I just got the early release of the extended cut of Brad Pitt‘s World War Z film. I saw it in the movie theaters and was going to write a review blog post, but decided to re-read the awesome Max Brooks book on which the film is based first. There are many differences in between the book and film that make the book superior, but one of the biggest is the decision to feature fast zombies.


It’s no secret that I have a thing for zombies since I’ve written about them before. I’ve got the entire Walking Dead comics and am an avid viewer of the show on AMC. I’m a fan of the rom-zom-com with Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, and the latest Warm Bodies. Nothing makes me relax more than shooting zombies on video games. And I even like movies that feature fast zombies like 28 Days Later and Zack Snyder‘s Dawn of the Dead reboot.

I get it. At first glance, fast zombies produce scary action scenes. The threat is immediate. And we’re more of an immediate gratification society than one that likes the slow burn. In Pitt’s World War Z interpretation, the zombies move so fast that some visual effects scenes make them look like ants swarming.

In 2008 for The Guardian, Simon Pegg wrote a great article why zombies should be slow that encapsulates many of my feelings. He touches on the lack of reality of being able to run when he writes, “Death is a disability, not a superpower. It’s hard to run with a cold, let alone the most debilitating malady of them all.” Another more practical side to note is that running jars the human body and takes its toll on muscles and joints. I can’t suspend my disbelief that zombie bodies can withstand unending running without just falling apart.

Pegg talks about how a fast zombie gives emotion to something that is bereft of emotion. As a fan of zombie movies, he prefers Romero’s versions stating, “The absence of rage or aggression in slow zombies makes them oddly sympathetic, a detail that enabled Romero to project depth on to their blankness, to create tragic anti-heroes; his were figures to be pitied, empathised with, even rooted for. The moment they appear angry or petulant, the second they emit furious velociraptor screeches (as opposed to the correct mournful moans of longing), they cease to possess any ambiguity. They are simply mean.”

Zombies don’t have emotions. They only operate on instinct. But shambling zombies don’t make as interesting visuals as rage-filled fast ones do. It’s too easy to make fast zombies the villains. I’d rather see the wide shots of lone zombies in the fields in The Walking Dead because it emphasizes a loss of humanity and refocuses that lens on those left to survive. In other words, slow zombies allow for a more complex story.

“…the zombie trumps all by personifying our deepest fear: death. Zombies are our destiny writ large. Slow and steady in their approach, weak, clumsy, often absurd, the zombie relentlessly closes in, unstoppable, intractable.” – Simon Pegg

One of the biggest points of contention over fast zombies is that using them eliminates the nuances of survival. If they are fast, there really is little chance for humanity to survive. With slow zombies, we humans who plan well could actually have a chance to make it. And that’s really what the World War Z book is all about, making me root more for those who survive in the book over those in the movie.

I enjoyed the film version of World War Z to a point, like it’s an extension of the world from the book. What makes the book great is the interview narrative to show the whole story from multiple points of view. That’s a passive way to get information and doesn’t really work for film, although they tried to capture that spirit with Pitt’s character flying around the world to try and put the puzzle together to find a solution.

In the book, there’s an idea of the creation of zombies and how it spread that’s intriguing. The movie’s version, that Mother Nature’s “cleaning house” of humans, is less appealing. The film tries to bookend with an indictment of how we treat the Earth and each other at the beginning to how our knowledge and medicine can save us at the end. That’s the film’s take on humanity rather than the book’s that features our ability to endure long periods of horror and emerge changed and possibly better. I’d rather endure than get inoculated.

They’ve set the film up to possibly have a sequel, but I’m not sure where they could go with the story. But Pitt is now confirming that a sequel is in the works. Some of my favorite scenes from the book weren’t in the movie. They lost out on a visual opportunity not using the Battle of Yonkers, but again with fast zombies that battle scene isn’t really possible. Perhaps in the sequel we could see some of the “fortresses” and ways people keep zombies out across the globe.

For those who are curious about World War Z, I highly recommend the audiobook. Each interview is read by different celebrities including Pegg, Kal Penn, Common, Paul Sorvino, Jeri Ryan, and of course Nathan Fillion. Fillion is himself a huge fan of the book and tweeted his excitement in the project. The best thing about the book is that even if you’re not a zombie fan, the book takes the horror aspect out and makes it a mystery, action, and war piece that will have you thinking it could happen by the end. If you’re not a big reader, the film will at least entertain you for a couple of hours.

On a lighter note, one of the biggest reasons I would rather see slow zombies over fast is because I know I have zero chance to survive if being chased. But with slow zombies, I have at least a slight chance that I could lop of their head with one of our yard instruments. And I want that slim chance.