SDCC 2015: A tale of two zombie films

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It is a truth universally acknowledged, that audiences who enjoy zombie movies must be in want of more zombie movies. However, the trick is finding new ways to invent the zombie genre. Screen Gems recently wrapped up two films that promise to change the way we think of zombies.

Considered a relatively small panel by those around me, no expected much out of Screen Gems. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (PPZ) sounded like it was going to be a campy horror film, and the moderator simply called Patient Zero “interesting.”  There were whispers floating in the air about both movies. No one knew how to feel until the cast was announced and the trailer for PPZ was shown on screen.

There is something extremely satisfying about seeing Elizabeth Bennet practicing martial arts with her sisters and swinging a sword. Zombies in this version of London are called the “sorry stricken” those struck down by a mysterious disease only to have their lifeless body to rise from the grave. Fighting off armies of the undead certainly explains all the soldiers hanging around.

Whether Pride and Prejudice and Zombies will be a box office hit or not remains to be seen. From the trailer that we saw in Hall H, all of the main characters have been taken to their natural extreme in order to compensate for the new “sorry stricken” world. The quick-witted Lizzy for example, isn’t afraid of letting her sword do the talking to get her point across. Loyal Janeites will certainly find themselves divided when watching the film. They’ll either find themselves laughing alongside the parody of their beloved novel, or they’ll curse the day author Seth Grahame-Smith put pen to paper and brought PPZ into existence.

Personally, I believe that PPZ will be a movie you see when need a good laugh. I for one will be in theaters to watch the Bennet sisters dispatch the “sorry stricken.” I mean one of my favorite summer movies this year is Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!  So yeah, cheesy horror movies are right up my alley.

mike le

Jumping from the past to the future, we turn our attention to Patient Zero. Again, audiences weren’t sure what to expect, but the footage director Stefan Ruzowitzky unveiled in Hall H gave audiences a reason to get excited about zombies once more.

Inspired by a zombie smoking a cigar at SDCC, Patient Zero promises to shake up the zombie genre in a big way. In this post-apocalyptic world zombies are called “the infected” and don’t act like your typical zombie. I know we hear that a lot, but this time screenwriter Mike Le isn’t messing around. The “Infected” aren’t just fast like those in Zombieland or struggling to reconnect with humanity like the undead in Warm Bodies. The “Infected” are intelligent, have developed language, created their own philosophies, and are able to coordinate strategic plans of attack. Humanity is in big trouble.

Patient Zero also doesn’t see the zombifying virus as a, well, virus, but as an evolutionary step in which humans go extinct and “Infected” inherit the Earth.

The hero of this bleak world is played by Matt Smith, a soldier who was bitten by an “Infected” but wasn’t turned. As such, Smith’s character is able to communicate with “Infected” and gather information about patient zero, the very first person to become “Infected.” If the remaining humans can locate patient zero, they can create a cure and save the human race.

Everything seems to be under control until an “Infected” individual played by Stanley Tucci is captured. Unlike the other “Infected” Tucci’s character can speak perfect English, and that just throws everyone for a loop.

Screen Gems jumped at the chance to buy the rights to Patient Zero for good reason. Every year zombies get faster, smarter, and deadlier. This year, Le has taken zombies to their next terrifyingly logical step. Mankind better hope the “Infected” never make it off of the silver screen, otherwise…otherwise there will be no mankind.

Oddly enough Matt Smith is in PPZ and Patient Zero, proof positive that zombie films haven’t finished running their course. Why else would one actor sign up for two zombie films in a row? Both films promise to engage audiences in new ways which is a big credit to the writers. It’s hard to stand out in a crowded genre and yet Grahame-Smith and screenwriter Burrs Steers, and Le have managed to cook up two very, very different zombie movies in which the word “zombie” is never used. Patient Zero is set to infect theaters later this year while PPZ will unleash their hoards of “sorry stricken” in February of 2016.

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