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Kaitlin Williams

Zombie Enthusiast, Social Media Darling, Nerd Girl

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Why “World War Z” Won’t Be the (Un)Death of the Zombie Genre

Despite the fact that Marc Foster’s “World War Z” won’t be hitting theaters until June 21st, the much-beleaguered film has long been a source of trepidation in the sci fi community. Plagued with multiple script rewrites, reshoots, and rescheduled release dates, bad press had this movie surrounded before the first version of the script had even been penned.

And now, with the film’s US release date almost upon us, the latest buzz about the film has mostly been advising potential viewers to lower their expectations.

Charlie Jane Anders of popular Sci-Fi blog io9 offered this tidbit about the film:

“To read the mass of World War Z reviews is to realize how much this film benefits from lowered expectations — a couple years of bad press have lowered the bar to the point where everybody goes in primed for a trainwreck. Instead, they get a reasonably okay film. Albeit one that bears no resemblance to Max Brooks' novel."

 Clearly, this does not bode well.

Malcontents grumbling about the film in blog comments and sci forums are heralding ‘World War Z’ as “the modern day death of zombies”. If February’s sticky-sweet teen zombie romance ‘Warm Bodies’ marked a definitive decline in the state of the genre, then surely WWZ is the metaphorical shotgun blast to the head of the zombie craze, right?

Just a few of the zombie-related grumblings on Twitter

Well....probably not. What pessimistic (read: jaded) fans are failing to remember is that the historical popularity of zombie movies is cyclical, and that the first true surge of zombie-themed cinema actually predated George Romero’s ‘Night of the Living Dead’ (1968) by several decades.

They’re Not All Winners

In fact, zombie movies have been consistently dying, and then rising from the grave, since the 1930’s. And most importantly, not all of them have been good. Actually, so many of them have been so bad that we’ve completely forgotten about their existence. Rather than holding ‘World War Z’ up to classics like ‘Dawn of the Dead’ or the more recent ‘Zombieland’, maybe we should be comparing it to the last forgettable movie in the Resident Evil franchise. Or one of the other four hundred some zombie movies made since the year 2000.

Even if 'World War Z' is as bad as many folks are predicting, it certainly won’t mean the end of the zombie genre as a whole. The movie will simply join the ranks of the other nameless, faceless flesh-eater movies that came and failed before it. (Although it may hold a special place in history as the most expensive zombie failure to date.)

Avoiding the “Z Word”

Of course, all of this is only relevant if World War Z is considered to be a “zombie movie” at all. Despite the film owing it’s title to Max Brooks’ docu-style novel chronicling the years of the “zombie war”, the movie has been less than eager to use the word “zombie” in its trailers. In fact, to a viewer unfamiliar with the subject of Brooks' novel, ‘World War Z’ the movie might not even seem like a zombie film. The titular Z[ombies] are barely shown close-up, so it’s nearly impossible to see whether they’re made up to look like corpses. Aside from their manic sprinting and piling upon each other like ants, they don’t look all that different from humans. Additionally, many of the movie’s early reviews are focusing, not on WWZ’s traits as a conventional horror film, but its merit as an action thriller.

According to IGN’s Scott Collura, “The film, which Pitt also produced, is designed to be less a horror movie than it is a globe-spanning, international thriller, albeit one with zombies in it.”

Making it Memorable

If WWZ actually aspires to become a film worthy of notice within the ranks of zombie movies past, it’s going to have to be exceedingly memorable. The best movies are the ones that push the boundaries of the genre, seeking out new and interesting places to take old, and much-beloved monsters. Remember in 2002, when ‘28 Days Later’’s sprinting rage zombies BLEW OUR MINDS?  We’ll be needing to see something equally groundbreaking in ‘World War Z’ if it hopes to make a lasting impression on the world’s zombie enthusiasts.

Fortunately, this review is not without just a little glimmer of hope. Despite how disappointingly different WWZ is said to be from the original novel, I think it may offer a new and interesting take on the way that zombies move.

Picture courtesy of Screenrant.com

The sprinting zombie is nothing new of course, but the small clips I’ve seen of bitten characters convulsing horribly before their quick transformation into one of the undead, in addition to the footage of zombies climbing on top of each other to create a veritable bridge o' corpses, make me think that there might be some hope for World War Z, and the zombie genre as a whole, after all.

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