Pseudo-review: World War Z by Max Brooks
Note: To skip all the/my worst-writing, the actual pseudo-review of this book is just a scroll or two or thrice downwards.
Not sure if this makes since, dear worst-reader. So I appreciate you indulging me. Here’s a worst-writer fact for ya: I was never, ever afraid of horror movies as a kid. In fact, although the movie rating-system in my beloved & missed united mistakes of #Americant was not so heavily enforced at the time, I pretty much watched/saw any and every film I ever wanted to see–even before I was a teen. But my youthful rowdy behaviour is neither here nor there. For I am born and reared: #Americant, baby.
Horror films were everywhere by the late 1970s. In fact, in the whole Hollywood horror genre of my beloved & missed #Americant youth, there was nothing on the big screen–at least in the shape of monsters, goblins or ghosts, etc.–that scared me. I attribute this super-power to having faced the worst kind of childhood: loneliness and fatherlessness. Oh wait. Before I get-off on making this worst-post about my #Americant bastardisation…
By the time I could go to movies on my own, during my mid to late teens, albeit being dropped off by a parent here or there, I used to have a ball in the cinema teasing who ever I was with–especially a sister, a neighbour friend, or Chad–that older false cousin who even got me a fake ID that turned my fifteen years into eighteen. Anywho. The fun of horror movies was observing others either tremble or try not to tremble while watching The Omen, Dawn of the Dead, Halloween, etc. Of course. Later. Things got really fun for me when I started going to the movies on “dates”–as opposed to going with friendly neighbours. Scaring the “date” with a poke here or a poke there during whatever gore scene was a blast as she screamed and yelped and whined. Eventually, though. All that fun had to succumbed to cop a feel where, if timed correctly, lead to some serious second-base action–no matter what was on the big screen. But. Again. Nuff about me.
A girl went to a horror flick with me once and stayed the whole time on her knees in the row directly between my knees, mostly because she was terrified by whatever gore-fest I took her to watch. Did I trick her by saying I didn’t know it was a horror movie and thereby just happened to get the best BJ of my youthful life? Who knows. My worst-point is this: I never fell for the illusion-of-truth (verisimilitude) that was supposed to be “horror” in the realm of celluloid story telling, which wasn’t the case with other movie genres. And here’s the reason why.
I was never afeared of horror movies because fear of another kind beat it to the punch. Indeed. Blood and guts meant nothing compared to a good ol’fashion suspense-thriller. Hold a sec. Let me worst-splain. By my late teens I was an experienced hunter and fisherman. I also killed bats while cleaning tobacco barns. If you’ve never done such a thing, dear worst-reader, trust me when I say that not only killing bats is gross but hanging around where they hang around–and shit–is worst. I even put down old horses with a ten gauge shotgun once and then chainsawed off their legs in order to fit them in the back of a pick-up truck that would hall them off for glue production. With that in worst-mind, horror movies were just silly to me. Suspense movies, on the other hand, scared the living bee-gee-zees out of me. In fact, they scared me so much my mind would be boggled for days after watching one. They gave me nightmares, too. I experienced excessive sleep loss. I had #Americant anti-disney PTSD, don’t you know. And all that long before PTSD was a thing. Oh wait. Scratch that. I came of age during the end of Vietnam war. PTSD was alive and well then. It just had a different brand(ing), don’t you know. Anywho.
Fear of suspense movies, by-the-buy, made horror flicks a fun-fest for me. But put me in a huge claustrophobic movie house with a thriller with shit that could actually be real–as in real-life… Holy krapp, dear worst-reader. Yeah, I almost wet myself when a chick tricked me into going to a dollar showing of Rear Window. And so. Hence. Ever since I became a young intellectual, a pseudo-know-it-all, a wannabe well-read anti-automaton, I’ve always claimed to hate Alfred Hitchcock–even though the opposite is true. Seriously. Rear Window and Vertigo usually sent me to that place between my dates knees, low in the row of her cinema seat–to her satisfaction, of course, don’t you know.
By-the-buy. The movie that scared me the most and set the stage for preferring the horror-genre was The Poseidon Adventure. I saw it when I was, like, nine. Here a bit more on that. Indeed. To this day. I can’t help but think of (fat but luscious) Shelly Winters whenever I go swimming. I also will never board a cruise ship. In short, I’m a real chicken-$hit when it comes to suspense.
But here’s the thing, dear worst-reader. For most of my adult life, I kinda dug the movies. I mean. I preferred live theatre when available—especially since moving to #Eurowasteland. But a good movie here or there? That’s the ticket. Yet. Things changed in the last ten to fifteen years. I’ve kinda quit going to the movies. I’ve even already sickened of streaming services. Reason? Movie making has gone to $hit. I just can’t find a connection to any of it. It’s as though Hollywood, over the years, has over done it. Actually, that’s kind of a nice way to put it. What I really mean to say about Hollywood is this. As I’ve gotten older, seen too many movies, I think they’ve simply run out of creativity.
Still. Some stuff intrigued me. Like the whole horror sub-genre known as Zombies. WTF is up with Zombies? I mean. Come on. Even though I’ve long since grown out of my horror movie fascination, and certainly don’t need to cop-a-feel anymore, I can’t help but be curious. Thank goodness for the various clips and shorts available by the Interwebnets, eh. So I couldn’t help but notice, over the years, how people are eating up the Zombie genre. I mean. There are Zombie movies, Zombie comedies, Zombie walks (yes, as in, go for a walk dressed as a Zombie), and various Zombie TV shows.
Thanks for asking, dear worst-reader. Here’s worst-writer’s theory about the Zombie craze.
First. The zombie genre is the first purely American aka Hollywood horror creation. I mean. Get this. Ghost stories, the undead, monsters, etc., have a long history in the mind-catacombs of #Eurowasteland and corresponding literature. But until the Zombie thing came along, America had nothing. Luckily the Zombie thing fits a particular mentality, which means Hollywood has probably found the money-recipe that appeals to so many and they’ve been running (away) with it ever since. Good for them, eh.
Second(1). How has the horror genre lasted so long? Horror movies of my youth were an answer to the suspense movies that would eventually scare the bee-gee-zees out of me. Yet. For the last fifty or so years, it doesn’t feel like suspense movies have, for lack of better cinematic vocabulary, moved on (like the diversification of the horror genre). I suppose I could say the same thing about other genres, aka Dramas, Sci-fi, Comic (movies based on comics–aghast!) But horror? These things have gone full evolution (or is it devolution?) I mean. The first horror movie to ever tickle my bee-gee-zees button (as in scare me) was Saw. Of course, the blood and guts didn’t scare me from that film. For, don’t you know, dear worst-reader, no horror movie director has ever had to rid a local barn of bats. And so. Suspense scared me. Under other economic and social circumstances, a movie like Saw might have even driven me mad. Btw. I should also note that I tried to watch other Saw movies. Since they are all just redundant, pseudo-repeats of the first, those initial bee-gee-zee scares were quickly wiped away. Again. IMHO Hollywood has a serious creativity problem. Oh. Wait.
But I’m off worst-subject again. Stop the presses. Rewind. Start again.
Second(2). To worst-writer, the success of the Zombie genre over the years is what I like to call a two way mirror. A two way mirror is where/when people look at the mirror, they know it’s a mirror, they know that someone on the other side is looking back at them, but they don’t care because, well, it’s still just a mirror image and we all know that a mirror image isn’t necessarily real. And so. The Zombie genre seems to be an ever flowing revenue stream for Hollywood because it doesn’t really need much creativity to keep turning out more and more product–it just needs to point that mirror. It needs to make sure that the zombies never really, actually, literally, show #Americants the other side of their two-way.
But I die-gress.
The first zombie movie I saw was 1978’s Dawn of the Dead. It has remained in my mind as the quintessential #Americant horror movie. Reason? It was set in a shopping mall. It is about shoppers in that shopping mall–all of whom are afraid for their lives. What better imagery is there than to show reality in a mirror, fill it with gore, add a bunch of weaponry and racism, and don’t forget sexual tension but no nudity, and there you have it. George Romero is a fcuking genius. Of course. Dawn of the Dead was Romero’s second Zombie movie. The first having been shot ten years prior to Dawn. I think it took me twenty years before seeing his first one–but it wasn’t as good as Dawn. Anywho.
To worst-writer, the Zombie genre is perfect for current #Americant misconstrued political and social ideals, especially for those who cling to such ideals. The essence of the #Americant fail-upward-ness that is the greed $hitshow cannot function unless misconstrued individualism reeks of spite, bigotry, hate–and the desire/need to see the death of what is in the mirror. It is a very binary thing, don’t you know. Not unlike the so-called bipartisan pseudo-governance, aka politics, that is red and blue states. It’s also the perfect mismatch for #Americant never facing its demons, especially the demon of slavery, rich v. poor, winner-take-all and all the losers left behind, or who and whatever else is in that mirror. And so. To bring things back around… The Zombie genre is perfect for audiences to avoid the mirror that is #Americant life–i.e. avoid reality. Hence, consumerism does have a price when mixed with too much Mikey Mouse. Eh?
Which brings me to the only Zombie movie that ever, kinda, moved me–above and beyond the thrills of horror. It happened on a flight across the Atlantic to visit Mom a few years back. Although I had planned to read and do some worst-writing on the flight, I scanned through the movie offering and there was Brad Pitt’s Zombie film. Sure, I thought. I can kill two hours out of the eight to watch this film. Besides. I had heard about the film. I had read about its production problems. There was also something out there in the ether about the book it was based on. And so. A few years later. Last week to be exact. I caught World War Z on Amazon Prime–again. I thought: yeah, I should re-watch this on account I missed a few things here and there while watching it on a plane with that horrific little backseat screen and awful audio. Also. I’ve since heard a few more things about the book–on account of all this/that about viruses. So I watched the movie again. I let it percolate through my mind that night. The next morning, last Thursday, I discovered that Amazon was offering the e-book of World War Z by Max Brooks for something like three fcuking Euros. I finished the book Easter Sunday morning, 2020.
Pseudo-review of World War Z by Max Brooks.
Let me begin with the negative.
It makes no sense to me why such a great writer/thinker would subject himself to writing this book. Did Max Brooks get up one day and think to himself: how the heck can I sell my compulsion? Oh. Hey. I’ll write about Americans–as Zombies. I’ll show them the mirror they refuse to look at–but instead dance around with guns and violence and war and false-happy. But then some publishing big shot called him up–surely a friend or foe of his father (the grand Mel Brooks) and said: just do it, dude. Just write about the brainlessness of Americans and… with that name of yours… we’ll sell it.
Let me end with the positive.
Max Brooks nails it. This has to be one of the best reinterpretations (or is it regurgitation) of #Americant story telling–ever. Wait. Is this a first? Not sure. From the get-go, the first third of the book kept me very interested. The second third of the book trailed along the first. The last third of the book is a bit winded (i.e. weak) but I was so glad that the whole thing didn’t degrade into anything like the Hollywood mess that was the movie, I was happy to read every word to the end. And on that note… The thing from the mediocre Brad Pitt movie that interested me was how the fight against Zombies was not unlike the fight against an enemy within. It was, eventually, my hope that the book would double down on the enemy-within–and it did–whereas the movie screwed the pooch. But let’s move on.
A chronicle of a world war against Zombies based on interviews with participants? Again. Brilliant. And how Brooks holds it all together with some seriously good writing. He even threads here or there a few snipes of social and political reality, i.e. addressing man’s non-sensical, if not whimsical, allowance/enabling of so much gluttonous behaviour–that can only result in Zombies. I mean. What a silly genre, really, for so much social commentary–hidden or not (in the back of that two-way mirror). Zombies. Yet the author maintains a level of literary bent that can even interest the best of the best of us pseudo-intellectual wannabes, making the undead not only entertaining but important. Good for you, Max! Us failed/worst writers salute you.