"I'm just going to write because I can't help it."- Charlotte Brontë

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Zombies, Zombies Everywhere


NO IMPORTANT SPOILERS, I THINK. I MEAN, IT'S A ZOMBIE MOVIE, FOR GOODNESS SAKE. WHAT'S TO GIVE AWAY?

As, supposedly, the first zombie movie in with a chance to win an Oscar, World War Z is a zombie movie for people who don't like zombie movies. In other words, it's classier than your average zombie movie - possibly even art house zombie?

 There are no scenes of gory evisceration, strewn body parts, intestines being slurped like spaghetti or close-ups of livers and brains being chewed with messy relish. Sure there are splashes of blood tastefully spurting across faces here and there, but that's about it. There are no cheap gross out shots of ripped off limbs being passed around to upset the audience here. No mumbled utterances of 'braaaaains!' either. Even the zombies themselves are quite nice looking. Not as nice looking as the walking dead in Warm Bodies, but they're not missing jaws and cheeks, rotting in horrible places or flaking all over the carpet.

But they're still very scary. They're scary because there are simply so so many of them (I was wondering whether there was an overpopulation subtext tucked away in the movie, but that's probably overthinking the script), they're fast, and they're a monolithic force of unthinking, unrelenting undeadness coming straight at you. You can't even take a rest from their scariness by making fun of their ridiculous shambling gait or making silly groaning noises, because these former guys and gals are silent and swift, agile hunters that bring folk down within seconds of targeting them. They're deadly efficient killing machines designed for the sole purpose of replicating themselves.

Which is why WWZ is really more of an international medical thriller than a zombie movie, sort of Contagion with speedy corpses in lieu of an invisible virus. That said, plagues that move swiftly and have a high rate of attrition are panic-inducing at a primal level - I kept thinking about the Black Death diary entries I read a long time ago which recorded how people woke up feeling fine, had boils by lunchtime, and were dead by the evening. The scenes of mass, blind terror in the face of unbeatable odds are effectively portrayed. I mean, what can your average person do when overwhelmed by a veritable tsunami of undead monsters? One tensely watches the screen and hopes that in  similar situation one would be as cool as Brad Pitt's character, but...hmmm. Zombies or viruses, people are mostly not good at being calm and rational when everyone around them is screaming and scrambling to save their own butts. While still entertaining us, WWZ does good job of showing how quickly society can break down and revert to the rule of gun-power and elite connections. Useful and rich people are saved. Non-skilled folk and the unwashed masses are left behind as zombie bait. A certain amount of the film's scariness comes from acknowledging deep down inside that, come the Zombie Apocalypse, most of us would probably end up tackling the rampaging hordes as best we can all on our own with a pointy stick.

 So yeah, WWZ was deliciously fright-inducing, as any good zombie movie should be, and, ditto, fun to watch, with splatterings of supernatural, Hollywood-style social commentary added to the mix to give it that much desired, mainstream respectability that many genre pieces subconsciously crave.

2 comments:

parlance said...

Don't worry about spoilers on my account. There is NO way I'm going to see a zombie movie. But I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Gitte Christensen said...


Ah well, but if you ever do succumb to the desire to watch some rotting flesh streak across a screen, this would be the movie for you.

Besides, zombies are totally respectable now. They even have their own History Channel documentary called 'Zombies. A Living History'. My brother bought it last week, but I haven't watched it yet. According to the blurb, zombies are as old as the Epic of Gilgamesh. Since I couldn't recall such an thing from my long ago reading of EoG, I Googled, and sure enough, there it is, the threat of a Zombie Apocalypse:

Ishtar spoke to her father, Anu, saying:
"Father, give me the Bull of Heaven,
so he can kill Gilgamesh in his dwelling.
If you do not give me the Bull of Heaven,
I will knock down the Gates of the Netherworld,
I will smash the door posts, and leave the doors flat down,
and will let the dead go up to eat the living!
And the dead will outnumber the living!"

So they're as old as the oldest hills. :)