Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Who Wants More Zombie Love?

Scary is sexy, and one of the reasons I love urban fantasy is that a lot of it is borderline horror. Back when the genre was new, I was among the many bookstore grunts debating the proper place to shelve Anne Rice and Laurel K. Hamilton. For those of us that still had a horror section in our store, it was the area of choice for what would now be considered urban fantasy. Not a surprise, considering those early books were filled almost exclusively with monsters from classic horror tales, just presented a little differently. But UF didn't just make scary more sexy, it also made it more romantic since the heroines stopped running from the night stalkers and started dating them instead.

Vampires, werewolves, witches, even demons have transformed from frightening creatures to heroes and romantic leads. The one monster that never seems to change much in speculative fiction is the zombie. There have been quite a few humorous versions like Shaun of the Dead, Fido, various zombie survival guide parodies, and my personal favorites, Sam Raimi's Evil Dead series and Peter Jackson's hilarious Dead Alive. But let's face it, when things start getting really gory, it naturally seems to lean towards the funny side anyway (at least for me). These stories have produced a new category known as the ZomCom, heh.

By and large, zombies come in one basic form: dumb, dead, flesh-eaters that are somewhat hard to kill. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot to like about the standard zombie, as illustrated by Adriana Ryan in her blog post on Monday. However, it shouldn't be ignored that zombies are starting to come into their own with some really fun, charming, and dare I say lovable characters.

Randall Skeffington from the cartoon Ugly Americans "went zombie" to win the love of a girl who had a (brief) thing for the undead. Awww, now that's romantic. He's also a total ladies man, despite the fact that he tends to loose track of his, well, the important bits. Sidekick zombie Marcus Deckler from Dylan Dog: Dead of Night, played by Being Human's Sam Huntington, is downright adorable. The upcoming indie flick, A Little Bit Zombie, follows a couple on their way to the alter while the husband-to-be slowly (and disgustingly) falls apart after getting infected by a virus.

Then there's last year's hit Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion, about a zombie called R who falls in love with the girlfriend of one of his victims. I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but some of the reviews for the book are quite touching. Even though R is clearly a monster, people still find a way to root for him and his unorthodox romance with Julie. The movie version is scheduled for release in August, with director Jonathan Levine commenting that he tried to expand the zombie mythos by making them better looking than in other films.

Cute zombies? Maybe. Give them a winning personality and a ton of deodorant and they just might give all the other monsters a run for their money. Of course, there's still a very tongue-in-cheek quality to this new trend and I'm not sure I'm ready for a serious take on zombie love. I think it's the rotting flesh that's the issue. Still, they've come a long way for being one of the grossest creatures ever imagined, and deserve some credit for ushering in the next big genre, the ZomRomCom.

Happy Valentine's Day (after)!

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