World War Z: The Globalization of the Horror Movie
There has always been one consistent theme to most horror movies; a malevolent presence threatens a small group or individual in a remote and isolated setting. Think of The Night of the Living Dead (a small group in a remote and desolate farmhouse), The Shining (a small group in a remote and desolate hotel, John Carpenter’s classic remake of The Thing (a small group in a remote and desolate arctic station), Friday the 13th (a small group in a remote and desolate summer camp) and most recently Joss Whedon’s brilliant The Cabin in the Woods (a small group in a remote and desolate cabin in the woods.) The list could go on and on. Horror has always been about tension, isolation and even a little bit claustrophobic. World War Z certainly has elements of this theme but then successfully transitions to horror on a global scale.
The action in World War Z spans countries and even continents. The US, Korea, Israel, England and Canada are locales in movie. Don’t get me wrong, there are scenes that are intimate and take place in small enclosed areas such as an apartment building and a research hospital. But the scenes that transform the feeling of the movie are the images of Philadelphia and Jerusalem being overrun by zombies.
In the opening scenes the actions of these zombies are foreshadowed in shots of swarms of bees and insects and flocks of birds. These animals seem to be moving in unison as if controlled by an unseen force. The massive groups of zombies act in similar fashion. They use their own bodies to create towers to scale walls and building. They rush through the streets like the waves of a tsunami, overtaking everything in their path. They are fast! These are no slow lumbering mindless zombies with arms outstretched.
Brad Pitts effectively portrays a former a UN investigator who is recalled to service to help discover the cause of a virus that is turning people into zombies. While the terrific actress Mireille Enos is his wife in a role that reduces her to too many scenes of sitting around looking worried. The film has way too many holes in the plot to sustain credibility and the ending feels rushed and a little too pat. However, I still liked the movie quite a bit.
The pacing is brisk but not frenetic. The special effects are extremely effective. The acting is above par. Of special note are performances by James Badge Dale as an army captain and a very short spot by (a toothless!) David Morse as an ex-CIA agent.