Dead Genres and How To Revive Them: The Zombie Movie
There’s a truism in Hollywood that certain genres are dead. In this 4-part series of blog posts, we’re going to look at these genres Hollywood wisdom says are dead, why their death is the prevalent theory, and what it may take for any writer to revive them with their own script.
Third up is the zombie genre, which hit a saturation point in 2013, and has cooled since. In 2013, six zombie films were theatrically released. WORLD WAR Z was a smash hit at 540 million dollars worldwide gross against a 190 million dollar budget. WARM BODIES was a smash hit at 116 million dollars worldwide gross against a 35 million dollar budget.
Only three zombie films were released in 2014 and 2015, respectively, only two in 2016, and only one in 2017. And of the three released in 2018, all were small releases that didn’t register much in the public consciousness (small indies ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE, THE NIGHT EATS THE WORLD and THE CURED).
But 2019 brings fresh reinforcements for the zombie genre, bizarrely both featuring Bill Murray, specifically in THE DEAD DON’T DIE and ZOMBIELAND 2: DOUBLE TAP. It’s not a coincidence that both films are going to feature an irreverent, comic, genre-skewering tone.
In a sense, this means the revival of the zombie genre is already happening. Jim Jarmusch’s THE DEAD DON’T DIE is an existing case study (the trailer is currently out, and worth watching for this reason) of reviving the genre.
Early in the trailer, Adam Driver casually says that he’s thinking they have a case of zombies. In most prior zombie films, the characters have some other name for the zombies, or don’t know what they are, not evoking a knowledge of the zombie film genre.
The meta-nature of this commentary speaks to a post-zombie-craze zombie film. To revive a previously oversaturated genre requires toying with the audience’s knowledge of the genre.
Also in THE DEAD DON’T DIE trailer, after Adam Driver notes the zombies are drawn to things they did while they were alive, one of the zombies keeps repeating “Chardonnay.” This satirical slant tells the audience the film is in on the joke, knows the genre, and is commenting on it.
For the aspiring zombie genre writer, the lesson here is that reinvention is essential. Zombies were seemingly everywhere in 2013, and now the market is slowly cycling back to them, with Jarmusch’s film and the ZOMBIELAND sequel.
But to do so requires something fresh to say in how zombies are presented to the audience. To bring this “dead” genre to life, no pun intended, means shaking up the zombies we’ve seen before.
Do you think the Zombie genre is dead?