Has "World War Z 2" sounded the death of the zombie film?

World War Z dir. Marc Forster

Pre-production on the World War Z sequel has ceased following studio concern.

The undead sub-genre has a long and rich history. Filmmakers from George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead) to Lucio Fulci (Zombie Flesh Eaters) have long breathed life into the zombie film, exemplifying that there are just so many ways to tackle it, and there certainly are. We’ve seen the slapstick madness of Peter Jackson’s Braindead, the horrors of Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later..., and the subversiveness of Bruce McDonald’s Pontypool. It’s a cycle which allows many possibilities, and when AMC’s The Walking Dead hit screens in 2010 the demand grew, fuelling a further resurgence.

However, as the show’s narrative stretched, so did audience patience. You could speculate that the show itself hadn’t become stale, but simply the genre it operated within. Particularly during the first half of the decade, there were so many zombie films to choose from; this repetition and tiresome familiarity turned viewers off, resulting in zombie fatigue that only devotees could survive. There are those that have come to the show’s defence, of course, asserting that in later seasons it has strived to do something different, and after all, isn’t this what the genre was built on?

Most zombie productions we remember are the ones that have gone against the grain to present a new vision within a traditional horror sub-genre. Although not a huge hit with critics, one film which certainly managed to achieve this in recent years was World War Z - perhaps the most ambitious example in quite some time. Marc Forster’s 2013 film aimed to be a zombie blockbuster. It cost an estimated $190 million dollars, which proved one thing: the studios believed in the zombie film…

The World War Z sequel has experienced many delays. Lots of genre fans argue that the time for a sequel passed long ago - it needed to be immediate, particularly after such an open ending. Interest in the project gradually declined, that is until David Fincher was announced to direct. The director of Fight Club, The Social Network, Gone Girl and so many other terrific films helming a sequel to World War Z? Intrigue peaked with this information. Yet, according to Empire, pre-production has ceased - again - due to budgetary concerns from Paramount.

Years have passed, and they will continue to do so; will this film ever see the light of day? Honestly, it’s incredibly doubtful. In the early 2010s the studio was confident enough to spend almost $200 million on the first instalment, and now it seems they just can’t bring themselves to do the same. This brings us back to our questions: Has World War Z sounded the death of the zombie film?

In some capacity it has. The studio seems fully aware that such a big-budget zombie effort isn’t a bankable venture - in this respect, the undead blockbuster as we may have known it has been buried. The 2018 film Overlord is a curious example, blending with it many elements of the action film but only utilising a fraction of World War Z’s budget at $38 million - yet, it was still no success story. 

 

Interest in the sub-genre has found unlikely success elsewhere in recent years with films like Sang-ho Yeon’s Train To Busan and last year’s One Cut of the Dead, which is being heralded as the best zombie film since Shaun of the Dead. The independent film was shot on an ultra-low budget, yet it’s selling out cinemas worldwide and earning the attention of filmmakers, critics and audiences alike; perhaps because it is a film brimming with ideas. It offers a unique spin on the genre, and unlike many efforts, it demands to be seen with an audience. Through word of mouth alone the film has become a global sensation, and its popularity continues to intensify today. 

Film festival audiences predicted that these two films would find success, and they were certainly right. Perhaps this World War Z sequel news has confirmed that things will go back to the way they were; before The Walking Dead and before World War Z. The sub-genre has always been rooted in independent cinema, and films like One Cut of the Dead honour this tradition, and prove that small budgets can encourage huge talk.

Low-budget offerings like these and Jeremy Gardner’s The Battery have offered the decade’s highlights, supporting the argument that independence will always be at the heart of the zombie film. If you’re still not convinced, then here’s more: Jim Jarmusch - one of the most beloved indie filmmakers of the last forty years - is making a zombie film. Although Fincher’s World War Z 2 is quickly becoming one of the most intriguing films never to materialise, the genre is in good hands - it just requires a little more searching.

In other film news, Chris Pratt has addressed Indiana Jones rumours. 

Have something to tell us about this article?