Movie Feature

Dead Heads: Zombies on film

By Wayne RéeMovies - 13 March 2013 9:00 AM

Dead Heads: Zombies on film

With ‘The Walking Dead’ shuffling along triumphantly in its third – and arguably best – season, and foreign films like ‘Juan of the Dead’ and ‘The Horde’ quietly making waves, zombies are finally starting to get the mainstream success they deserve.

Zombie culture’s hardly a new phenomenon though. From George Romero's 1968 classic ‘Night of the Living Dead’ to Edgar Wright's riotous ‘Shaun of the Dead’, these cannibal corpses have been amassing a cult following among fans for decades now. But what's the appeal behind our favourite flesh-eating ghouls?

Like any good fright fest, the best of the genre are usually ripe with social commentary. Romero's ‘Dawn of the Dead’ (and its 2004 remake) spoke of our mindless commercial extravagance, while ‘Shaun of the Dead’ was all about overcoming personal apathy.

So, the question is, what does this year’s higher-profile zombie offerings have to say? Will they have the same resonance as the classics – or are they destined to face the proverbial shotgun blast to the head? Let’s tear into the guts of what we know so far and make some (somewhat) educated guesses.

 

I like her for her braaaaaaaaains

Based on the novel by Isaac Marion, ‘Warm Bodies’ has been primed as the next ‘Twilight’, which seems like a pretty unfair comparison. For one thing, this adaptation by director Jonathan Levine doesn’t immediately look like it’s going to suck. (The pun-fu is strong with us.)

The premise – a zombie slowly regains his humanity when he falls in love with a living, breathing human girl – seems interesting enough. Some are claiming that this steers the undead into abysmal paranormal romance territory. But, come on. In 2006, there was a film called ‘Black Sheep’ about (you guessed it) zombie sheep. The brilliance of this genre is that it’s flexible enough to produce quality stuff, no matter what the subject matter.

Also, with a top-notch cast featuring Nicholas Hoult, Rob Coddry and John Malkovich, this one looks to at least be entertaining. That said, that familiar “love conquers all” message seems a little too safe. We’re thinking that this could be fun, but not exactly a cult classic in the making.

 

Of course, you realise, this means war

Instead of a straightforward narrative, Max Brooks’ 2006 book ‘World War Z’ was presented as a collection of interviews with the survivors of a zombie apocalypse. It was poignant, intelligent and looked at the genre in a refreshingly new way.

Its film adaptation which opens 20 June, however, looks… um, different.

Now, we understand that when translating a book to screen, certain liberties must be taken. And, from what we’ve read, the interview format that made the novel such a hit is still somewhat maintained in the film.

But where the book was a reflective piece with a clear main message – war is hell – that same message, at least from what we’ve seen in the trailer, seems to be lost in the film’s action.

Could it still be great? Sure. And it does have Marc Forster at the helm and Brad Pitt in the lead, so there’s no shortage of talent. But until the credits roll, call us very cautiously optimistic.

 

“Honey, you got real ugly”

The Evil Dead’ was never exactly a zombie franchise. The deadites in the films are actually decaying human husks possessed by demons. So, think of this as a zombie film’s second cousin, twice removed.

And that distant relative is primed for a more sinister reboot. Gone is the charming machismo of Bruce Campbell’s Ash and that trademark over-the-top Sam Raimi style. The trailer for Fede Alvarez’s ‘Evil Dead’ seems like the kind of film that would make the makers of ‘Saw’ go, “Whoa ho ho! Tone it down, guys!”

Now, to be fair, it’s not like the original ‘Evil Dead’ films had a particularly deep message — Ash is awesome and you shouldn’t go reading from strange demonic books — but they made up for it by being wildly original. Alvarez’s reimagining, despite its heavy dose of gore, has us wondering if this won’t be just another torture porn. 

 


Wayne Rée is a copywriter by day, a (hopefully) soon-to-be self-published author by night, and a complete doofus almost all the time. He was partly responsible for Singapore’s very first tattoo magazine FlashINK, so if you want to blame anyone, he’s as good as any. In the last decade, he’s worked for numerous publications and websites. He’s got an unnatural obsession with comics, science fiction and the music of Nine Inch Nails. And he loves talking about himself in the third-person, the egomaniac.