Zombies, zombies everywhere – from TV (“The Walking Dead”) to the big screen (“World War Z”), from bookshelves filled with zombie survival guides, to the Internet (zombiesurvivivalwiki.com), trickling down to parades (“zombie walks”) and theme parties from coast to coast.
Are these warning signs that America is headed for its own zombie apocalypse?
“Well, I don’t want to come out and say these things are turning us into a nation of zombies,” says Jonathan Levine, director of the film of Isaac Marion’s teen zombie in love novel, “Warm Bodies.”
“Have you ever played ‘Words with Friends?’” giggles Analeigh Tipton, one of the stars of “Warm Bodies,” which opens Friday.
Let’s see, cell-phone addicts mindlessly staring down into a phone, missing the life that’s passing us by? Maybe that’s a sign.
“It’s no secret that texting and Twitter and Facebook have become obsessions of social interaction among young people,” says Tipton, 24, who plays a human who becomes sympathetic to zombies in “Warm Bodies.” The movie suggests that a little love, or lust, gets the old heart pumping and who knows how much that will humanize the Walking/Living Dead? “Everybody is craving some commentary that calls that sort of behavior zombie-like. This movie doesn’t call people idiots for doing that. But the commentary is there. Staring at the ground like your head is buried in a phone call. That’s kind of zombie-like.”
Levine says that “the central allegory in Isaac’s book, really resonated with me. Are people really living in the moment, being the best version of themselves they can be, or are they bored and drifting around?”
The story’s other big allegory is that being an awkward teen, unable to communicate with the opposite sex, is a bit like being a zombie.
“It’s not technology that’s making us zombies,” says Tipton, the skater turned model/actress (“Crazy Stupid Love”). “But it is a sign of how we’re relating to each other. Like zombies, we can’t talk to somebody or pick up their social signals.”
“Conversation’s always tricky,” Levine adds. Zombies typically just moan. “That takes a bit of pressure off, though, on a date. You don’t have to talk because you CAN’T.”
“And there’s always the body parts and maybe leftover brains around the house,” adds Tipton. “That can be a real relationship=-killer.”
Levine is best known for the dramedies “The Wackness” and “50/50.” For “Warm Bodies, “I had to go to ‘Zombie Camp.’ That meant watching every George A. Romero (The “Living Dead” movies, font of all big screen zombie lore) film.
“Our movie breaks a lot of his ‘zombie rules,’ Levine says. Zombies can move pretty fast when they’re attacking in his film. And they might be redeemable as human beings.
“But watching Romero’s films, I realized that he was constantly pushing the tropes of his own zombie mythology in new directions. There was already a precedent for others changing those rules, in films like ’28 Days Later,’ Zack Snyder’s ‘Dawn of the Dead.’ It’s not dogmatic about the rules.”
Levine, an American Film Institute alumnus, also got to finally – at 36 – get a “rite of passage for student filmmakers” on his resume. They all do a zombie movie, usually as students.
“It’s fun to dress up and act that way. And if you’re smart, there is an underlying social commentary about the genre. When you’re a zombie, you’re playing a heightened BORED version of your real self.”