I wouldn’t call myself a horror fan anymore, but I dabble in minuscule doses under controlled circumstances, if I sense some sort of aesthetic at work whose quality isn’t measured by how many sanguinary “epic kills” are racked up for our carnival amazement. I read Max Brooks’ debut novel World War Z a while back and thought it was an exemplary exception. Styled as an assembled “oral history”, WWZ was a patchwork of short stories about human perseverance (or lack thereof at times) in the face of standard undead onslaught, attached to a Big Picture framework you could discern if you paid attention to the little details scattered throughout its varied first-person narratives. Brooks had a remarkably dexterous way of shifting across a full spectrum of cosmopolitan viewpoints across continents, at exploring different levels of survival competence ranging from blind luck to militarily prepared, and especially at extrapolating how governments other than ours might respond to such a nightmarish, supernatural threat. (Ever wonder what extremes China might consider? Brooks does.) Content extremity was kept to a minimum in most sections, opting instead for a more well-rounded, humanizing approach to the storytellers. It wasn’t Frank Peretti, but it wasn’t torture porn or splatterpunk, either.
This mosaic of unrelated characters has apparently now been funneled into the major motion picture World War Z starring Brad Pitt as the Main Character the book didn’t really have, Mireille Enos from The Killing demoted from failed detective to The Wife, and some cute defenseless children, because Paramount Pictures is reportedly aiming for a PG-13 rating so everyone can conscientiously keep a Blu-Ray copy on the family-blockbuster shelf next to Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds.