The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

The spirit is weak, but the flesh is willing. Let’s just substitute some of these words around and pretend we’re talking about a film franchise here ok? Let’s say that “spirit” is akin to “premise” and that “flesh” can be substituted for “movie studio”. Sometimes things just shouldn’t be – it just shouldn’t exist. Like raw tomatoes. Why? Because they’re just unpleasant and unnecessary. This can also be said of the need to make sequels to films that don’t lend themselves to sequels because they wrapped themselves up rather neatly at the end of the first instalment. Hell, even films that left loose ends like District 9 haven’t even spawned a sequel (why, Neil Blomkamp, why?!)… so you’ve got to question why it was necessary to make a sequel to last year’s The Purge in the form of The Purge: Anarchy

The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

The Purge was a neat enough film. It didn’t blow us away here, but it worked – take a look at our review where we gave it a Phage Factor of 3/5. As I say, it was good, but had multiple flaws and didn’t really bring us any terror. It told the story of a family that had barricaded themselves into their home during the annual “purge” where for one night the US has no laws and people are free to rape and murder who they want but with no legal reprisals. The story wrapped up. There were no loose ends. So… naturally… The Purge: Anarchy just decides to base itself around the same “purge night” with an entirely different cast to attempt to string together a story by clumsily weaving three / four different stories together to tell something new.

Here, we focus on three groups of individuals that for one reason or another must band together when they find themselves on the streets during the annual purge; they don’t have the safety of a house to hide in, they must fend for themselves. These folks include Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo and Zach Gilford, amongst others, but honestly none need to be circled out, as they’re all relatively bland characters. Essentially, they must fight against the night to survive. Whilst you, the viewer, must fight against the urge to sleep or get annoyed at the writers attempting to shoehorn in an overarching storyline that will inevitably lead to The Purge 3

The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

You’re probably already getting the impression that I wasn’t the biggest fan of The Purge: Anarchy. You’d be correct. It just didn’t excite me in any real way beyond its premise. And indeed, that excitement mainly stemmed from the “home invasion” style of the first instalment, something that is abandoned in favour of wandering the city streets with our motley crew (I must stop spelling that as Motley Crue!). Frankly, this style just didn’t work too well and didn’t play out as this movie being a “horror” movie. It almost degraded into a by-the-numbers action movie with people moving from place to place, firing a gun a couple of times, then carrying on moving.

The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

However, what really startled me and led me to become annoyed were the flagrant attempts to establish a “lore” that would allow The Purge: Anarchy¬†to continue beyond this second film. There’s a lot of mention of a “resistance”… so it wouldn’t take a genius to figure out where the franchise is going next. It’s inevitable that this will continue much in the same way that Saw and Paranormal Acticity had / have done. Saying that, at least those two films finished their first instalment on something of a cliffhanger with an obvious “to be continued” vibe to them. The Purge didn’t and this film, plus its subsequent instalements all smell faintly of “cash grab”, which is a shame. I liked the first film, I really did. But I couln’t see how it was going to be continued. And now I see why that was.

Ultimately, if you hadn’t guessed already, The Purge: Anarchy is the film that ne’er should have been. It’s “ok” by modern standards for sure, but it’s no longer a horror movie, or even a thriller. No, it’s taken itself down the action route with few thrills and chills to be had. The premise of the film still remains interesting, but the potential to outstay its welcome has already arisen by the second instalment. This is something that didn’t really hit other forced franchises such as Paranormal Activity or Saw until the 4th outing. Mind you, even those films have gone on.. and on… and on… So who knows, maybe this will pick up?

Yes, the flesh truly is as weak as the spirit on this one. Its dragging itself through the city streets whilst the ominous blast of the air raid siren rings through the air to mark the beginning of the annual purge. Indeed, if The Purge: Anarchy¬†was personified it would be sitting in the middle of the street armed with only a spork and a half eaten tin of baked beans: it wouldn’t fight for long…

Phage Factor:

2 Stars

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Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)

Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)

Nightmares and the realm of dreams. They’re not a new target for horror movies. Indeed, a certain burnt-faced man in a green and red striped jumper with a beknived hand got there a good few decades ago. But they’re still ripe for the picking, owing to the fact that we can’t control our dreams or where they take us. For the most part. Let me tell you a little story… You see, when I was a young Phage I used to suffer from extreme nightmares. Ones that would involve a car full of silhouettes pulling up outside my house and running at the building whilst Momma Phage slept upstairs. I would run downstairs and see them running and jumping in through the windows – they had no faces, no features, nothing. Just silhouettes. Similarly, I’d see images of beloved ones warping into demons and attacking me. These were relentless and they’d come again and again, night after night. That was until I learnt to lucid dream and control what happens. So I was able to talk to these demons and attackers. Once I did? No more of those nightmares. I cured myself of these insidious thoughts.

Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)

Whilst my advancing age has somewhat diminished my abilities to manipulate the dream, I can still become self-aware and know I’m in a dream. This has brought about a new type of nightmare… As now I’m in my head, but it’s completely dark. All I know is that I’m there with some malevolent force. Nowadays I find myself challenging myself in my head and trying to embrace this “thing” that I’m perceiving as evil. It sounds confusing right? You should try spending a night as The Phage! It’s an odd one! So… where am I going after this therapy-esque confession? Well, the original Insidious focused on evils that lurk in our dreams – dead spirits that want to come back… So, enter Insidious: Chapter 2, to pick up where the first film left off…

If you’re thinking about seeing Insidious: Chapter 2 and you’ve not seen the original? Well, you’re going to struggle. Pretty badly! This movie doesn’t make many apologies for this and plunges relentlessly into the plot. I’ve seen Insidious… and to be honest, I thought it was “good” but by no means this “great” horror that people laud it as. It had a nice premise, but lost all terror in the last third. Having said that, I do remember the plot. But having not watched it since its theatrical release, even I found myself straining to remember the closing 10 minutes of the original. I got there… but it wasn’t instant recall! Essentially, this film picks up immediately after the first – a little boy became trapped in dream world with some demons, his dad (Patrick Wilson) followed him into there to bring him home. But we’re not sure just what came out of that world, as an evil “old woman” was trying to get back to Wilson‘s body before he did… did she succeed? Well, Wilson did kill at the end of the first movie, so we’d presume so, right?

Oh, and if you’re wondering, I’d have given Insidious 3 Phages. Why? Too much reliance on my old enemy… LOUD NOISES!

Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)

And LOUD NOISES are very much in place in Insidious: Chapter 2 too. Not as many as there have been previously, but there’s certainly a reliance on them. Let’s be honest… there’s little in the way of true scares in this film. A couple of jumps, but that’s more due to clever framing, as opposed to genuine horror. No, The Conjuring this ain’t. I should mention we saw The Conjuring, but flew abroad straight away afterwards. Verdict? We really liked it – 4 Phages. Jeez, we’re writing reviews within reviews here aren’t we?!

I would however like to mention the humour. Insidious: Chapter 2 did have me smiling – for the right reasons. The comedic performances coming out of “paranormal investigators” Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson) were brilliant. Truly, they were the highlight of the movie for me. The others? Well… they were there. Not bad, by any stretch of the imagination, but nothing too memorable.

Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)

As mentioned at the outset, I like the dream premise, but Insidious: Chapter 2 gets carried away with it and vaults back and forth between planes a lot. This, coupled with the unrelentingly forward-marching plot, makes for an uncomfortable viewing for the first time Insidious viewer… But even for the veterans, it all becomes a little dull. The jumps have been done before and the plot is quite linear. In the original the last 15 minutes disappointed me as they were anticlimactic, like the reveal in Jeepers Creepers. But here? I was just a little bored. And the hokey set-up for Insidious: Chapter 3? A little too much…

Insidious: Chapter 2 is pretty much on par with the original Insidious in my books… and I wasn’t bowled over with the original, like so many were. This sequel should be applauded for continuing the plot and being a true sequel, but it falls down in terms of horror and suspense. I enjoyed the movie more as a comedy than I did a horror thanks to the performances of Whannell and Sampson. But even that wasn’t enough to save the movie. It was passable… but certainly not remarkable.

Maybe I’m just not able to be scared by horror movies now, following my earlier confession about my somewhat bizarre nightmares that I concoct for myself nowadays. In fact, I’m pretty sure my dreams and nightmares are ripe for the picking, as they’re pretty warped and weird. Although I’m not sure how you convey the feeling of malevolent evil that I can sense once I’m in there. Maybe if we held the screening and announced that one audience member would be picked at random and subjected to the horror that is having to watch Adam Sandler‘s Jack & Jill on a loop for an entire weekend… that’d do it.

Phage Factor:

2.5 Stars

The World’s End (2013)

The World's End (2013)

It’s weird how most successful film franchises come in threes. It seems we all like a trilogy, but get a bit bored when a series hits four or five films, for some odd reason. Indeed, the era of the four-to-five film franchises seems to have ended in the early 1990’s / late 1980’s. Well, on the whole anyway, as it seems that horror movies have no problem pumping out sixth and seventh instalments in franchises (I’m looking at you Saw). But then again, they’re typically low budget, high return films, so it’s no surprise. That’s not always the case with the pricier films. So with all that said, we now see a film emerging to conclude a trilogy. And this is no typical trilogy. In fact, the only tenuous link between the three films are its two lead actors and director / writer… oh, and an obsession with talking about that classic coned ice cream treat: the Cornetto. Yes, the thrilling conclusion to the The Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy is here… enter, The World’s End.

Strawberry, vanilla or mint? Pick your flavour!

Strawberry, vanilla or mint? Pick your flavour!

Confused how this is a trilogy? Can’t remember the films that went before? How can this be true?! Almost a decade ago we had the awakening of Shaun of the Dead: a film about romance set to the backdrop of the zombie apocalypse in London. Three years later we had Hot Fuzz, a buddy cop movie about life in rural England with murderous, bombastic undertones. And now, some six years later, we have The World’s End, a film about a pub crawl with an apocalyptic setting. What ties the films together? The Cornettos, the acting talent on display and the most valuable asset of all… British humour.

The World’s End, at its core, stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, along with director Edgar Wright who co-writes with Pegg. This time around, Pegg plays Gary King – the leader of the gang (from school). He’s intent on reliving his youth and completing a 12-pub pub crawl he couldn’t finish with his buddies when he was 18. So, he reunites the gang, rounded out by estranged best friend Andy (Nick Frost), Oliver (Martin Freeman), Peter (Eddie Marsan) and Steven (Paddy Considine), to once again undertake his crawl some 20 years later. But things are awry in Newton Haven (a typical British town)… everyone’s acting somewhat oddly. Yes, Gary and the gang uncover a somewhat sinister secret of a global takeover by an extra-terrestrial force. Best reach for the Cornettos then.

The World's End (2013)

Shaun of the Dead is a hard act to follow for Pegg, Frost and Wright. I’d argue that Hot Fuzz didn’t live up to my expectations and fell somewhat flat. Others would say that Hot Fuzz was superior to the zombie-fuelled exploits that went before it. And obviously, people will argue where The World’s End fits into this threesome. Plus, for the sake of argument, we’re not including Paul in this debate, as Wright had no part in the film… and it’s set in the US. We’re strictly British here I’ll have you know! Where do I figure that The World’s End lands? Keep reading… Or skim to the end if you’re bored of reading already.

What I particularly enjoyed about The World’s End was the dark tone of the movie, particularly Simon Pegg‘s Gary King. In previous films you’ve been able to warm to Pegg‘s character almost instantly. Particularly in Shaun of the Dead. But here? I found myself strongly disliking him almost immediately. I was worried actually, as the first 20 minutes dragged somewhat for me, as I found myself unwilling to take Pegg‘s King under my wing and care about him. He has issues. He needs to grow up. And therein lies the message of this film… we all have to grow up and move on at some point. Life marches onwards and sometimes you have to march on alongside it or be left behind.

The World's End (2013)

Sorry, I went a bit deep there didn’t I? Aside from Pegg‘s character and the plot’s undertones, the film is replete with laughter-inducing moments. Not many belly laughs, I must add, but a lot of smiles and sniggers. But then again, I’m a hard Phage to impress; some might say I’m a snob for comedy. What I like? I really like. What I don’t? I detest. But The World’s End worked in the humour stakes. It also worked well in the plotting stakes too. The film constantly twists and turns to try and buck the viewer off its back, right up to the final scenes. I like this. Especially when it’s coupled to the deliciously British dark humour that the film draws on.

The World's End (2013)

As for the acting talent on show… we’ve got some fine British acting on show here. Recently, we’ve seen an explosion of talent marching across the world stage thanks to “newbies” such as Martin Freeman, Benedict Cumberbach and James McAvoy. You can also say the same of Simon Pegg nowadays, as he’s in hot demand, which is good to see. Arguably, it’s Nick Frost‘s character that was the highlight for me. A somewhat stifled lawyer who’s clearly shellshocked from his past. But when he lets rip? He lets rip. His character had the most interesting arc for me here. But having said that, the whole ensemble add real weight here thanks to Wright and Pegg‘s scripting fleshing out each character. Similarly, this is definitely an Edgar Wright film, from the stylistic shots of pints being pulled to the flavour of the dialogue. Let’s hope he can bring the same bold style to Marvel’s Ant-Man when that hits in 2015…

The World’s End will definitely be a hit with old Cornetto fans; it brings back the humour, the bromance and the clever social commentary that was present in the previous two films, but adds a new plot on top of it. Having said that, there are slow moments and it’ll take you time to warm to all of the characters, but once the film really starts rolling towards the apocalypse you’re sucked into the world entirely. Once again, us Brits show the world how humour should be done… less raunch, dick jokes and boobs, and more sarcasm, wit and use of the c-word. Yeah… we know how to offend and amuse in equal amounts!

So which Cornetto flavour is my favourite? Is it strawberry (Shaun of the Dead), vanilla (Hot Fuzz) or mint (The World’s End)? In the real world, I’d plump for mint. But perhaps it’s telling that my last trip to the supermarket saw me return with a box of five strawberry Cornettos (for 99p! Cheap!)… it was an omen. For me, Shaun of the Dead will remain the best in this series of three films, like your first true love, it’s sometimes hard to top (but can happen). The World’s End is a very close second though and is one I could go back and watch again. I’m always partial to a bit of mint, especially if its sprinkled with some truly dark chocolate / humour…

Phage Factor:

4 Star

Monsters University (2013)

Monster University (2013)

School and university… they’re formative institutions for many people. You get an education, make friends, and the more liberally-inclined would say they “find out who they really are”. I guess it’s a better place to “find yourself” than on a beach in Thailand though, which is where so many middle class 21 year olds from the UK will tell you. Seeing films set in universities or schools is nothing new; it’s been done time and time again. I think Hollywood actually gave me an impression of what to expect from university: girls, beer and hijinks. Not all of it came true, and I never saw a single red cup at a house party. That seems to be very US-centric… thanks for that American Pie! But the current film doesn’t bring up beer… it’s a kids’ film after all. But it does (scratch on) girls and hijinks… Yes, Monsters University has rolled onto campus, but is it the class clown or is it going to graduate magna cum laude?

Monster University (2013)

First… can I just dwell on the title? Does it bug anyone else that it doesn’t have an apostrophe in there? Shouldn’t it be Monsters’ University? I guess I can let it slip though, and someone will probably enlighten me as to why it shouldn’t be in there. I’m sure they wouldn’t have let that slip! Anyway, Monsters University is the prequel to 2001’s hugely successful Monsters Inc. – yes, that’s a 12 year gap between instalments in the series. Luckily, Disney Pixar have a great DVD / streaming market, because the target audience this film is aimed at is far too young to even have been alive when the first film came out. I’m not sure why there was such a delay in this happening!

Thankfully though, we see the original cast return: namely John Goodman as the voice of Sully (big, blue and furry) and Billy Crystal as Mike (small, green and eyeball-y), plus a whole host of other favourites that fans will recognise from Monsters Inc. Essentially, Monsters University goes back to Uni (who’d have guessed that?!), where Mike is the geeky try-hard student of scaring, who isn’t actually scary, whilst Sully is the cocky, “I don’t need to learn” type that is scary… but can’t apply himself. Mike and Sully turn into rivals, but are kicked out of university… the only way they can get back? To join the house of OK (Oozma Kappa) – a group of monsters that are going no-where. They’re the outcasts – the bottom rung of society. Only by joining OK can they enter the Scare Games… their one chance to get back into their course… but can they work together?

Monster University (2013)

So, you can probably figure out how the plot’s going to play out, as it’s a bit contrived and obvious. But as is the case with so many movies aimed at the younger demographic, that’s to be expected. What’s also expected in these types of movies is humour – both for the kids and for the adults in the audience. This is what’s made Pixar such a gold standard over the past two decades… but Monsters University doesn’t quite hit all the high notes it should do in this regard. The screening I was in had the perfect split of kids and older audience members, but laughter was at a bare minimum… from both demographics. Normally, I’d expect the children to be laughing at this type of movie, but you can only imagine that some of the laughs were lost owing to the setting for the movie: university. No pre-teen kid will have much of an idea of what university entails. It’d have been wiser to set this Monsters instalment in school – a concept that could be latched upon by kids and adults.

Then again, the university setting didn’t elicit copious laughs from the older audience either. In all honesty, the script just wasn’t that funny. Endearing? Yes. Funny? No. I don’t expect belly laughs, but I do expect a wry smile to creep over my face quite frequently, but it was sadly lacking. Don’t get me wrong here – I enjoyed the movie and the runtime evaporated in no time, but I didn’t get the series of laughs that I was expecting from a movie like this.

Monster University (2013)

What I did enjoy were the gorgeous visuals we’ve come to expect and the colourful supporting cast that rounded out the Monsters University world. It all came together well and made the world “pop” – something that Pixar has always been quite adept at achieving. As previously stated, the plot was quite formulaic and the laughs weren’t ten-a-penny, but the film itself? A success… even if it wasn’t quite the big bombastic return of Sully and Mike that I was expecting.

Monsters University enriches the world set forth in Monsters Inc. and contains a lot of fan service in terms of cameos and “origin stories”. Whilst it seemed to miss the mark with the audience I was viewing with, it nevertheless maintained a fun, upbeat vibe that had me compelled from beginning to end. It may not be Pixar’s finest film to date, but it’s another solid entry in their catalogue. Besides, sometimes it’s just good to spend time with old friends yet again. So long as they’re not Cars… or Planes

So whilst Monsters University isn’t a new American Pie 2 in the way it portrays university, it hits a lot of the right notes. Sure, we have no beer pong, no foul language and no sex with pies, but we get the right vibe from it all. Although having said that, I’d like to have seen how the characters would have coped if you’d merged the two aforementioned franchises. Would Stifler pick on little Mike? Would Sully assume the role of Oz the star lacrosse player? And just how would the film deal with the thorny issue of “exotic” magazines? Stay tuned for Monsters Go Wild

Phage Factor:

3.5 Star

This Is The End (2013)

This Is The End (2013)

You know what I like? When films are meta and self-referential. When they’re not afraid to mock themselves or even parody themselves to some extent. I like it even more when actors are willing to poke fun at themselves on-screen. I mean, they must all be aware of their public persona and the way they’re depicted in the media. That’s why it’s great when they get involved with roles / pieces that poke fun at themselves, no matter how subtly. From Zach Galiafanakis‘ Between Two Ferns webisode series of interviews through to Bill Murray in Zombieland, where he answers “do you have any regrets?” with “Garfield, maybe”. I like it. So, how do you make a film about the rapture and the end of days a bit comical? Well, how about getting some of the industry’s current comedic frat-pack and throwing them into the film… as themselves…

This Is The End (2013)

Yes, This Is The End tells the tale of how the world will end – all fire and brimstone whilst the good are raptured into heaven and the rest of us are abandoned here as the Earth becomes engulfed in flames and is dominated by demonic entities. So where does our film decide to position itself for this apocalyptic event? James Franco‘s house warming party of course. And who else is there? Let’s throw in Seth Rogan, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride. Not enough for you? Then how about Michael Cera, Emma Watson, Rihanna, Paul Rudd, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and a whole heap of others. Yes, this is one star-studded film. But don’t for a second think back to the appalling Movie 43 as a reference point here. Thankfully, This Is The End is a far better movie… and is actually rather funny!

This Is The End (2013)

What’s most pleasing about the film is the rapport and on-screen dialogue between the stars. Some are really sending up their characters and acting in a totally atypical way, such as Michael Cera, whilst others embrace how the public perceives them, such as Seth Rogan and James Franco. Rogan has jokes thrown at him about his wooden acting, jarring laugh and inability to play a different character, whilst Franco embraces this artsy, higher-than-thou attitude he’s sometimes painted as having owing to his personal dalliances with trying to acquire every degree under the sun in his spare time. It is simply very, very funny to watch. All of the actors work brilliantly as an ensemble – quite how much is ad-lib and how much is scripted, I’m not entirely sure, but it all works seamlessly.

But what of the plotting? What starts out as a somewhat loose and meandering premise: “oh it’s the end of the world”, suddenly becomes quite compelling and I genuinely found myself enrapt in the world of the rapture. I wanted to know how Franco et al. were going to get out of this situation! Things also got a little crazy when the film started to actually spend money on special effects… you see, This Is The End is quite low tech for the most part; relying heavily on the rapport between the characters and their humorous dialogue. This is great, and thankfully works… but the film turns on its head in its final act. You see, what started out as a humorous little romp about the end of the world turns into something rapidly approaching horror.

This Is The End (2013)

Yes, you read that right… This Is The End actually brings in some effective scares and beautifully animated demons and nasties into the mix. I liked this. Even if it did make me think I was watching the dog-demons from Ghostbusters at one point. I found this change of pace and tone to be quite refreshing and really kept me entertained until the bitter end. The movie doesn’t market itself this way, which is a bit perplexing, but nevertheless – I enjoyed it!

This Is The End (2013)

That brings us to the humour… what of it? As I’ve alluded to until now, the humour works and had me laughing. For the most part. Maybe I’m getting a little too long in the tooth nowadays, but drug jokes / gore jokes / dick jokes don’t make me laugh as much as they used to. And there are a lot of those jokes in here. If you’re not a fan of Superbad, Pineapple Express or any other of the films associated with Seth Rogan and chums, you’re probably not going to be too impressed. Thankfully, for the movie, I am for the most part. But this is probably the film’s biggest weakness, because if you’re not a fan of this humour, you’re going to strongly dislike the movie itself. This is a shame as I genuinely think you should nip out and see this whilst you can.

This Is The End can stand proud: it’s a movie that lives up to the sum of its parts. It doesn’t collapse under its own star power and doesn’t bill itself as the “greatest ensemble cast ever assembled” like that Movie 43 abomination. What you have here is a sharp, funny and mildly horrifying take on the end of the world. It won’t be to everybody’s tastes, that’s for sure, but if you’re at least a fan of some of the stars in this movie then it’ll definitely appeal to you. I can quite confidently state that this may be the best comedy of 2013 so far… but unless the end of the world comes tomorrow, this may yet change… stay tuned!

“It’s the end of the world as we know it”… Well, that’s what REM sang a good while ago. Sure, the rapture looks horrific in This Is The End and I wouldn’t fancy squaring up to any of those demons. But I’m trying to wonder what I’d rather be faced with… a lifetime of fire and brimstone, being tracked down by fierce looking demons, or being forced to watch and re-watch Movie 43 over and over again… Hmmm… just how hot are those coals again??

Phage Factor:

4 Star

World War Z (2013)

World War Z (2013)

Viruses. As The Phage, I’m pretty savvy on them. Those that know me outside of my alias will know this truth to permeate through my professional life too. So, any movie that deals with viruses and plagues best get its ducks in a row, because I’m going to be biologically clued up. As sad as it is, if something’s grossly wrong with the science, I won’t be sold on it. I know… such a geek. By a similar extension, The Phage is also a big fan of all things “zombie”. Ever since we clapped eyes on 28 Days Later we were sold on these creatures – these abominations. This is what’s led us to worship at the altar of The Walking Dead and glorify Max Brooks‘ incredible book, World War Z. So, when we heard about the big screen version happening… well, we were excited. Really excited. The book has such rich source material and is written in such a compelling manner that you can’t help but KNOW it’ll be a success, right? Right?

World War Z (2013)

Well, it would be if the film followed the book in any which way. World War Z (the book) is an oral retelling of “the war” by a journalist travelling the world and talking to survivors about their experiences throughout the outbreak that would ultimately wipe out a huge chunk of humanity. It was gripping, it was vivid, and it was varied. It still stands as one of my favourite books, and I encourage anyone out there to go and read it. World War Z (the film) eschews all of these ideas and goes with something entirely more… formulaic. Here, the film follows Gerry (Brad Pitt), his wife Karin (Mireille Enos) and their kids as they try and escape New Jersey after the plague hits the US east coast. Gerry’s separated from his family as he’s brought back into the UN in order to try and track down the root cause of the disease and hopefully find a cure. None of this happens in the book. Not a word. But does this make it a bad film?

In a word… no. World War Z isn’t a bad film, far from it. It’s a big budget, globe-spanning zombie movie that will no doubt please many hoping for a different take on the genre. For instance, there’s remarkably little blood! For a zombie movie, that’s unheard of. It also features a lot of dialogue and piecing together what’s happened. It’s not all “run run run”, like so many others have been in the past. It’s entertaining. Having said that, it’s not without its flaws… mainly owing to the fact that it’d rather have a flurry of activity and try and overwhelm you with numbers than make you truly care about the protagonists or feel the personal intensity that it should do.

World War Z (2013)

Obviously, the star of the show here is Brad Pitt. There’s no two ways about this, as he’s the only listed name on the posters. It’s “his” movie. How’s his performance? Well, it’s Pitt isn’t it? Of course its solid. It just feels as though his character is a tad underwhelming. I never felt any empathy with him and never really cared for his family’s plight. I just wanted him to do his job and identify the cause of the plague. I mean, I already know the cause from reading the book (clue: it doesn’t follow the book at all), but I was keen to see how the movie would deal with it.

I’m very tempted to launch into a tirade here about how it’s “not like the book”, but I’m going to try and resist. Normally, I don’t like those purists who bemoan adaptations, so I’m going to try and not be one of them. But let me look at this through another set of eyes: zombie eyes. When I think of apocalyptic modern zombie horror I think of either The Walking Dead or 28 Days Later / 28 Weeks Later. Both of those movies show desperation and plight. They also do fantastic jobs of bringing the undead to life – particularly The Walking Dead. But that was lost for me in World War Z. Firstly, the majority of the horde are CGI. This isn’t a great thing. I understand they wanted to emphasise the scale of the conflict, which would call for a ton of extras, but the CGI just didn’t look too good either. But then… when you do get real zombies acted by humans? They’re still not that impressive. The final scenes in particular are laughable. Can someone please tell me why the creative team behind World War Z decided to model the zombies on parrots? Why do they make that weird caw-ing noise? Why do they randomly make biting noises with their jaws? And why do they look at you from the side, like they’re birds? I want my zombies making noises like in 28 Days Later – deranged, maniacal, angry grunts. If you’re going to do speedy zombies, at least get the noise right.

World War Z (2013)

Finally, I want to draw attention to the ending. The ending that was changed at the eleventh hour. As a virologist by training (damn, my secret’s out), a lot of what they were saying was utter nonsense. Complete. Nonsense. The biological leaps astounded me and appalled me. They could have hired me to do a better job. And the solution that’s reached for their problems in the film? Ouch… just pure stupidity. And also, nothing from the book too. At least they’ve left it all open for the sequel. The sequel that Paramount is now committed to making. Maybe they’ll up the gore quota? I just wish they’d gone with the original ending ideas (click here). How deliciously morbid does it sound? That’s how I like my zombie movie tone… dark.

So, maybe I am being a purist here. I can’t help it. I love the book and I love modern zombie movies when done well. World War Z isn’t a bad movie; it’s just struggling to be an effective zombie movie, which isn’t helped by the fact it’s ignored some splendid source material. I applaud the movie for skipping location a lot and trying to emphasise the scope of the problem, but it just felt rather hollow at its core. In the sequel, I hope they bring in some better prosthetics, a better overall plot and please… bring us some gore. Not excessive, but some of it. I want to fear these Zachs and Zeeks (zombies in the book)… it’s something I just didn’t have with the big screen version of my favourite book.

What do I hope will happen in the sequel? Honestly? I don’t know. They’ve already ignored what made the book so special: the format. I defy anyone to not think that the book is spectacularly novel in its take on zombies. It’s also chilling. Chilling to think that when the war’s over, they’re still there. Think the ocean’s safe? They walk along the sea bed. Think you can freeze them to death? Well, they’re coming back. It spreads. So although World War Z wasn’t as accurate as it could be, my eyes now gaze towards the upcoming adaptation of Stephen King’s Cell – another fantastic tale of zombies… surely that can’t deviate? Surely!?

Phage Factor:

3 Star