Just when you think a genre is totally burned out, that there’s nothing else you could possibly do with it, somebody comes up with an idea that has a bit of freshness to it. In this case, it’s the zombie movie. And the new idea is, why not tell a zombie story from the point of view of the zombie?
It will only work if you stick more or less to the conventions of the zombie movie. So what do we know about zombies?
1) They are dead. Cold. No heartbeat.
2) They can only eat brains.
3) They shamble. Stagger. Stumble. When they’re on the scene of fresh brains they can be pretty spry. Otherwise, they just sort of wander.
Okay, why do they shamble? Why do they eat brains? The movie is narrated by a guy who is a zombie, and he’s wondering stuff like that, too. Like, why do I look so awful? Why can’t I remember anything from before I was a zombie, like, for instance, my name? (We eventually get to know him as just R, because he thinks his name began with an R.) There are answers to all of these questions except the basic one, which is why are people becoming zombies in the first place? That will remain just a given. Something bad happened, some experiment or something like that. The still-living characters don’t know, so we don’t need to know it either.
The important thing is that there is a second stage of zombie-hood. After a certain time of frustration, blankness of mind, futile attempts to recall something of their lost humanity, some zombies just say fuck it, and go whole hog. They peel off the rest of their dead skin. We see one of them doing this, pulling his face off, and R thinks how he didn’t need to see that, it was gross, and says “Dude, don’t pick at it, you’ll just make it worse.” His narration is full of funny stuff like that. These become “boneys,” and are irredeemable. But there is hope for the others. R kidnaps a girl and keeps her in his home for a while. Befriends her. Begins to have feelings of love for her, which at first he can’t understand. Plus, it’s bound to be awkward for the couple when she realizes he has recently eaten her boyfriend’s brains …
The story is told with wit and, eventually, compassion. She must convince her people, the living, who are losing the battle with the zombies, that some of them are starting to come back to life. The recently-dead and the living must find a way to join forces against the boneys. It’s all quite well handled, I thought, and not even real bloody for a zombie movie. You might spot a sly joke at one point. The girl’s name is Julie. R braves the city of the living to find her, locates her on a balcony, and expresses his love for her. Julie, balcony, get it? Could R’s name really be … oh, wherefore art thou?