faster than the nations of the world can mobilize a response. Israel closes her borders. No word at all comes out of India and Russia and its assumed they are lost. Former United Nations investigator Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) and his family barely escape Philadelphia before it is overrun with zombies. They are taken to an aircraft carrier parked some 200 miles off the coast of New York City and Gerry is pressured into helping investigate where the plague began as any hope of finding a cure lies with the origin of the disease.

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From there, Gerry hopscotches around the world, from South Korea, to Israel and to Wales on the track of the cause of the Zombie Apocalypse, staying one step ahead of the tidal waves of zombie hoards and desperately trying to save what’s left of the world and his family.

WORLD WAR Z is without a doubt the most bloodless Zombie movie I’ve ever seen. Those of you reading this who are fans of “The Walking Dead” are going to be disappointed with this one. There’s no gore, no bodies being ripped apart. No long, lingering shots of Zombies munching on screaming human appetizers. Oh, we see people getting bit but nobody gets et. Or even eaten. Zombies are taken out with head shots, sure, but there’s no brains and blood flying around. When skulls are bashed in the baseball bats and crowbars don’t have any blood dripping from them. There’s one character who has to have her hand cut off in order to save her from being infected and there’s no gouts or geysers of blood that we have a right to expect.

Did I mention that this is Brad Pitt in a zombie movie?

?????????????????????The zombies in this movie are Boyle Zombies, not Romero Zombies. By that I mean they act more like The Infected of “28 Days Later” and “28 Weeks Later.” They run fast enough to make Usain Bolt look sick and they swarm in packs like locusts. But for all their menace, the violence in WORLD WAR Z is relatively mild. Seriously. You’ll see more horrifying violence in an episode of “Hannibal” than you will in this movie. Matter of fact, most of the time we see enormous packs of zombies swarming over walls and running through streets and over rooftops, not chomping on folks. It isn’t until the suspenseful final level of the movie where Gerry and two others have to very quietly  sneak into a medical complex overrun with zombies that the director Marc Forster really delivers some scares. I’m not much of a fan of Forster’s directorial style and there’s nothing he does here to change my mind. He’s yet another director who’s in love with shaky-cam because it’s easier for him to swing the camera around wildly instead of storyboarding coherent action sequences.

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But I liked the video game aspect of the movie. Gerry’s going from country to country is akin to him going through the different levels of a video game as there are specific tasks he has to accomplish every place he visits before he can advance to the next. And each level comes complete with a different set of supporting characters, each of who have specific tasks of their own that help Gerry accomplish his.

Brad Pitt is better than he has to be for a movie of this nature. He doesn’t play a two-fisted, guns-a-blazin’ action hero. He’s a committed family man who loves his wife and children deeply and that’s the note he plays through the whole movie. Mireille Enos plays Gerry’s wife and I was really sorry to see her stuck on the aircraft carrier for most of the movie as during the early scenes she demonstrates that she’s no shrieking fishwife. She’s just as capable and resourceful as her husband during this hellish crisis. Daniella Kertesz is terrific as an Israeli soldier who joins Gerry in his mission.

So should you see WORLD WAR Z? As I said earlier, this is a zombie movie that you can take the whole family to. I say that because of the strong family aspect of the movie that motivates the Brad Pitt character and the relatively moderate violence level of the movie. This is a PG-13 movie, after all. It’s not a movie I’d say you have to run out to see but if you can catch it at a matinee as I did I say go for it. I don’t think you’ll feel that your time was wasted.

And do you really want to miss out on seeing Brad Pitt in a zombie movie?

PG-13

116 minutes

Night Of The Living Dead (1968)

1968

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Directed by George A. Romero

Produced by Karl Hardman and Russell Streiner

Written by George A. Romero and John A. Russo

It’s not given to many men or women in the entertainment field to say that they created a genre and even George A. Romero himself would resist being labeled as such. He freely admits in interviews that he “ripped-off” Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend in his creation of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. Me, I think he’s way too hard on himself. Sure, he may have used Mr. Matheson’s brilliant horror/science fiction concept as the springboard for his own now classic horror masterpiece.  But I believe that Mr. Romero brought enough of his own ideas to this interpretation of Mr. Matheson’s book that NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD does indeed qualify as a brilliant work of cinematic art in its own right. And besides all that, it’s simply a damn good movie whose main desire is to keep us on the edge of our seats, biting our nails for 96 minutes and it succeeds.

And besides, considering the hordes of zombie movies that came after NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, many of them true rip-offs, remakes, imitators, reworkings, parodies and the like, if Romero feels any guilt about ripping-off Matheson, then being ripped-off in return must soothe his conscience. Even video games such as  House of The Dead and Dead Rising owe their creation to NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD.

It’s the day when Daylight Savings Time goes into effect when we meet sister and brother Barbra (Judith O’Dea) and Johnny (Russell Streiner) who are visiting their father’s grave in a rural region of Pennsylvania. It’s in the graveyard that we get the now famous “They’re coming to get you, Barbra” scene as Johnny teases her in that truly annoying way brothers tease their sisters. Having two sisters myself I am quite familiar with this technique. Barbra is creeped out by a strangely behaving man coming towards them and doesn’t think that Johnny’s “They’re coming to get you, Barbra” is very funny and pretty soon Johnny doesn’t think it’s funny either as the man attacks them both.

Barbra gets away and with the zombie in pursuit manages to find refuge in a farmhouse. Also taking refuge in the farmhouse is Ben (Duane Jones) who has to take charge of the situation as the shock of her experience is catching up to Barbra. They soon find they’re not alone. Hiding in the basement is the married couple Harry and Helen Cooper (Karl Hardman, Marilyn Eastman) who barely escaped from a gang of zombies that overturned their car. Their daughter Karen (Kyra Schon) has been unconscious ever since she was bitten by a zombie. Teenage sweethearts Tom (Keith Wayne) and Judy (Judith Ridley)likewise sought safety in the farmhouse after hearing an emergency broadcast.

Harry and Ben immediately start doing the alpha male dance, each insisting their plan for survival is best. Harry wants to stay down in the basement and keep quiet. Ben’s plan is to turn on every light in the house, make as much noise as he can boarding up the windows and doors and playing the radio as loudly as possible. Remember this because I’ll come back to it soon.

While the radio reports that all over the United States the dead are coming back to life and eating the living, the small group attempts to survive the night against the growing number of zombies attacking the lonely farmhouse. That’s if they don’t kill each other due to their constant bickering and inability to work together.

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD always gets praised for having as its hero a black man. And as Ben, Duane Jones is certainly heroic looking and heroic sounding. He takes charge. He’s resourceful and courageous. He offers hope to the others that they will survive the night. He makes plans. Unfortunately those plans also get everybody killed. Next time you watch the movie, watch it a little more carefully. Each and every thing that Ben does ends up getting somebody killed. Ironically, Ben survives the attack of the zombies by doing what Harry said right from the start: go in the basement and be quiet. Ben’s turning on all the lights and making all that noise is what draws all the zombies to the farmhouse in the first place. Makes me wonder if the statement the movie is making about having a black man as the hero isn’t the one that everybody praises it for.

But that’s a conversation for another time. Taken as pure entertainment, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD still holds up for me. It’s filmed in a documentary-like manner that should be studied by those filmmakers who are so in love with shaky-cam. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is a perfect example of how to make your audience feel like they’re in the middle of the action without giving them motion sickness. Supposedly the cast improvised much of their dialog and I believe it. There’s a real heat in the scenes between Harry and Ben as they’re struggling for control of the farmhouse’s resources and the group. For me, a lot of what makes this movie still effective is that nobody looks or acts like a movie star. For better or for worse they act like regular people caught up in a really terrifying predicament.

So should you see NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD? Without a doubt. It’s one of the greatest and most influential horror movies ever made. You’ve probably seen one of the two remakes (1990 and 2006) or the six sequels that were made. If not, it’s a sure bet you’ve seen one of the many zombie movies influenced by the original. Somewhere in your personal movie watching history you’ve seen a zombie movie, I’m sure. So why not take a look at the classic that started it all?

96 minutes

28 Days Later

2002

Fox Searchlight Pictures

Directed by Danny Boyle

Produced by Andrew Macdonald

Written by Alex Garland

The world of 28 DAYS LATER will be very familiar to those of us who have watched End of the World classics such as “The World, the Flesh and The Devil” and “The Omega Man”.  People are fascinated by the idea of the World As We Know It Coming To An End.  And 28 DAYS LATER does a truly awesome job of not only convincing us of the reality of what we’re watching, it makes us think about the destructiveness of human nature.  There is nothing in the movie that does not occur save through human arrogance and failure.  Arrogance in our stubborn belief that we can control forces best left alone and failure through our refusal to maintain belief in our better instincts.

28 DAYS LATER starts off like that great classic sci-fi film, “The World, The Flesh and The Devil”. Remember that one?  The first 20 minutes or so of that movie had Harry Belafonte wandering through an eerily deserted New York, looking for people and not finding a living soul.  That’s the exact same situation that confronts the main character of this movie.  Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes up in a hospital with no memory of how he got there and after unplugging himself from the various machines he’s been hooked up to and finding clothes, Jim leaves the hospital and wanders into a London that seems devoid of people.  Jim desperately tries to find out what has happened and runs into a pack of red-eyed humans who act like total homicidal maniacs.  He is rescued by Selena (Naomi Harris) and Mark (Noah Huntley) who inform him that 28 days ago, England was consumed by a plague called Rage which turns those Infected by it into murderous maniacs who only want to kill.  There is no cure.  There is no hope that anyone will find a cure.  The only thing left is to survive and slay.

Even in this horrifying situation, there are those with hope.  Frank (Brendan Gleeson) and his daughter Hannah (Megan Burns) join up with Jim and Selena (notice I didn’t mention Mark?  Don’t ask what happens to him. Not pretty, yo) and decide to get out of London.  Frank has picked up radio signals from the north from an Army outpost that promises food, shelter and safety from the roving packs of Infected who dominate London.  And they leave London on a road trip to Hope that leads right into Hell.

28 DAYS LATER has been compared to George Romero’s zombie movies and to be honest, there are several scenes and plot elements that appear to have been lifted straight from “DAWN OF THE DEAD”.  I’m thinking of the scene in the supermarket that mirrors the mall-shopping scene in the Romero movie and the whole second half of the movie where our heroes are at odds with the military who they were hoping would keep them safe.  In fact, that’s an entire subplot in itself of the movie: how our reliance on institutions and people we have been programmed to believe will keep us safe turn on us and devour us.  The most frightening monsters in 28 DAYS LATER are not The Infected as we are led to believe. No…the real monsters in this movie are the human beings like us.  As we watch what they are driven to in order to survive, you gradually realize something that is truly scary: it’s the so-called normal humans who are doing the most frightening things to each other.

The movie is filmed with hand held cameras in a realistic, documentary-like fashion that draws you into the reality of what is going on.  Naomie Harris is particularly good as Selena and she demonstrates in one brutally violent scene that she is a sista that is out to survive.  It’s a remarkable scene and you’ll know what I’m talking about when you see it.  Cillian Murphy is also quite good as Jim and one of the most horrifying things about the movie is watching as he rapidly adapts to this new world he’s woken up to.  In fact, I don’t think there is a bad acting job in this entire movie.  28 DAYS LATER hooks you right from the start and you just sit there and are just assaulted by the raw realism that an unthinkable situation is presented.  Is 28 DAYS LATERworth your time and your money?  Hell, yes.  It’s a brutally intelligent horror movie that in light of our world today doesn’t seem all that all far away from where we are now.

28 DAYS LATER isn’t as gory or as bloody as you might have been led to believe.  In fact, “BAD BOYS II” had more violent scenes that disturbed me than this movie.  The violence in 28 DAYS LATER is quite appropriate to the subject matter and supports the story and characters.  Have a  good time being scared outta your ya-ya.

112 Minutes

Rated R