Can World War Z Finally Make Room in Hell for the Dead?

The zombie genre is nothing new, and just like the undead of the world in Z, it appears these reanimated corpses are here to stay.  Recorded history is littered with tales of zombies and the undead. Even some of the earliest movies (White Zombie) took on the subject matter with success. Zombies have latched onto mainstream movie goers with this modern era of ghouls thanks to Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, and those cold, dead hands have refused to let go. Sure, the genre has had some lulls here and there along with some mindless and needless re-workings, but the audience is there and ever growing. Ten years ago would anyone imagined that a show like Walking Dead would have achieved record breaking proportions of popularity? No way.

The genre reigns supreme through on demand and streaming outlets, and, the occasional unexpected box office success. However, World War Z appears to have aspirations above any ever seen before.  It boasts, what could possibly be, the highest budget in movie history.

Plot Summary: blah, blah, blah, Brad Pitt, blah, blah, undead, blah, pandemic, blah, blah, apocalypse.  You get the idea, right? Typical zombie film fodder.  But that doesn’t matter because most of us keep swallowing the regurgitated plotlines like the unquenchable hunger the dead have for the brains of the living.

Novelist Max Brooks could probably take some of the credit (or blame) for moving zombies closer to their apex. His novel, The Zombie Survival Guide (2003), preceded his 2007 novel, World War Z (A New York Time’s Best Seller). The former found phenomenal cult success.  It was a book for white elephant Christmas exchanges and a screwball gift to get the person who already had everything.  And, 10 years later, here we are … Z. It has Brad Pitt. It has a big budget. It is clean, refined, and desperate for an audience.

The budget was originally set at $125 million, then $170 million.  Huffington Post recently revealed that Z’s budget has “ballooned to a reported $400 million.” The Walking Dead has peaked with 12.4 million viewers. That’s a lot of zombie fans. With the average movie ticket price being around $8, about 50 million viewers would have to go see Z to make its budget back. Anything less, would be considered failure.

The last zombie movie to make a decent buck was Zombieland (2009) which pulled in about $100 million. Planet Terror (2007) took in a disappointing 25 million and Land of the Dead hit 30 million in 2005. Even the wildly successful 28 Days Later (2002) didn’t hit 50 million and Zach Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead (2004) remake fell short of 60 million. Together, all of those movies add up to about $265 million dollars – Well under the budget of World War Z.

The question now is this: Will Z help raise zombie awareness to epic proportions, or will this be a cataclysmic end to the zombie apocalypse for mainstream movie goers?  This I know, I like my zombie movies dirty, messy, unrelenting and never needing to acquiesce to the fear of box office failure.

This isn’t a knock on Pitt or the zombies. I like the actor. I like the genre. But once a star as big as Pitt uses a zombie flick as a blockbuster vehicle, one way or another, the end is near.

by Brian Barsuglia

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