Saturday, June 27, 2015

Show and Tell: Brad Pitt Ruined World War Z Like A Big Ruiner

I'd like to start this discussion off by reiterating that I am a huge fan of The Faculty of Horror.  I've already mentioned in a previous post that they are one of my favorite podcasts and that they bring an intelligence to horror that is a rare find in the genre.  I'm always excited for their next episode, and I've been introduced to some really great horror movies because of them.

That being said, I am so fucking mad at them for making me watch World War Z.  This was a movie that I have actively avoided ever since I heard that Brad Pitt's Plan B production company had optioned Max Brooks' novel.  In the novel World War Z, Brooks took the zombie story and made something truly new and exciting.  This wasn't the standard "group of people fortify themselves to fend off the zombie horde" story arc that Romero invented and from which many others borrowed.  This was essentially a faux history book that chronicled Earth's descent into and fight out of the zombie apocalypse.  In order to do the book justice, I pictured a Ken Burns-esque documentary that would interweave interviews and narration over "footage" of the war.  I'd watch that kind of an adaptation even if it were 109 hours long just like all of the other Ken Burns documentaries.

Unfortunately, rather than a novel twist on the zombie genre, what we get from Plan B is a neutered, PG-13 rated bore that tosses aside almost everything about what made the book so fascinating.  Rather than introducing a cast of diverse, complex characters that help piece together the puzzle with their own small part of the narrative, we get Brad Pitt playing Jerry Lane, a character who isn't even in the goddamn book.  As Lane travels the globe in search for a cure to the zombie plague, most of the other characters spend an average of 4 minutes on screen before dying and leaving us to look at Jerry's stupid fucking hair by ourselves again.

To help understand what went wrong with the production of World War Z, Faculty of Horror linked to a story by Vanity Fair about the delays, budget problems, and on-set conflicts that plagued the movie.  Rather than put things in perspective and let me cut the movie some slack, this story only highlighted why Plan B should never have touched the movie in the first place.  My mind shorted out and went to white noise after reading the quote from producer Ian Bryce, who said of the movie's ambitions,  "It’s a zombie movie.  They go around and bite people.”  For me, that quote encapsulates why World War Z was wasted on Plan B.

I think part of what also bothers me so much about this movie is that Brad Pitt has been part of some truly great stuff in the past.  Se7en is, of course, a classic.  Fight Club, while not horror, is dark and fascinating to watch.  And in both of these movies, Pitt's contributions were a large part of why I enjoyed them.  So the fact that he took World War Z in the direction he did is all the more infuriating.

When asked why he took the movie in the direction that he did, Pitt explained that he wanted to make a zombie movie that his kids could watch.  I won't begrudge him that notion, but World War Z was not the material with which to make such a movie.  In fact, I'll take that a step further and offer a perfect alternative:  Jonathan Maberry's Rot and Ruin series.  Rot and Ruin is a quadrilogy of Young Adult novels about a group of teenagers struggling and fighting in the years following a world-wide zombie plague.  It's really strong work with a story structure much better-suited for straight-forward film adaptation.  And I'm sure Pitt could have found a way to cram himself into a role.

One relief for me is that the Faculty of Horror may have hated this movie even more than I did.  Listening to them absolutely eviscerate it for the better part of thirty minutes reassured me of their taste in movies, and I can appreciate essentially being trolled for the sake of a good discussion.  In fact, some of the most memorable discussions I've ever had were about movies I hated rather than those that I loved.  Plus, they're making it up to me big time with their next episode, which will focus on Hellraiser and Hellraiser II.  As you may know, I have a slight affinity for this franchise.

Aside from a big pile of zombie failure, I had a chance to delve into a few horror movies that I'd been meaning to see while my wife was out of town with her boyfriend at a conference.  My experience with giallo movies is fairly limited, so I watched Dario Argento's Inferno, the second in his "Three Sisters" trilogy.  I had a pretty good time watching it, looking out for the giallo staples such as the black-gloved killer, who of course made an appearance.  One thing that I'm curious about, however, is what Argento's budget was for pink light bulbs.  Everything in this movie seemed to have a pink back drop, and I'd be interested to know if this is another staple of giallo in general or if this is specific to Argento.

Also on the docket for me last week was a movie I've wanted to see ever since Rue Morgue magazine did a piece on a while back, Motel Hell.  Made by Kevin Connor in 1980, Motel Hell features brother and sister duo Vincent and Ida Smith (Rory Calhoun and Nancy Parsons), who run Motel Hell while also making renowned meats, which, as you may have guessed, are made from wayward travelers that the Smiths capture, imprison in a patch of farm in order to tenderize the meat, and then slaughter and butcher.  All of this is depicted very tongue-in-cheek, and it's actually a lot of fun to watch.  Nancy Parsons is fantastic as Ida, and it was fun seeing her break character from her other famous role, Beulah Balbricker from Porky's.  Plus, has anyone else who's seen this movie ever noticed that one of the unfortunate travelers to be turned into jerky is none other than Cliff Claven himself, John Ratzenberger?  If not, next time you watch take notice of the drummer from the punk metal band that the Smith's capture.

Last up was another horror comedy, this one a bit more recent, called Zombeavers.  Made in 2014 by Jordan Rubin, I can say that you'll probably know if you're going to like this movie within the first 5 minutes, as the movie opens with two toxic waste disposal workers played by Bill Burr and John Mayer.  Yes, that John Mayer.  Needless to say, this movie winks at the camera so many times they may as well just all be keeping one eye closed.  But it was also pretty fun.  There is plenty of gore and silliness to fill a pretty short running time of 85 minutes, and they even throw a curve ball as I would have never guessed the identity of the Final Girl going by the standards set up in most other horror flicks.

1 comment:

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