Where does one begin with such a convoluted movie? Especially when said reviewer swore he’d never watch it, or at least refused to watch it in theaters. Be that as it may, I knew i’d eventually screen the DVD once it was released to Red-box or some other rental avenue; I wasn’t going to purchase the thing, and thank Valhalla for that. As it seems, the criticisms I had before watching the movie (only seeing the previews) were replaced with other criticisms. But not everything regarding World War Z is horrible, while watching this popcorn flick, there were moments of real enjoyment. So, lets get to the nitty-gritty and find what made WWZ good, and what made WWZ not so good.
Ignoring the traditional chronological review format, lets tackle this beast one issue at a time. First, the overwhelming reason I swore up and down i’d never spend my hard earned dough on seeing this “zombie” movie in theaters: Zombie Ants and CGI. CGI, as we’ve discussed on this site before, has its place in cinema. Sci-fi movies are a good place to put good moments of CGI action; not horror movies. Horror, in my humble opinion, should remain traditional, but then again, is WWZ a horror movie? The PG-13 rating bothers me. Granted, some really good horror can be done on a PG-13 MPAA rating, consider: Insidious, Drag Me to Hell, 1408, The Sixth Sense, and The Possession as just a few examples. But this is a zombie movie. Can you name one zombie movie with a PG-13 rating?
The fact that no one else has made a PG-13 zombie movie isn’t the point. The point is that we’re talking about a zombie movie, plain and simple, and zombie movies require a certain quantity of gore. There were plenty of moment where I found myself expecting for something bloody to happen, such as: the entire movie…and also anytime someone was bitten or how about when Gerry chops (more like swipes, though) off Segen’s hand. Did you notice how she didn’t even bleed!! I’m sorry, you hack someones appendage with a bayonet, there will be blood…lots and lots of blood. Prime-time television has more blood and guts then this movie did. Consider the Walking Dead; granted, The Walking Dead is rated (somehow) PG-14, but still. The point is, couldn’t producers muster up a little more gore without tripping into a R-rating? And the even more pressing point: Zombie movies shouldn’t even be done on a PG-13 rating. All you get is disappointment. Sure, there might be something wrong with us zombie horror fans, but we’ve been messed up for a long time, no need in changing the formula now.
As for CGI, my opinion on the matter has changed somewhat. It would seem near impossible, budget wise, to have scenes showing the zombie apocalypse on a global scale without the use of some CGI clips. Notice the two highlighted words there? Some and clips are key components on keeping CGI from going King Kong. Not that i’m a huge fan of the whole zombie ants thing, but those moments could have been better if only they had cut the screen times short a little. And since we’re on the subject of zombie ants: what genius marketed this movie based solely on those moments from the movie? Igits! Had they shown some of the other scenes without the mindless rage monsters piling on top of each other and knocking over buses, then maybe (big maybe) I would have seen the movie in theaters. There is an actual chance I might see the sequel (whenever that comes out!) because WWZ wasn’t all that bad. Here are some of the parts that I found to be good:
- When the movie cuts to the main protagonist, Gerry, there is a delay before his kids run into the bedroom. In my opinion, this was a nod to the Dawn of the Dead 2004 remake.
- The doomed apartment rooftop escape reminded me of the Left 4 Dead level, Mercy.
- The beginning of the film highlighted the essential element in zombie story telling: panicking people doing bad things.
- Theme of ignorance until its too late. Pay attention to the conversation between Gerry and Jurgen Warmbrunn, the Director of Mossad. Warmbrunn mentions the Nazi Holocaust and how a majority of European Jewry refused to believe that concentration camps were possible, that there was no way Hitler would do such a thing; until by 1940 the SS began to round folks up on transports. I’m currently taking a Holocaust class and found this tidbit regarding human denial interesting.
- And then there’s this guy, who so happens to be a doctor working for W.H.O. See what I did there? Was this some bizarre easter egg or just happenstance?
Bottom Line: The movie wasn’t as horrible as I originally thought. But, for a movie claiming to be a zombie flick, there was still a lot of let down. It’d be hard to pull off a good zombie movie on a PG-13 rating, though its not impossible. I’m not sure how the MPAA works, but i’m curious if they can up the ante by pushing for a PG-14 rating like The Walking Dead? Just saying, the whole severed hand and zero blood is still bugging me. And then again, the big issue with WWZ is that we cannot approach it with a Romero lens. WWZ is more akin to 28 Days Later and if looked at in that respect, it was a decent “zombie” plague movie, especially from a global perspective. If you missed WWZ in theaters, like me, go out and rent it; I still wouldn’t recommend buying it.
The recent box office success of The Conjuring has left me pondering the fate of horror. It would be hard to ignore the already surpassed nine-figure profit The Conjuring has reeled in amidst the summer blockbuster season. Their success is worth celebrating for horror fans everywhere; however, their high box office success has also left me a bit concerned for the future of horror films. Why? Well…we have to consider the nature and history of horror compared to the normalcy of Hollywood. Horror, in my eyes, has never been Hollywood…well, at least serious horror has never been Hollywood. The Conjuring’s success was surprising, typically horror, with its narrow target audience, has never really done well at the box office, but somehow this haunted “true life” tale made it through a season traditionally dominated by CGI and big name actors and actresses. The sheer awesomeness in the fact that this low-budget, high-quality horror story knocked the socks off the higher-budget movies is worth toasting, but as we drink in their success, the impact The Conjuring has had on the minds and pocketbooks in Hollywood Land has made me very very weary.
The Conjuring was produced on a mere $20 million budget and has, so far, raked in over $100 million. With a success story like this, its only a matter of time before other studios begin to take a swing at low-budget horror. This begs the question: will indie horror’s new found attention be good or bad for the future of horror? When these Hollywood studios begin to look at horror as a new cash cow, how will their motives effect the way horror is told? Will there be wave after wave of horrible horror flops in hopes of catching one money-making juggernaut? Or will it go the other avenue that so many other promising horror movies have gone? Consider World War Z, a mainstream high budget Hollywood “horror” movie if there ever was one. Though, I’d consider WWZ to be more action-horror than serious horror because of its use of CGI to create fantastic scenes instead of developing deeper character stories, WWZ was only moderately tolerable than first expected. However, lets be frank here, WWZ was more Schwarzenegger than Romero, more Micheal Bay than the original Max Brooks novel by the same name. This is what happens when horror goes mainstream: developers, producers, directors ditch original material for something with a little more glitter.
Perhaps my weariness boils down to a firm belief that the words lucrative and horror should never coexist. To be honest, the only reason I even look at box office ratings is to somehow gauge how receptory audiences are towards certain films that interest me. The Conjuring could have been a box office disaster and I would still tell you that it is without a doubt the best movie of the summer. Historically, horror movies have never done that well with mainstream audiences. It is only when the film are released on home video that these movies gain cult followings. Consider the Texas Chain Saw Massacre as proof of the importance of indie films remaining indie. This 1974 masterpiece was one of the best low-budget slasher films in the history of savage cinema. Today, critics and fans alike hail TCSM as one of the greatest films ever made, capturing the true essence of the shattered dreams of American life in the thralls of Vietnam. However, when Texas Chain Saw Massacre first released in theaters, Hollywood critics tore the movie to pieces (forgive the pun). The success of TCSM has much to owe to its cult following than its box office rating. Should I even mention the 2003 reboot? Lets just not go there, okay?
To say the least, I’m extremely satisfied with the success The Conjuring has been enjoying. Its nice getting to see a genre I’ve loved since my sister let me watch Night of the Living Dead when I was a kid do so well in theaters. But when I stop and think about what their success might end of doing to my beloved genre…well, I get a little nervous. However, I cannot argue with the historical success of mainstream movies such as Jaws or Poltergeist. Both of these movies were produced by popular Hollywood studios, coming out the other side with both a high box office rating and cult following. But these are few and far between. It seems, for the most part, originality and Hollywood are exclusive from each other. For now, we should all toast The Conjuring for pulling off the near impossible, whilst maintaining a cautionary eye on the west coast.