Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Zombies! Zombies!

"The Walking Dead" is breaking cable viewing records and bringing renewed interest in all things zombie. There are a slew of new zombie themed movies on the horizons, and a few television projects in development too. And why not? Supernatural creatures have been all the rage lately, and the zombie makes for a perfect antagonist. It's already dead, and a mindless lump of shambling putridity, so there's absolutely no guilt in watching all manner of over-the-top violence inflicted on them. They're also extremely versatile, good for horror, comedy, survival dramas, and even the occasional romance. So I thought I'd spotlight some of the upcoming zombie projects on the horizon, for all you zombie fans out there.

- "World War Z," is a post-apocalyptic picture starring Brad Pitt, based on the novel by Max Brooks. The book is a follow-up to Brooks' popular "The Zombie Survival Guide," one with a much more cohesive narrative and bigger ambitions, as you might guess from the subtitle: "An Oral History of the Zombie War." I expect there will still be plenty of social commentary in the mix, but the film and novel will probably be quite different. For one thing, while the protagonist of the novel was writing up his oral history and navigating a ravaged society ten years after the zombie apocalypse began, by all indications the film is going to be following the initial outbreak. "World War Z" is due to be released on December 21, 2012 - Mayan apocalypse day!

- There has been no shortage of zombie-themed television pilots recently, like "Babylon Fields," and "Awakening," but one I think stands a better chance of reaching our TV sets is the new "Zombieland" series in development at FOX. You remember "Zombieland," the 2009 action comedy with Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg and the list of survival rules? Initially everyone was very gung-ho for a sequel, but with so many of the original actors like Eisenberg and Emma Stone seeing their stars on the rise, scheduling and salaries may make a "Zombieland 2" a long shot. So, understandably, the filmmakers have been eyeing the small screen. Also keep an lookout for a pilot over at the Disney Channel called "Zombies and Cheerleaders." It's a musical. No, I'm not making this up.

- "R.I.P.D." stands, of course, for "Rest In Peace Department." It's a comic book turned action film about the adventures of a squad of undead cops. Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges star, with Kevin Bacon on villain duty. I'm not sure to what extent that zombies are actually involved in this one, but since the heroes are undead, they're policing the undead, and there have been reports of zombie mobs on set, I'm comfortable calling this a zombie movie. "R.I.P.D." suffered a lot of delays and casting changes, but the film has finished shooting and is safely in post production. Universal has will release it in June of 2013.

- Early last year, a three minute trailer for the video game "Dead Island" was released, and instantly attracted a storm of buzz. The contents of the trailer have little to do with what was actually in the game. It's essentially a stand-alone short where a little girl and her family fall prey to a zombie attack, but the haunting, non-linear storytelling turned some heads. Lionsgate acquired the rights to develop a film based on the trailer back in September. Whether they can expand a three minute short into a full length feature film remains to be seen, but then again a lot of horror films these days start out with a lot less.

- For those of you who like your supernatural monsters with a little more teen angst and romance, Summit Entertainment, the company that unleashed the "Twilight" films upon the world, is set to premiere "Warm Bodies" in February, 2013. Nicholas Hoult and Theresa Palmer will star as our zombie hero and the living girl he saves from harm and, of course, falls in love with. No word yet on whether we'll be getting sparkles with the leading man's pallor. Also on the horizon, if they can hang on to a director, is the big screen adaptation of "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies."

- Finally, the miscellanea. We have "Resident Evil 5," "[REC] 3," "28 Months Later," a new "Evil Dead," and potentially two more George Romero "Living Dead" installments in the pipeline. And Michael Bay has optioned something called "Zombies Vs. Robots."

It's a good time to be a zombie fan, kids. Enjoy it.

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