06/18/2013 05:51 pm ET Updated Aug 18, 2013

Brad Pitt's Zombie Thriller: WWZ's Beat Vibe

This season's extravaganza 3D epic, WWZ based on Max Brooks' 2006 novel and directed by Mark Forster opens with a traffic jam in Philadelphia: a family-- Dad is Brad Pitt, his wife Karen (The Killing's Mireille Enos), and their two daughters, trapped in a car. Soon you learn the cause: a Zombie takeover. On Monday, Times Square mimicked art, with pedestrians clogging a narrowed Broadway for the movie's red carpet premiere, proving people will do anything to catch a glimpse of Brad Pitt. It's hard to say which, art or life, was more fearsome.

At the Ziegfeld, Brad Pitt introduced the film: Let's get this party started. He seemed so confident that we'd like it, and we did --a lot-- despite the fact that Zombies, even when co-starring with Pitt, did not seem that appealing a concept, especially after seasons fraught with vampires. Yet, conceived as marble-eyed and twitching subspecies of humans, the WWZ Zombies are actually quite compelling, their movements choreographed. Yes they are scary, and as Pitt's character Gerry looks for origins, travelling to South Korea, Jerusalem, and at the World Health Organization in Scotland, among its locations, every glimpse of this army of enemies brings images of lost souls. In chaotic pyramid formation to scale walls, they look like a Bosch vision of Hell. Particularly terrifying is their presence on board a plane; needless to say, it's a nightmare of a flight that mercifully crashes.

The Zombies reminded me of David Cronenberg's rubbery mugwumps, in his eerie recreation of William Burroughs' Naked Lunch; the movie as a whole had this midcentury author's paranoia about viruses that lodge themselves in hidden places to erupt in the future. Burroughs considered our bodies "soft machines," and capable of "possession." I think he would be as mesmerized by WWZ as were the rest of us at the premiere.

A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.