As many of you already know, I am a Romero Purist. My obsession with the Zombie Genre and Apocalypse scenarios in all forms borders on the unhealthy. It all started back in 1987 when I saw a scary movie called Day Of The Dead. At the impressionable age of 8, this movie left me scarred for life. I’d never seen a more gore soaked, disturbing movie in all my short years on this Earth and I loved every terrifying minute. Sadly, my parents did not and I was hence forth banned from watching HBO, well, at least when they were around.
You have to remember though, this was a time before the internet and social media was saved for times when relatives would visit or while I was at school. I asked s few select friends what they knew about this movie and soon enough my imagination was opened to a world of vampires, werewolves, witches and demons. While my taste is movies adapted to science fiction and horror, having not released a zombie movie since Day of the Dead, Romero’s style of walking corpses was put on the back burner until after my high school years. I found myself drawn back into the embrace of the undead with the release of Playstaion’s Resident Evil games and was soon back to the sleepless nights plagued by nightmares that I’d forgotten about so many years before. My love for Zombies spread like the infection in 28 Days Later, and was in full pandemic mode by the time Zack Snyder’s remake of George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead was released. The zombies were slowly rising again and devouring pop culture. After countless low budget movies, and numerous comicbooks and novels copying the likes of The Walking Dead and World War Z, the genre was getting a little stale.
Then, a few years back, two novels were released that expanded the genre and put new twists into the lifeless corpses; The Zombie Autopsies and Warm Bodies. While both novels are set for film adaptions, it’s Warm Bodies that has struck me as the most original telling of a story set during the Zombie Apocalypse.
After being pushed back from it’s original November 2012 release date, the trailer finally hit theaters this weekend. Warm Bodies’ author, Isaac Marion, took the time to answer a few questions we’ve all been wondering since reading his debut novel and seeing the movie’s first trailer.
Revenant Media; What concerns did you have about putting such a unique twist into the Zombie Apocalypse genre?
Issac Marion; I wanted to make sure I didn’t change the concept of a zombie so much that it couldn’t fairly be called a zombie anymore. So I made all the differences internal. To the outside observer, they behave just like traditional Romero zombies. But they have inner lives that the humans can’t see because the zombies have never bothered to show them.
RM; Please put the rumors to rest; Was Warm Bodies influenced by the Twilight Saga and how does Romeo and Juliet’s star-crossed love story play into the equation?
IM; I had literally never heard of Twilight until I had already written most of Warm Bodies. After a friend told me the premise sounded similar, I checked out Twilight’s plot summary and found basically no similarities beyond the “human girl / undead boy” scenario. I understand the inevitability of the comparison, but it usually collapses once people actually start reading Warm Bodies.
The Romeo and Juliet references are more of a tongue-in-cheek thing than a serious theme. I didn’t set out to write “Romeo and Juliet and Zombies.” I just noticed that the story was following that classical arc, so I ran with it, threw in a few winks and inside jokes.
RM; How was it to walk on set and find yourself standing in R’s airport, on his airplane and in City Stadium for the first time?
IM; One of the strangest moments of my life. The airport was an actual abandoned airport that hadn’t been used in 8 years, so it was completely identical to the one in my head. I just wandered around for hours, ignoring the actual movie being filmed there.
RM; What was going through your mind when you saw Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, John “freakin!” Malkovich, Dave Franco, Analeigh Tipton, Rob Corddry and the rest of the cast, in full character? Characters that you’d created and I assume already had an idea in your mind as to what they looked like.
IM; It kept striking me how bizarre it was that all these serious, highly paid professional crew and performers were committing their time and talents to this weird little story I made up. I never imagined anything like this happening when I was writing it.
RM; In your novel, when R is trying to pass for “human”, Nora tries telling R to lose his red tie and Julie asks that he keep it. I though the tie was great symbolism in the book but it’s missing from the movie, replaced with a red hoodie. Did the hoodie test better with the audience?
IM; I think it came down to storytelling economy. R wearing a business outfit in a post-apocalyptic world would’ve required at least one scene of explanation, and would be a recurring visual oddity the audience would have to think about throughout the movie. Given how many themes and ideas they already had to squeeze into a two hour movie, I think they just decided it wasn’t critical enough to justify the added explanations and decided to give him a more generally relatable look. Movies have to be extremely lean with their imagery. I would’ve liked to see R’s signature outfit, as it could’ve been kind of iconic, but I’d rather they cut that out than some important character moment.
RM; How much input did you have, creatively, with the film adaption?
IM; They asked me for ideas on how to visualize some stuff, like the Boneys, and I read and gave notes on two drafts of the script. From what I can tell, my notes were well received and many of them were implemented. In the end, it’s their movie and not mine to dictate, but they were generally pretty respectful of my role as the author.
RM; What were your initial thoughts after seeing years of your hard work being brought to life on the big screen with the finished movie?
IM; I still haven’t seen the finished movie! Just a rough, unmixed cut that didn’t have the musical score or finished CGI. But it was still a pretty exhilarating experience. Also terrifying.
RM; Did the Boneys turn out as terrifying in the movie as you’d imagined they would be when you created them for the novel?
IM; Visually, they are as scary or scarier than they are in the book. Conceptually, there isn’t as much weight behind the evil they represent, because it’s a movie and there isn’t time to do all the deep soul-searching that goes on in the book. They are more traditional monsters in the movie whereas in the book they have a more sinister intelligence and purpose. But they do look grotesque, and they make these hideous dry creaking sounds when they move, which I’m surprised I’ve never heard before in movies about skeletons.
RM; R has a very interesting taste in music in the novel. Will that carry over to the film adaption?
IM; Music plays just as big of a role in the film, but it won’t be the same music. Partly because licensing a bunch of Beatles and Sinatra songs would cost more than the whole film’s budget, but also because if you’re going to use song lyrics in a book, they have to be very obvious and well known so that people will have a connection with them despite not being able to hear the music. In a film, the music speaks for itself, so you can be more creative with the choices. The film has a killer soundtrack that spans many decades of music history. It’s bubbling over with great music.
RM; Zombies have really sunk their rotten teeth into every corner of current popculture. I’m waiting for R and Julie plushies. Do you feel that the current incarnation of the Zombie Genre will fill in the niche left void with the final chapter of the Twilight Saga? Will people love and admire a rotting corpse as much as a sparkly vampire?
IM; I really can’t see there being many Warm Bodies copycats. How can you copy a premise this weird and specific? I’d be ecstatic if a lot of people were willing to come on board with this story, but I don’t imagine the zombie romance becoming a “new genre.” I imagine Warm Bodies will be a fairly unique thing, which is great.
RM; That being said, are you a fan The Walking Dead, World War Z or The Zombie Autopsies?
IM; I haven’t read the latter two. I watched a couple episodes of Walking Dead and thought it was really well done, but I just don’t have much patience left for this story template anymore. No matter how high the production values or how good the writing, it’s still the exact same story over and over with nothing new ever added. I have high demands for stories, I need some imagination and stimulating ideas to hold my attention, and I think the zombie apocalypse is probably one of the most calcified stories out there, with audiences expecting almost no variation from each new telling. The only other story I can think of that gets away with that kind of predictability is Cop VS. Serial Killer.
RM; Knowing that the film adaption of Warm Bodies is pretty faithfull to your novel, what are your thoughts on the World War Z movie trailer?
IM; Again, I haven’t read the book so I can’t comment on its faithfulness, but it didn’t look very interesting to me. As far as story points, all I got from the trailer was 1. Brad Pitt looks concerned. 2. A lot of helicopters. 3. Zombies, kind of…?
IM; Very important question, Isaac; Would you say that 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later are Infection movies, or Zombie movies?
IM; Looking at the whole of the mainstream zombie film canon, I don’t really see much consistency in the nature of zombies. First they were people being mind-controlled by voodoo magic, then they were corpses reanimated by space radiation, then they were people infected with a mind-destroying rage virus. Are any of these more “true” than the others? The only difference anyone can really grab onto is Slow VS Fast, which is is kind of a silly thing to define a genre by. If I had to distill the essence of what a zombie is, I’d have to say it’s a regular human with most or all of its human identity erased and a need to eat living flesh. Those are the crucial elements to me, and anything beyond that is just variations on the same concept. So by that definition, 28 Days/Weeks are zombie movies.
RM; After your fans have finished reading Warm Bodies, what would you like them to take away after flipping the final page?
IM; Are you asking me to sum up The Moral of This Story? I could do that, but not without reducing it into something trite and pretentious, so I’ll have to leave it for the reader to decide.
RM; You hit the ball out of the park with the release of your first novel. You already have a devoted fanbase and that is set to go nuclear on February 1st with the release of the movie. What’s next for you? So many rumors are floating around and many of us are hoping and speculating that your next novel will either continue R and Julie’s story or give us Nora’s backstory. Is there anything you can tell us about the book you’re currently working on?
IM; As I announced on my blog a few weeks ago, I am indeed writing another book in R and Julie’s world. It’s not going to be a “series” per se, certainly not a “saga” but there will be another book completing the story of R’s personal transformation and his attempt to create the same transformation in the world itself. And also, hopefully, a little interlude in between the two books, which I can’t really talk about yet as its role remains undecided. But that interlude is what I’ve been working on recently, and the sequel is my next project. When this undead phase of my life is over, I have 3 other unrelated novels with their first few pages written, waiting to be finished.
RM; Thank you, Isaac!!!!
IM; Thank you!
Warm Bodies hits US theaters on February 1st, 2013!