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Comments & Curiosities: The era of 'Zom Coms'

April 16, 2011|By Peter Buffa

Do you believe in zombies? I don't.

Ghosts, yes. Zombies, no.

A person can only deal with so many paranormal issues at one time. But believe in them or not, zombies are coming to Costa Mesa, sort of. Not real zombies — movie zombies, and their fans, some of whom are wannabe zombies.

Here's how it all works. On April 28, the Newport Beach Film Festival opens at the Starlight Triangle Square Cinema in Costa Mesa, which is different, but it won't matter to the zombies. They're never sure where they are anyway.

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This year's festival offers a staggering 350 films from 40 countries, but none more loopy or fun than the world premiere of "DeadHeads," a zombie comedy, and yes, there is such a thing. Actually, there is an entire genre of zombie comedies, but more on that later.

Are zombie comedies big box office? Not really, but what their fans lack in numbers, they make up for in enthusiasm. Think Trekkies or "Rocky Horror Picture Show" devotees who live for the midnight screenings of their faves and can shout every punchline in the script back at the screen.

Just days after tickets for the premiere of "DeadHeads" went on sale, it was a sell-out. It is not easy being a zombie, especially when you can barely walk and for some reason your elbows no longer work, but zombies love movies.

"DeadHeads," which has nothing to do with the Grateful Dead, was co-written and directed by two Chicago guys, Drew and Brett Pierce. This latest tale of the undead is a zombie/buddy/road trip flick about two pals who just happen to be zombies and are trying to find themselves as they navigate the twists and turns of non-life.

Both the festival and the filmmakers are expecting a brisk turnout of zombie fans from far and wide, some of them decked out in their undead finest, which brings us to the zombie comedy genre.

The first hint that audiences could find zombies both scary and funny was a 1945 film called "Zombies on Broadway." But the real seeds of zombie comedy were planted 20 years later by the father of horror-comedy, George Romero, most notably with his "Night of the Living Dead" in 1968, then "Day of the Dead" in 1978. Romero could always get an audience to jump and shriek on cue, but his early films were so cheesy that the laughs in between were as loud as the screams.

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