Never underestimate the power of low expectations. That is the lesson of the past three days of Zombie Movie Marathon Month. I’ll get into the specifics below, in my movie notes, but it boils down to this: the lower your expectations for a film, the easier it is to have them exceeded and thus your net enjoyment is positive. Conversely, the higher your expectations, the harder it is to live up to them, much less exceed them, and thus the harder it is to have a positive experience. With zombie movies, it really pays to expect pain and suffering, because then if the movie is merely mediocre, you’ll end up quite pleased. Anyway, enough pontificating, on to the films!
Oh, boy, were my expectations low. So, so low. The reason for that dates back to last year, when I finally got around to watching Bride of Re-Animator. Earlier in ZMMM5 I watched the original Re-Animator and it was as kick-ass as ever, so when I sat down to watch Bride, I was like, “Oh boy, this is going to be sweet!” And it was not sweet. It was awful, and I hated it. So I was braced for Beyond to be just abysmal and it was… not terrible. I mean, it was pretty lame — bad acting, bad writing, mediocre effects — but it was better than Bride (it ditched some of the lame attempts of humor, for one thing) and it wasn’t painful to watch, so I kind of enjoyed it. See, low expectations never let you down!
Plotwise, Herbert West goes to prison, and some jackass doctor gets hired at the prison and helps him get his re-animation back on, and shit gets all wacky. It’s pretty weak, but hey, zombies in prison are always a good time.
It had been about five years since I saw this one, so it seemed like it was time again. It’s a very ’70-s movie, from the pacing to the dialogue to the clothes and decor. Also, it’s a damn ambitious movie for what had to have been a shoestring budget. Dimension-traveling alien/demon things, dwarf zombies, flying silver balls of death… I’m a big Don Coscarelli fan, and I have no doubt that seeing parts of this movie when I was like seven helped that. Highly recommend this, despite the “Oh shit, look how fucking ’70s this is!” vibe.
Also, read my interview with Don Coscarelli. He is a rad dude.
World War Z
When this was over, my wife asked, “So, how close was it to the book?” The answer: hahahahaha. By my count, there were three similarities — the title, the fact that dogs can detect the zombies, and the bit about Israel being the best-prepared for the zombies. Everything else was different. I don’t mind, because hey, the book is the book and the movie is the movie. I can enjoy both on their own merits.
My expectations for this were super, super low, and I was pleasantly surprised. I found it all a little heavy handed and predictable, but it was pleasant enough. Brad Pitt was fine (although he is falling into that typical older actor “fuck you, I’m going to play every part the same way, because I am fucking famous” mentality) as the globe-trotting UN super sleuth who figures out all the answers. The army-ant like super zombies were kinda meh, as usual. They strain credulity, since there is no real way to escape such things, much less fight them. It could have been a sequel/parallel film to Zack Snyder’s 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake, really. Is that a bad thing? Depends on your perspective, I guess. I will say this: it established that “zombie apocalypse” is a fine premise for an action movie, which is nice, because action movie premises get a little stale, and we can always use another.
Oh, any you can read this little essay I wrote about how it doesn’t matter that the film World War Z is so different from the book World War Z.