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Zombies could replace vampires (again)

October 12, 2010 |  7:22 pm

With major franchises about vampires and wizards coming to a close (in the next couple of years), Hollywood, always looking to the next really big thing, or at least the last sort-of big thing, has been putting its faith in a new genre breed: zombies.

As several recent articles have noted, a number of potential films and a new AMC television series ("The Walking Dead") seek to replace the bloodsuckers and wand-wavers. But getting the movies going could be as difficult as dodging a pack of the undead.

The project suddenly with the most questions around it: “Pride & Prejudice & Zombies." The alternative take on Jane Austen's dorm-room classic looked like it was full-speed ahead with Natalie Portman and David O. Russell , in what may have been the most logical or the most surreal pairing you can imagine. But Portman has decided against doing the movie, and Russell opted last week to go off and make the "Uncharted: Drake's Fortune" movie, leaving "Pride & Prejudice" as stranded out there as Mary Bennett, or one very lonely zombie.

Ostensibly moving forward is "Warm Bodies," a love-triangle-ish tale about a zombie who falls for the woman whose boyfriend he kills (we've all been there). That movie is said to be casting now, as writer-director Jonathan Levine meets with actors. (It's at "Twilight" studio Summit, so apparently they believe zombies are the next big thing too.)

The hitch: Levine is getting a lot of buzz for "Live With It," the so-called cancer comedy starring Seth Rogen, and he's rumored for various high-profile projects. Levine could still make "Warm Bodies" his next movie -- it would probably start shooting in early 2011 if he did -- but don't rule out another big gig for Levine that could put "Warm Bodies" at least temporarily on ice. Meanwhile, long-standing rumors of an "I Am Legend" sequel/prequel seem to have quieted down.

In the meantime, there are other zombie franchises that could pick up the slack, for one, the pliable "Resident Evil" franchise. With the fourth movie an unquestionable hit, a fifth film in the Milla Jovovich franchise probably will follow soon enough. And then of course there's the likely sequel to "Zombieland," which could come as soon as next year.

Zombie movies are historically more ghoulish, and less romantic, than vampire films, which means they usually appeal less to women (and thus to studios in general).

But it's hard to ever should count zombies out in Hollywood. Unlike vampire movies, which tend to live on the screen in sharp but powerful busts, as it is right now, zombies have a longer, steadier life.

Some of the better known vampire movies of the 1980s -- "Fright Night" and "The Lost Boys" -- were concurrent with a number of zombie hits; "Fright Night," for instance, came out the same year as the zombie reboot  "Return  of the Living Dead." Twenty years later, that vampire wave had long gone, but the "Living Dead" series was still going. And even as that series petered out, there was the zombie comedy "Shaun of the Dead" in 2004, and then, three years later, "I Am Legend," and then "Zombieland" two years after that. The trend of zombies in Hollywood always comes back;  it's just a question of how quickly it's able to rise.

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: "Return of the Living Dead 4" Credit: Aurora Entertainment


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