Return of the rom-zom-com

Valentine’s Day and romantic comedies, much like a couple in love, go hand in hand. This month’s new release, Lisa Frankenstein, takes the best things about the beloved genre and gives it a healthy dose of horror. The new film marks the feature length debut of director Zelda Williams, daughter of the late actor and comedian Robin Williams. Taking inspiration from classic horror films as well as the candy-colored comedy staples of the 1980’s, the film tells the story of a teenage girl and her newly resurrected zombie boyfriend. 

In honor of this new release, I decided to reach out to Del Mar College professor (and zombie movie enthusiast) Dr. Veronica Pantoja. Seeing as Frankenstein, the 1818 novel by Mary Shelley, is a staple of her popular horror-themed composition class, I could think of no one better suited to give us a list of films that put a gory twist on the traditional rom-com. 

The list below contains just a few of Dr. Pantoja’s favorites along with why she thinks you should check them out this Valentine’s Day! 

‘Dead Alive’ (1992 dir. Peter Jackson) 

“This New Zealand production is a beloved gory classic from Jackson before his LOTR glory (and some of the cast of this film can be seen in LOTR and The Hobbit films). It’s a classic love story of boy loves girl, boy’s mom becomes an infectious zombie who eats girl’s dog, girl loves boy, etc. This movie once boasted the most amount of fake blood in a single film (300 liters!) and definitely worth the watch if just for the line, ‘I kick ass for the Lord!’” 

‘Warm Bodies’ (2013 dir. Jonathan Levine) 

“Based on a novel by Isaac Marion, this rom-zom-com shows how the power of love can overcome even a zombie apocalypse. Nicholas Hoult plays dreamy zombie ‘R’ in love with beautiful zombie hunter Julie (played by Teresa Palmer). This film asks the question, if vampires can be sexy, why not zombies?” 

‘Eat Brains Love’ (2019 dir. Rodman Flender) 

“This zany and raunchy zombie flick presents a world where the zombie virus is transmitted through sex, and the local high school stoner (played by Jake Cannavale) and the gorgeous cheerleader (played by Angelique Rivera) find themselves infected and on the run from a government agency of psychics set up to hunt them. It’s goofy ridiculousness as the two find love.” 

‘Cemetery Man’ (1994 dir. Michele Soavi) 

“A luscious and dark gothic love story between a cemetery groundskeeper and his dead beloved, this film’s a cult classic. Rupert Everett plays Francesco Dellamorte, the caretaker who also happens to be a zombie killer as the residents of the cemetery seem to rise again after 7 nights.” 

‘Shaun of the Dead’ (2004 dir. Edgar Wright) 

“Another rom-zom-com, but this one’s heavy on the comedy. Shaun (Simon Pegg) finds the world around him has been overrun by zombies (the “zed word”) and heroically tries to save his mom, stepdad, (ex) girlfriend, her friends, and his best friend (in his attempt to get back with his ex). Hilarity ensues. Look for Easter eggs for many past and important zombie films in this one, and this film has also inspired many others too. “ 

The Girl with All the Gifts (2016 dir. Colm McCarthy) 

“This bleak film based on the novel by Mike Carey highlights a young zombie girl, Melanie, (brilliantly played by Sennia Nanua) and her admiration and love for her teacher, Helen, (played by Gemma Arterton) who cares for her and teaches her in a world overrun by parasitic fungi. Melanie is able to stave off the hunger to protect Helen and others, but is all hope lost in this world?” 

And last but not least, a film that didn’t quite make Dr. Pantoja’s list but receives an honorable mention, ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ (2016 dir. Burr Steers). 

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