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Why do the zombies move so fast? An explanation of the undead from Brad Pitt's World War Z

Nov. 9, 2012by: Paul Shirey

So, the first trailer for WORLD WAR Z premiered yesterday and as we all soaked in the footage from the epic adaptation of Max Brooks novel, one question seemed to keep popping up: Why are the zombies so fast? 

Certainly, we've become accustomed to the sluggish, slow-moving undead who are relatively easy to evade, but is there room for these "marathon" zombies in the genre's canon?  You'll recall that director Zack Snyder first showed us some undead sprinters in his DAWN OF THE DEAD remake, which didn't hurt that film's prospects.  But, the WORLD WAR Z zombies seem to be on some performance enhancing drugs...

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Visual effects supervisor John Nelson said that the zombies in WORLD WAR Z lean more toward a science fiction transformation, rather than a supernatural one.  The producer's dove heavily into research on animal behavior for the film

“They are like predatory animals that can’t control themselves,” Nelson said. “I worked with tigers [while shooting GLADIATOR], and if you watch them when a horse goes by they go batty, even if they know they can’t reach it. When Zs see humans they do same thing, they activate. They launch themselves.”

Nelson mentioned additional references: “There are a lot of things in nature we’re mining as references. They move like birds or school of fish, too, in reactive formations, and it’s not because they have a higher level of [shared] thinking or communication – it’s about their nature and the fact that their instinct to infect is so basic, efficient, and overpowering. They will go through anything. If they lose both legs, they will walk on their hands. They lock in and they’re like salmon going upstream or sperm swimming to be the first to egg.”

Ultimately, I think Nelson hits the bigger reason for the fast moving zombies in WORLD WAR Z, saying, “Everyone has seen everything in this genre,” Nelson said. “So of course we looked to try to find something new. And we have some.”

So, there's your explanation, folks.  I've had a strange number of texts and Facebook messages asking me what the deal was with the fast-moving zombies from the film, so hopefully this will provide the answer to everyone else looking for the reason.

The Marc Forster directed WORLD WAR Z, starring Brad Pitt, Matthew Fox, David Morse, James Badge Dale, and Mireille Enos kicks off the undead marathon on June 21, 2013.

Extra Tidbit: Do fast-moving zombies bother you? Besides the fact that they can catch you faster and eat your brains?

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10:25PM on 11/11/2012

WHO CARES IF THEY RUN

BRAD PITT IS FINALLY IN A ZOMBIE MOVIE!
BRAD PITT IS FINALLY IN A ZOMBIE MOVIE!
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2:33PM on 03/29/2013
Exactly. I'm getting sick of people whining about fast zombies. Not everyone has to completely copy Romero.
Exactly. I'm getting sick of people whining about fast zombies. Not everyone has to completely copy Romero.
9:15AM on 11/10/2012
Zombieland did a great job of fast moving zombies and I am all for this idea that these things hunt people like prey, but the CGI is killing it for me. Walking Dead uses CG when practical effects aren't as practical and it WORKS. Here it just seems like taking the easy route going with CG and it shows. I don't mind the new concept of what they are doing with the zombies, I just mind the execution. I still don't understand why "I AM Legend" vamps still had weird large mouths like "The Mummy"
Zombieland did a great job of fast moving zombies and I am all for this idea that these things hunt people like prey, but the CGI is killing it for me. Walking Dead uses CG when practical effects aren't as practical and it WORKS. Here it just seems like taking the easy route going with CG and it shows. I don't mind the new concept of what they are doing with the zombies, I just mind the execution. I still don't understand why "I AM Legend" vamps still had weird large mouths like "The Mummy" Imhotep did. While I do enjoy that movie, the CGI DESTROYS what it could have been. The same can happen here. Guess time will tell but as it is, the next trailer needs to show zombies, not schools of dead fish zombies.
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4:24AM on 11/10/2012
I would rather have slow walkers, but of long as there's plently of blood and they DON'T rely too heavily on CGI then I'm ok with it. Guess we'll see. We haven't really seen any close up shots of the zombies yet anyway. Man I hope this is good!
I would rather have slow walkers, but of long as there's plently of blood and they DON'T rely too heavily on CGI then I'm ok with it. Guess we'll see. We haven't really seen any close up shots of the zombies yet anyway. Man I hope this is good!
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+1
1:01AM on 11/10/2012

CGI Looks familiar

I say this looks like a "I Am Legend" prequel, still looks interesting tho
I say this looks like a "I Am Legend" prequel, still looks interesting tho
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-1
1:01AM on 11/10/2012

CGI Looks familiar

I say this looks like a "I Am Legend" prequel, still looks interesting tho
I say this looks like a "I Am Legend" prequel, still looks interesting tho
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+16
6:42PM on 11/09/2012
I'm not feeling this adaptation at all. I'm from Glasgow, Scotland where some of it was filmed and I was there on one of the days. I got really excited watching everything that was going on and being a bit of a zombie geek I couldn't wait for WWZ. I've read the books and loved them but gold medal winning zombies??? WTF!!! In my opinion CGI is going to kill this film! look what they do on AMC with The Walking Dead - no CGI, highly detailed zombies and believable.
I'm not feeling this adaptation at all. I'm from Glasgow, Scotland where some of it was filmed and I was there on one of the days. I got really excited watching everything that was going on and being a bit of a zombie geek I couldn't wait for WWZ. I've read the books and loved them but gold medal winning zombies??? WTF!!! In my opinion CGI is going to kill this film! look what they do on AMC with The Walking Dead - no CGI, highly detailed zombies and believable.
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5:34PM on 11/09/2012

IDC if they run..

Cus it makes it scarier, but work on the CGI, it fuckin looks like I am legend bad CGI. Like CGI is cool but not when its so cartoonish and takes away from the overall point of the film. I would shit in my pants if I had infect people running up to me. Refuse to call them zombies. New rule for me Zombies are ones that are slow, eat brains and stuff, but infected people are 28 days later and this.
Cus it makes it scarier, but work on the CGI, it fuckin looks like I am legend bad CGI. Like CGI is cool but not when its so cartoonish and takes away from the overall point of the film. I would shit in my pants if I had infect people running up to me. Refuse to call them zombies. New rule for me Zombies are ones that are slow, eat brains and stuff, but infected people are 28 days later and this.
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5:12PM on 11/09/2012

Who is Mark Brooks?

Is he related to Max Brooks?
Is he related to Max Brooks?
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+7
4:32PM on 11/09/2012

WWZ zombies

I prefer slow zombies, but if there are fast ones, we're all f**ked.
I prefer slow zombies, but if there are fast ones, we're all f**ked.
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10:01PM on 11/09/2012
If they can really run, I better reconsider those Zombie-related items in guns magazines, hehe.
If they can really run, I better reconsider those Zombie-related items in guns magazines, hehe.
-1
4:24PM on 11/09/2012
Nice, the extra tidbit references two things that Return of the Living Dead introduced in 1985: running zombies and zombies eating brains and the author doesn't even acknowledge that movie. And that on a site that tries to shoehorn in how ignorant Twilight fans are in every other article.
Nice, the extra tidbit references two things that Return of the Living Dead introduced in 1985: running zombies and zombies eating brains and the author doesn't even acknowledge that movie. And that on a site that tries to shoehorn in how ignorant Twilight fans are in every other article.
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5:03PM on 11/09/2012
Well, vampires can run faster than zombies. Uh oh, I didn't reference which vampires in which vampire movie...
Well, vampires can run faster than zombies. Uh oh, I didn't reference which vampires in which vampire movie...
3:27PM on 11/09/2012
The more I watch the trailer the more I like it. They focus on their prey and attack like a school of piranha, without regard for their bodies. Really it's not THAT much different from a bunch of other stuff we've seen. @Bob - I don't really see them defying gravity in the trailer. I see some amazing things that I don't think normal humans are capable of doing, but only because we feel pain.
The more I watch the trailer the more I like it. They focus on their prey and attack like a school of piranha, without regard for their bodies. Really it's not THAT much different from a bunch of other stuff we've seen. @Bob - I don't really see them defying gravity in the trailer. I see some amazing things that I don't think normal humans are capable of doing, but only because we feel pain.
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2:51PM on 11/09/2012
I personally don't mind running zombies, 'Dawn of the Dead remake' did a good job with it, but when zombies turn into literal waves that defy gravity then I can't help but laugh my ass off.

This idea of them behaving like superhuman hyper fish on dry land is stupid (fish can behave like that because they are in fucking water!). Gravity prevents anything on dry land (and without wings) from that. If the only way you can make zombies new is by having 'gravity defying zombies', then you've
I personally don't mind running zombies, 'Dawn of the Dead remake' did a good job with it, but when zombies turn into literal waves that defy gravity then I can't help but laugh my ass off.

This idea of them behaving like superhuman hyper fish on dry land is stupid (fish can behave like that because they are in fucking water!). Gravity prevents anything on dry land (and without wings) from that. If the only way you can make zombies new is by having 'gravity defying zombies', then you've seriously fucked up somewhere. This is the kind of logic we get from those horrible made for scy-fy shark movies. "Oh, a shark walking on land is something new, we don't care if it doesn't make sense."
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2:44PM on 11/09/2012

Interpretation: "Different is better, and the only 'different' we could come up with was 'SPRINTING ZOMBIES'"

Sounds like a bullshit argument to me.
Sounds like a bullshit argument to me.
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2:23PM on 11/09/2012
Ignoring the fact that it goes against the book for a sec, his explanation is fine in theory. The execution seems a little over the top, but the idea that they're frenzied, no regard for self preservation, and perhaps not affected by the limits to motor functions that regular humans are - I can appreciate that as an idea for a zombie film.
Ignoring the fact that it goes against the book for a sec, his explanation is fine in theory. The execution seems a little over the top, but the idea that they're frenzied, no regard for self preservation, and perhaps not affected by the limits to motor functions that regular humans are - I can appreciate that as an idea for a zombie film.
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2:17PM on 11/09/2012

I don't get the hate

First of all, I have read both the books by Max Brooks and I have really enjoyed them. I just don't get the hate for this movie, though. It's not the first time we'll see fast moving zombies on the screen, or anywhere for that matter. Hell, they have been around since 28 Days Later and the Dawn Of The Dead remake and they have pretty much become the norm in other forms of entertainment as well. Even the Resident Evil series, the video games that is, has ditched the slow moving zombies. Slow
First of all, I have read both the books by Max Brooks and I have really enjoyed them. I just don't get the hate for this movie, though. It's not the first time we'll see fast moving zombies on the screen, or anywhere for that matter. Hell, they have been around since 28 Days Later and the Dawn Of The Dead remake and they have pretty much become the norm in other forms of entertainment as well. Even the Resident Evil series, the video games that is, has ditched the slow moving zombies. Slow moving zombies work when they are pitted against a small group of survivors that they can easily overwhelm through sheer numbers. This movie tries to do something original and actually give us a a zombie epic, not the story of a group of people caught in an outbreak for the millionth time. Cut it some slack. Bottom line, I have no problem with fast moving zombies.

I really like the fact that some people call them "unrealistic" like that's the only non realistic thing when it comes to semi-sentient reanimated corpses... For example, if they are dead, rotting and not even breathing any more, WHY THE HELL DO THEY STILL NEED FOOD? Why don't they simply fall apart like corpses usually do? You don't bring logic and real life physics and such in a zombie movie, you just don't.

PS track down a movie called "Cockneys vs Zombies" or check out the trailer on Youtube (here it is: [link]; you'll never look at slow moving zombies the same way...
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4:03PM on 11/09/2012
WHY THEY NEED FOOD ?...
There AGAIN, you just need to watch
THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD
for your explanation.
WHY THEY NEED FOOD ?...
There AGAIN, you just need to watch
THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD
for your explanation.
4:28AM on 11/10/2012
@Cathelotte He's not asking that question, he's saying it's stupid to ask this question in the first place! They're zombies, they're fictional, meaning you can do whatever the fuck you want to do with them. They can run, sparkle or have sex. Real-life logic doesn't work in this case.
@Cathelotte He's not asking that question, he's saying it's stupid to ask this question in the first place! They're zombies, they're fictional, meaning you can do whatever the fuck you want to do with them. They can run, sparkle or have sex. Real-life logic doesn't work in this case.
2:09PM on 11/09/2012

Walmart: Black Friday!!!

Is that the name of this movie? @ weeks cant wait! gotta get that TV... What's that you say? "World War Z"?, oh ok, nevernind
Is that the name of this movie? @ weeks cant wait! gotta get that TV... What's that you say? "World War Z"?, oh ok, nevernind
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2:04PM on 11/09/2012

Walmart: Black Friday!!!

Is that the name of this movie? @ weeks cant wait! gotta get that TV... What's that you say? "World War Z"?, oh ok, nevernind
Is that the name of this movie? @ weeks cant wait! gotta get that TV... What's that you say? "World War Z"?, oh ok, nevernind
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+17
1:57PM on 11/09/2012

I call bullshit on this explination

If they had made a stand-alone zombie movie, i would be fine with fast zombies. This is a movie based on a book where the zombies are slow. If they had even bothered to read the book they would of read why the zombies are slow. Max Brooks explains exactly why zombies move slow in The Zombie Survival Guide. Let me explain:
If these zombies are in fact "dead" and not "infected", once a muscle in the human body is used/strained, it will begin to deteriorate. A living persons body will heal and
If they had made a stand-alone zombie movie, i would be fine with fast zombies. This is a movie based on a book where the zombies are slow. If they had even bothered to read the book they would of read why the zombies are slow. Max Brooks explains exactly why zombies move slow in The Zombie Survival Guide. Let me explain:
If these zombies are in fact "dead" and not "infected", once a muscle in the human body is used/strained, it will begin to deteriorate. A living persons body will heal and repair those muscles, a zombie cant because the body is no longer functioning. eventually a zombie will not be able to even walk if they strain their bodies enough. Read The Zombie Survival Guide.
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1:57PM on 11/09/2012

WILL YOU STOP

writing Zack Snyder was the first to introduce running Zombies...
The first running zombies were in the great
Dan O'Bannon's 1985 THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD
a full 19 years earlier !
And it doesn't bothers me at all as long as it's coherent with the film's bible.
writing Zack Snyder was the first to introduce running Zombies...
The first running zombies were in the great
Dan O'Bannon's 1985 THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD
a full 19 years earlier !
And it doesn't bothers me at all as long as it's coherent with the film's bible.
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+10
1:51PM on 11/09/2012
Theres a place for both. I personally find the "fast" zombie much more terrifying. If your smart you can survive in a slow lumbering zombie apocalypse but if its a world of olympic atheletes coming after you then your seriously fucked no matter what.
Theres a place for both. I personally find the "fast" zombie much more terrifying. If your smart you can survive in a slow lumbering zombie apocalypse but if its a world of olympic atheletes coming after you then your seriously fucked no matter what.
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1:53PM on 11/09/2012
...and you are correct, fast zombies can be more creepy, but they can't be in WWZ any more than a sparkly vampire can be in Dracula.
...and you are correct, fast zombies can be more creepy, but they can't be in WWZ any more than a sparkly vampire can be in Dracula.
3:09PM on 11/09/2012
Ooooo...DarkElfa that's gotta be one of the best analogies I've seen in a while. Good one!
Ooooo...DarkElfa that's gotta be one of the best analogies I've seen in a while. Good one!
+37
1:33PM on 11/09/2012

I don't mind fast moving Zombies in zombie films...

...but I do mind them in this one. especially since the book ENTIRELY requires them to be slow for any of what happens in the book to have happened. If the fuckhead wanted to create something new, he should have created a completely new property to go along with it, not bought up the most cherished zombie story they could find , toss the actual story itself in the garbage and use the name to sell tickets.
...but I do mind them in this one. especially since the book ENTIRELY requires them to be slow for any of what happens in the book to have happened. If the fuckhead wanted to create something new, he should have created a completely new property to go along with it, not bought up the most cherished zombie story they could find , toss the actual story itself in the garbage and use the name to sell tickets.
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1:26PM on 11/09/2012
Now explain the PG-13
Now explain the PG-13
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1:29PM on 11/09/2012
Money.
Money.
1:34PM on 11/09/2012
Money is the only thing that explains any of this crap.
Money is the only thing that explains any of this crap.
2:09PM on 11/09/2012
PG-13 is the rating for a movie that is suitable for children, but only those the age of 13 and above. What's that you say? "Not what you meant"? Oh then move alone, nothing to see here. :)
PG-13 is the rating for a movie that is suitable for children, but only those the age of 13 and above. What's that you say? "Not what you meant"? Oh then move alone, nothing to see here. :)
2:18PM on 11/09/2012
the zombies are so fast you can't see the gore?
the zombies are so fast you can't see the gore?
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