It was the last refuge. Where vampires, werewolves, and innumerable other creatures that went bump in the night had succumbed to the Twilight phenomenon, I could at least take comfort that the zombie would remain uncompromised at the hands of the YAF romance crowd. There is just nothing sexy about a rotting corpse, no matter how many Zombie Pin-Up girl calendars I’ve seen at conventions. I have always chosen to believe that the people making those and buying them are doing so ironically, because any other interpretation is madness.
No, the modern, post-Romero zombie is a wonderful thing, a force of nature, a blank slate of hunger onto which we project our own very human flaws. Like the xenomorphs of Aliens, you don’t see them fucking each other over for a percentage. Or fucking, for that matter. And definitely, definitively not angsting about fucking. When people (like luminary hobbit enthusiast Peter Jackson) portray zombie romance or zombie sex, they do it for laughs, or at least are cognizant that this is not the stuff of dreamy sighs and heart doodles in notebooks. You can’t play it straight. You can’t Twilightize zombies. It’s just not possible in any sort of sane world…
That’s the promo image from the upcoming feature film Warm Bodies. Here’s the IMDB summary:
“After a zombie becomes involved with the girlfriend of one of his victims, their romance sets in motion a sequence of events that might transform the entire lifeless world.”
Here’s the Wikipedia entry, so far combining the movie and the book it was based on. The book plot:
“R is a zombie. After a zombie apocalypse, he shambles across an America filled with collapsed buildings, rusted cars, shattered windows, and abandoned high-rises. He can only grunt or moan and craves human brains to get high on their memories. After eating the brains of a suicidal teen, R is overcome with love for the teen’s companion, Julie Grigio. R rescues Julie from his zombie pack and takes her back to his lair. She eventually leaves, and R follows her back to Citi Stadium, the largest remaining human refuge…”
Now, I have not read this book. It is entirely possible that the book is a fully aware, tongue-in-cheek riff on the concept, otherwise known in societal circles as “getting the joke”. There’s no mention here, after all, of Julie returning the groaning, grunting love of her rotting would-be paramour. Also, hey, a story like King Kong proves that with enough skill involved this sort of set-up can even be a bit tragic and touching. Warm Bodies apparently goes with the Romeo & Juliet allusions instead, which doesn’t seem as good a fit, and the book cover has a Stephenie Meyer endorsement right at the top… but the concept alone doesn’t instantly, viscerally lurch up into my craw the way that the film promo image does.
There have been misleading ad campaigns before; I can in particular remember when Heathers first came out in 1988 with marketing featuring little more than Winona Ryder and Christian Slater cuddling up and imaginative taglines like “The COOLEST kids! The HOTTEST movie!”. That happened– but Heathers turned out to be far above and beyond a formulaic, vapid teen romance film; I’d go so far as to say it smartly savaged nearly everything about the genre, including daring to put forth a moral lesson that sometimes falling in love with the bad boy has bad consequences.
Should I extend the same consideration to Warm Bodies? Well, again from the wiki…
“The studio behind The Twilight Saga, Summit Entertainment, is backing the film…”
“The zombies don’t really talk in the film, so extensive voice-over will be used to express their thoughts. Director [Jonathan] Levine sought to expand the zombie mythology by making the zombies better looking than in other films…”
Uh, so… this isn’t even going to be a perspective from the protagonist? We’re going to be treated to the voice-over thoughts of more than one zombie, here? More than one “better looking” zombie? That sounds thoroughly awful. So awful I may end up longing for the unintelligibility of the Star Wars Holiday Special wookiee family.
Did I mention that on IMDB this movie is tagged as Drama, not Comedy? Because there is no way this is not a Comedy. The more it tries to Not Be A Comedy, the more Comedic it will become.
I’m with the Rifftrax forums on this one: “Holy crap, this thing is real. Let me reiterate: holy crap, this thing is really really real.”
IMDB does also have the movie categorized as ‘Horror’.
I’ll admit, I’m feeling that.
(For fiction about walking, rotting corpses that doesn’t involve trying to make them sexy to tweens, why not check out Justin’s article about his new novel, Undead on Arrival? Or you can get really out there and have a look at my ongoing webcomic, Zombie Ranch.)