By Gabrielle Morken (Québec)
I was awaiting this for a while, and didn’t quite know what to expect. I’ve read Max Brook’s Zombie Survival Guide, but I have never read the book which this movie is based on, and which goes by the same name. What I saw is that this is not quite your traditional zombie movie, and one must wonder, is it a good idea to change such a basic and simple formula? Well, it’s a different type of zombie movie, but not different enough to say that it has reimagined the entire genre. Is it fun? Personally, I enjoyed it quite a lot, but the reasons why it won’t be a breakthrough aren’t hard to understand. But don’t let that ruin the movie for you…
We will follow ex UN investigator Gerry Lane through a quest to learn about the cause of the epidemic, and hopefully find a solution. Now a family man, Gerry, his wife and their two daughters start out a typical day, when all hell quickly breaks loose as downtown Philadelphia is overrun by zombies. These are sprinters, or zoombies; zombies that run, shriek and attack like mad Vikings. There are two schools of preferences with zombie fans; those who enjoy the classic, shambling George Romero zombie, and those who prefer the 28 Days/Weeks running zombies. This alone could easily decide whether you’re going to enjoy this.
After some intense escaping, Lane and family find shelter in a US Navy vessel, where the aim is to attempt to find the root of the problem, and then eradicate it. Just when our Gerry thinks he can relax, his passed duties as a UN investigator are summoned by what’s left of the government and its military. His mission is to travel to South Korea where the origin of this zombie apocalypse is said to have sparked. He must learn what he can, in an attempt to fix this mess up. Well, Gerry doesn’t want to, but if he doesn’t, him and his family will be denied the safety they just found aboard the ship. Damn government, even in the end of the world they still mess you around!
What follows is Gerry’s trip around the world, as his investigation sends him globe-trotting after enigmas, trails and even conspiracy theories. He will battle zombies, run like hell, come up with good ideas, get messed up and…inevitably…wherever he goes, trouble is sure to be close behind. Seriously, this movie is almost hilarious in the establishment of its progress; wherever Gerry Lane ventures, some complete catastrophe follows about two minutes later. The movie found an excuse for the action scenes at every turn, and whether it does this through completely cookie cutter material or grand scale plot pivoting moments, it does so in a very intelligent way that is never insulting.
Everything flows along quite nicely, even if it’s oh so nauseously cheesy, and there always seems to be a reason for anything to happen. The movie is unbalanced, as many key points come after dragging scenes which never really seemed all that important, but eventually everything nicely clicks together. Some parts are so much more important and climatic than others, but the movie achieves a sense of equality where nothing actually eclipses anything else. Does Gerry find the cause? Can he come up with a solution? Well, this is for you to see, but rest assured, the way the movie goes about its delivery is remarkably fun and clever.
The movie is a little long and drags on every now and then, but everything happens for a reason, and one scene only helps to complement the next. Frankly, I find this to be a bold move when it comes to trying to make intelligent, coherent modern horror. The movie takes itself very seriously, but this is a full scale zombie apocalypse; it all works without being too laughable.
Now, on to the action. For a zombie movie, this doesn’t have that many action scenes, and you might be surprised to hear it, but there is just about next to absolutely no blood or gore ANYWHERE in the movie. I saw this coming like, 15 minutes into it and I was like, oh God no…but fact be told, I found that, after all, this doesn’t ruin the movie at all. Zombies are about guts and blood, and this has none of it, but it somehow manages to get you into the deeper side of zombies. The hopelessness of the situation really makes an impact, and not that this was never done before, but Z really exploits it to a respectable level. We are treated to a lot of emotion and reflection. A lot of it is peppered by lousy character progression, disappointing acting and dumb horror movie clichés, but as far as I’m concerned, that was to be expected.
The movie’s plot and ambiance don’t achieve ground breaking records, but they work, and that was very important, in order for the movie itself to work. But wait, I was talking about action…yes, the action is very intense. I’ve never quite seen zombies this crazy. They’ll run in large masses, crashing into everything, stepping on one another, doing what they can to get their victims. They feel like they are just one single organism, piling themselves up into a literal mountain to catch a helicopter. This is some crazy business, and very fun, if not slightly disturbing, to watch. A new take indeed, or at the very least, a completely crazy exaggeration of the zombie mob concept. Yes, actions scenes will have your heart pounding, you’ll be on the edge of your seat, and the movie has a way of breaking every damn norm that plagues the contemporary American movie; will he make it? You’re often left to wonder, and it holds many a crazy surprise. Not enough to be revolutionary, but it’s fun, nonetheless.
However, here comes the movie’s biggest fault. Everything goes way too fast. It’s all blurry and you can never quite see what’s happening when zombies tumble away down some stairs or when someone’s getting their face chewed off. It’s fast forwarded to a speed I personally believe the eye cannot quite perceive. My dad’s always all like, man I hate slow motion in movies! Well, I hate fast motion. I think this killed a lot of the more intense scenes. I mean you always know what’s going on, but not being able to see it all that good is not something I think the movie did on purpose to get you in some kind of personal point of view. I know they’re sprinters, but slow down a little, please. But to be fair, the movie also lets you explore and look at it, many times. In one scene, we’re treated to an up close shot of a zombie’s face, and it seems that it will never end. I really appreciated the chance to be allowed to take in some zombie goodness detail, complete with protruding teeth, incessant snarling and twitching fingers. There are plenty of “under the microscope” scenes like this throughout. If anything, this whole movie is like a splendid artist who just kind of tripped on his way up to the stand.
The movie also suffers from terribly lame been there seen that moments. A little girl dropping her stuffed animal in the street as all Hell breaks loose and wanting it back, or zombies busting out of closets just when you think it’s not going to happen, if you take your horror seriously, this can be a major turn off…but then, this is what a lot of horror is about. And Z makes it work. I was in the theater, and many times I felt chairs lightly shaking around me as people jumped in their seats and got freaked out. It was kind of funny, but it goes to show that this movie got it quite right when it came to making the classics work. I’m not really complaining here, but I do have to point out, goofy and cookie cutter stuff like that sort of makes fun of how serious this movie is trying to be.
But seriously, go see it for yourself. It’s a great zombie movie, if you’ve the mind for something a little different. The zombies look GREAT, the movie’s imagery is especially well done and chilling, and it accomplishes its feel and point in a way that has left me surprised. I highly suggest it to zombie fans everywhere, and to anyone else if you want a good, scary and enthralling tale. I think they did a good job in trying to add a little spice to the zombie genre, which for years now has been plagued by shaky camera antiques and mock documentaries that pretty much just pissed me off. I mean, can I have an actual zombie movie here? Well folks, here’s a damn fine one.
A lot of people complain; the previews were the best part! Well, it’s not a very traditional zombie picture, but what it does, it does pretty damn good. Keep a bit of an open mind, and have fun.
Rating: 4/5BEST QUOTES