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WWZ… WTF?

Though I studied film in college, and wrote film criticism for three of my university newspapers, I don’t do movie reviews here. However, I do use movies as reference. Often. Personally and professionally, they are a constant source of inspiration. They are for a lot of people. Perhaps more than any other medium, movies shape our popular culture. And in doing so the advertising that permeates it. Like ads, films are accessible to just about everyone. Indeed, when they first came into being movies were made primarily as entertainment for the lower classes. Not as art, per se but so working people could escape from the dreariness of factories and the weariness of farms. The upper classes went to museums and the opera. Until they realized movies were a lot more fun.

Fade to black.

Yesterday, I took in a matinee of Brad Pitt’s apocalyptic thriller, World War Z. Having read the book several years ago and being a major fan of horror (in particular zombie horror), there was zero chance of me not seeing this film. If I didn’t have family responsibilities I would have likely been among the very first.

I’m sure Mr. Pitt and his many nervous backers hope there are plenty more just like me. Reasonable assumption -at least when the film scoped at south of 100 million dollars. After all, zombies have been the new it girls of horror for some time now. From no-budget snarlers to A&E’s The Walking Dead, reanimated corpses have been animating popular culture in frightening proportions.

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The book.

Alas, the troubled film cost over 200 million bones to make. There are not enough fan boys on earth to cover that spread. Which is how I fear this film got into trouble. Trying to capitalize on Pitt’s fame. Trying to capture female viewers. Trying to be all things to all people so as to get box office, World War Z comes off as a middling thriller and a mediocre zombie movie.

One need only look at the PG-13 rating to know WWZ was doomed. With VERY FEW exceptions you just can’t make good undead horror for less than an “R.” For one thing, you can’t show the carnage, which I feel is absolutely necessary to the genre. This film doesn’t. To put it bluntly no one gets eaten in this film. Hell, I don’t recall even seeing blood. On behalf of fan boys everywhere: WTF?

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It ain’t undead if you don’t show some leg (pic from The Walking Dead)

Yet, the film is just intense enough to keep a shit-ton of normies out of it as well. Granted, films like Zombieland and Warm Bodies and shows like The Walking Dead have opened doors to the genre few had thought possible: women, children and happy people.

But not 200 million dollars worth. Case in point, the matinee I saw was less than one third full. And it was raining out! Not a good sign for an aspiring blockbuster in its first week let alone a good horror movie.

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Mr. Popularity!

AdAge, Entertainment Weekly and countless other pubs are running stories on how surprised everyone is about the success of TV show, The Walking Dead. Even the reporters who wrote the stories are amazed.

Really? Hell, I saw this hit shambling up Broadway in spring, when it was first reported in production. With Frank Darabont (Shawshank Redemption) and AMC (Mad Men) behind it, how could The Walking Dead miss?

The surprised ones keep pointing to the show’s characters and their struggle to survive as the reason for TWD’s success. They want to make it clear it’s not the bloody disgusting zombies, God forbid, that are pulling viewers in. Stop it! Of course you need to care about the characters. Otherwise you wouldn’t be frightened by the thought of said characters getting eaten and, better yet, turning into bloody disgusting ghouls themselves.

Don’t kid yourselves. It’s not only the ‘living’ that are interesting. They’re just food. It’s the dead. Put zombies on Gilligan’s Island and it’s gonna fucking work.

Why the insecurity around horror’s popularity? The mainstream treats it like pornography, denying its presence during the day yet wallowing in it at night.

Horror rules. Look at the success of True Blood, already in its 4th season. Granted, the show has a sexy cast and vampires have always been a dark turn-on. But still, compared to sissy shit like Twilight, True Blood has some serious bight. If it didn’t deliver the gore I wouldn’t watch. Lots of people wouldn’t.

Forget bloodsuckers, anyway. Zombies are the new vampires. What took them so long to get on TV? If we had to endure another clique of brooding poseurs pining over unrequited love I’d impale a wooden stake in my heart.

There is ample precedent for TWD’s success everywhere in popular culture. Before he directed SlumDog Millionaire, Danny Boyle helmed 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later. His hyper zombies killed at the box office. And deservedly so. Fact is ever since George Romero created the genre with his nightmare inducing Night of the Living Dead, the undead have been the gruesome princes of filmdom, helping to make horror the most consistently profitable genre in Hollywood. As for books, Oprah Winfrey chose Cormac McCarthy’s dystopian novel, The Road to be on her book club! (Okay, so the antagonists were cannibals not zombies. But it was Oprah Goddamn Winfrey!)

And yet we’re still surprised? Come on, people look alive. The Dead walk!

Thread for fans of The Walking Dead: Roamers and Lurkers

Site that broke news (for me) on The Walking Dead:28 Days Later Analysis