Zombies have been awesome for the past 40 years because it's easy to see them as us. Shit, they are us — viewed from far enough away wouldn't humanity just look like one big shambling horde? The same way we might see an anthill?
And since the world didn't come crashing down last December 21 a Zombie Apocalypse seems to be the next big cultural paranoia. AMC's The Walking Dead is hugely popular, Brad Pitt stars in World War Z — a massive-budget zombie flick set to drop in June — and this week a zombie romantic comedy opens at the Whistler Village 8.
Warm Bodies is a zombie love story just in time for Valentine's Day. The story revolves around a barely decomposed zombie dude and a hot living chick and maybe, just maybe, love might be the cure for the "incurable" zombie virus, if only she can just get everyone else to give him a chance... its Romeo and Juliet with zombies.
Sounds hokey, right? The Twilight-ification of another classic horror monster. But rules are meant to be broken and while this chick-centric zombie movie certainly lacks the bite of genre classics (or even Shaun of the Dead) it still has some smart moments and a good soundtrack.
The zombie film tradition of deeper allegorical meaning continues with Warm Bodies and there are small epiphanies to be had. And director Jonathan Levine (All the Boys Love Mandy Lane) did once pull off a solid 104-minute love story flick about a kid who does nothing more than walk around selling weed and listening to Biggie Smalls, so maybe this deserves a chance. (On the other hand, a zombie makeover scene sounds really, really bad.)
Also opening is Mama, a ghost-story/thriller about two little girls who disappear after their deranged father kills their mother. The toddlers turn into feral, rat-eating bush kids who hole up in a creepy cabin until they suddenly turn up years later. It goes without saying that the good-natured uncle and rock'n'roll girlfriend who adopt them are in for a lot more than they bargained for.
While it looks creepy enough, early word on Mama is that it's really formulaic. True horror fans are used to that though, and willing to overlook it. Mama's CGI "monster" is apparently borderline laughable but otherwise solid visuals and Jessica Chastain keep things afloat.
Chastain is up for an Oscar this year with her work on Zero Dark Thirty (still playing at the Village 8) and is currently Hollywood's actress du-jour after knocking off roles in acclaimed arthouse hits like Tree of Life, Take Shelter and The Help.
The thing about horror movies is the protagonists are so often just ordinary people, not CIA agents or super heroes, which gives an actress like Chastain perhaps more to work with than ever before. And she steps up. Mama is not great, but it's good enough to help you through the January doldrums.
Speaking of, Movie 43 is still playing and has been called "the Citizen Kane of awful" by Richard Roeper (a.k.a. Siskel 2.0). Apparently the handful of essentially un-linked gross-out comedy sketches starring huge name stars like Kate Winslet and Emma Stone (and McLovin and Stiffler) is so piss-poor and tasteless that it sinks far below the "so bad it's good" benchmark to wallow in the sludge that lines the cinematic septic tank. Now I want to see it that much more.
Perhaps that's what will save us from the Zombie Apocalypse — bad taste. (Which is also the name of a classic zombie film, made by the guy who made the Hobbit. Download of the Week.)