Zombie thriller family fun
Proving there is more than a little life left in the burgeoning undead genre, “World War Z” is a well-crafted, action-packed, and most impressively, not overly gory horror thrill ride. Some might cry foul at the bloodless depiction of a worldwide virus and its ensuing apocalyptic terror, but “WWZ” makes a credible case that even in the ubiquitous zombie milieu, less can be more.
Oh, and that Brad Pitt as a calm, smart, vulnerable, and very caring father-hero figure at the core of the pandemic panic helps a great deal.
Pitt, who also produced the film (with its many director changes, re-writes, and re-shoots) stars as Jerry Lane, a former U.N. agent, happy to spend time in his Philadelphia home with wife Karin (Mireille Enos) and young daughters Rachel (Abigail Hargrove) and Constance (Sterling Jerins). Stuck in traffic one day, the family is immediately thrown into hysteria as the infected and their quick turning victims begin attacking every living thing in sight.
And these aren’t the old-fashioned slow-motion undead your grandma could outrun.
These zombies or “zekes” as they are referred to, move, jump, and run at hyper speed. In one of the film’s most chilling scenes, the ravenous, snarling creatures, incited to a frenzy by loud noises, scale the towering walls of Jerusalem by crawling upon each other like a maniacal ant hill of insatiable human monsters.
“WWZ” starts at a breakneck speed and keeps its pedal to the metal for most of the story. But director Marc Forster—responsible for so many good films, “The Kite Runner,” “Stranger Than Fiction,” “Finding Neverland,” that we’ll forgive him for “Quantum of Solace,” and “Machine Gun Preacher,” – deftly knows when to slow down things to bring out the heartwarming subtext as Jerry works on curing the virus in order to keep his family in a military protected safe zone.
In addition, a scene at a lab in Wales where a potential antidote may reside is constructed like a nightmarish spook ally, where Jerry and a team must move in and around, ever so quietly, among some of the scariest zombies ever filmed. You’ll never think of bulging eyes and chattering teeth the same way again.
Reminiscent of Steven Spielberg’s “War of the Worlds” in all the right ways, Forster and crew create some terrific visuals without resorting to gratuitous violence – not easy to do these days with an ever-increasingly cynical and a desensitized public that is accustomed to seeing gruesome material at home on premium cable.
Zombie genre fans may feel “World War Z” is too tame.
But credit is due a film that brings back the family horror theatrical experience. What family doesn’t need a little more togetherness, white knuckles and audible gasps notwithstanding?
Rated PG-13 for intense, frightening zombie sequences, violence and disturbing images.