Here at Behind the Thrills, we love us some Theme Parks. No doubt about it. However, there is a great big world out there, and sometimes we need to take a step out of the parks and look at something else. Join us as we take a look outside of the world of theme parks and into the world of movies, music, television, hotels…pretty much anything else we happen to stumble across.
However whatever we look at will have some relation to the theme park world, granted not directly…but in a round about sort of way.
So join us now as we lift up the harnesses, put down our cup of Butterbeer and take a walk…Offsite.
This Week’s Offsite Adventure-Warm Bodies
Deconstructing genres are no new phenomenon. There have been books and movies that have done it for decades, most notably Mel Brooks did it with the monster movie when he took the Universal horror classic Frankenstein and turned it into a comedy. Young Frankenstein held onto the basic concepts of Mary Shelly’s book and the classic film, while just turning it upside down and making it a logical, yet hilarious, continuation of the story. Then comes books like Wicked, Pride and Prejudice..and zombies, Abraham Lincoln:Vampire Hunter (read the book instead of the movie kids) and Twilight.
Now most of those books and films turned out to be something special, taking classics and reinventing them into new forms of entertainment that just worked for the new generations. Twilight was the exception. I know the book had it’s fans, and the movies were hugely successful, but let’s be honest. Vampires don’t effing sparkle! Vampires can’t come out in sunlight and vampires show a hell of a lot more emotion than Edward and Bella!
On the heels of the last Twilight film (hopefully) comes Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies. It’s about a post apocalyptic world in which two young people fall in love. Surviving together to make the world a better place. Oh, and the guy happens to be a zombie…the reason for the apocalypse. Okay, so like any good love story, the guy and girl aren’t boyfriend and girlfriend at first. No, something changes in him and his zombification is deconstructed. Yeah. Here we go again. More changes in the rules to fit your story and make this more friendly to the soccer moms and teenage girls. Great.
You would think that. While there are some definite rule changes in the film version, they aren’t that bad…of course you have to suspend all you think you know about zombies in the first place. You also have to realize that the rules of zombies have changed dramatically over the years in film.
Film has been the main catalyst for zombie films throughout the history of the zombie. Zombies originate in Africa, and the West Indies, mainly from the voodoo religion. In that religion a zombie is a person that has died and has come back to life, usually by means of witchcraft or some other supernatural means. In the old days a zombie was used as a slave, as they were just mindless shells of their former selves. It was a huge business for some “witch doctors” to slip a person some kind of poison that would make them sleep so deeply they were believed to be dead. The witch doctor would slip into the graveyard after their victims were buried and wait for the screams. They would dig up the person, who is waking up to find themselves buried alive, and tell them “You died, I brought you back from the dead” and would make that person their slave. Once the family found out, the witch doctor would sell the “zombie” back to the family at a premium price.
In film, that same sensibility was used when it came to zombies. The first zombie film, 1932’s “White Zombie” used that same premise of the dead returning, only to be used as slaves. While that could be scary, it wasn’t until George A. Romero’s 1968 “Night of the Living Dead” that we got our typical vision of zombies that we see today. Flesh eating freaks that infect those they bite. Romero went on to make two sequels, Dawn of the Dead in which we get zombies using tools, and Day of the Dead in which zombies not only have cognitive memories, but can also speak. Yes! The brainless zombies still have some of their basic functions left knocking around in there as “Bub” from Day of the Dead can speak little sentences. Years later, Romero would have zombies want to be left to figure their lives out with “Land of the Dead” where his zombies not only speak, but also relive their daily lives the best they can from behind the fog of death.
In 1985 the zombie genre got another zombie stereotype…the brain eaters. It was Return of the Living Dead that made zombies brain eating, brain mumbling maniacs. It wasn’t until 2002’s 28 Days Later that zombies became fast, sprinting disease spreading eating machines. It’s all kind of spiraled from there. Now we have slow ambling, disease spreading, running when we have to zombies.
Now, in 2013, comes Warm Bodies. This is a tale narrated by a zombie…we only know him by what he thinks his first name starts with..R. He is able to think, but not remember. He can communicate with other zombies, and they all wonder around an airport…probably the last place they were when the disease hit. R doesn’t like the fact that he’s a zombie, he doesn’t like what he’s become and tries harder than anything to repiece his thoughts. Little things spark interest in him, like collectibles and vinyl records, which he listens to in his plane. The zombies wonder out when the hunger hits them, searching for fresh meat. The hunger is something powerful and he can’t help himself…though he feels terrible when he does it. Above all else, he loves that sweet meat of the brain. It’s candy to zombies, and we finally figure out why they love it so much. It brings in memories of those they eat. They can actually see the last thoughts when they eat their brains. Occasionally a zombie will lose all hope, or they get so old that they fall apart and become what they call a “boney”. Bonies have no connection to their human selves anymore, and are just bones with a thin layer of skin. They’re nasty, and kind of rule over the zombies.
R goes out on a hunt, and comes across a group of survivors looking for medical supplies. One of the survivors catches his eye, and something in him stirs…something he hasn’t felt since his time as a zombie. Julie is knocked down, though R saves her…something she’s never seen and he’s never done. He eats her boyfriend, saves part of his brain for later and gets Julie out of danger. Things start stirring in him more. As Julie waits for things to be safe for her to leave, R starts to change. When the other zombies see what’s happening, they start changing too.
The biggest thing that’s changing here are the rules of the zombie game again. It’s nothing new for zombies to mutter a few words, but we get a perspective that we’ve never seen here. We can see and hear the thoughts of R like he’s never been dead. The thoughts are trapped in there, and he’s just trying to regain them. Also the zombies are working together, like a family…caring about what happens to each other, and sticking up for one another when the bonies are trying to hunt them down. The biggest change is the ability to see memories of those you eat by eating brains. It explains why they do it, and why they go after it so hard. But the most controversial is the reclamation of their lives.
I’m diving into spoiler material here….so stop if you don’t want to ruin things
So, the zombies are starting to live again. They are coming back to life…..let’s think about that for a second. They are people that are dead. They come back to life as a walking, eating corpse…then they start to regain their lives. Their hearts start beating, their brains start working like normal…and all the wounds they suffered are gone..they heal up and are no longer dead.
It’s going to pose a huge problem for those who have come to accept zombies in their lives. For one…we can’t kill them anymore. They can be turned back. Half the joy of zombies was the ability to shoot them in the head without remorse, retribution or guilt. They were monsters…you were doing the right thing by killing the monsters. For another…while they are making the change back…aren’t they going to get hungry? It’s like trying to nurse a crack addict off of crack…they get urges! Once you’re an alcoholic, you’re always an alcoholic…and it’s going to always be a battle to stay sober. Can’t you say the same thing about zombies? Will they be able to eat red meat once they are alive again without going crazy and wanting to snack on human flesh? So many questions left unanswered.
The film itself is very good. The acting in it is really great, and the zombie sequences are pure horror zombie. While the obvious connection to Twilight will be made…it’s not like Twilight. This film is actually good! It is a love story, but at the heart it’s a zombie story. It pays enough attention to the things that it needs to get right to make it good enough for zombie lovers…while also still pulling at the heart strings.