Ever since the undead first lurched around George A. Romero‘s “Night Of The Living Dead,” audiences have been captivated by zombies. They’ve entered nearly every pop culture sphere, hunting for brains at the movies, on television, in books, graphic novels, comics and more, and in 2013 they are invading the multiplex once again. Yesterday saw trailers arrive for two zombie flicks, the smaller budget “Warm Bodies” (watch here) from director Jonathan Levine, and the blockbuster “World War Z” (watch here) starring Brad Pitt. But the question is: does the zombie movie have anything new to say?
On the plus side, while I thought it looked a bit silly, the general consensus seems to be that “Warm Bodies” does have some promise. And it does boast an original concept. Based on the book by Isaac Marion, the story centers on R (Nicholas Hoult), a morally conflicted zombie who falls in love with the human Julie (Teresa Palmer). While we’ve seen the zombie comedy before (in the exceptional “Shaun Of The Dead” and “Zombieland“), we can’t recall there ever being a zom-rom-com, and there have certainly been few popular pictures that look to humanize the undead rather than treating them as faceless antagonists.
Speaking of which, that’s what makes “World War Z” so underwhelming. Borrowing the fast moving zombie trope utilized (as far as we can tell for now) much better in the “28 Days Later” movies, this just looks like a far more expensive version of a movie we’ve seen numerous times already, just with a lot more cut and paste CGI creatures with no defining characteristics. The Brad Pitt flick presents yet another generic apocalyptic premise, but we’re yet to see what will make this particular story unique or compelling.
And ultimately, that’s what the genre hinges on to creatively and effectively move forward. No matter what your feelings are on “The Walking Dead,” audiences are watching the show in huge numbers. The premiere of this season was the biggest non-reality show in the key 18-49 demographic, beating the popular “Modern Family,” which, given that the latter is on basic cable and thus more widely available, is a pretty massive debut.
As we noted in a feature last year, Hollywood is hardly finished with zombies. There are a staggering number of zombie movies in development, all with their unique twists and gimmicks to shake things up. But as always, if the characters and story are there, the rest will follow naturally. There is no doubt that Hollywood will be waiting to see what audiences think of “Warm Bodies” and “World War Z” as they move their projects along, but what do you think? Is the zombie genre dead? Where should it go next? Weigh in below.