The last decade of TV and movies has seen a decided shift in the way our monsters are depicted. Where once vampires were bald and creepy, now they’re smoldering broody dreamboats thanks to Twilight and The Vampire Diaries. The Wolfman of the past that had once been concerned with eating people now is shown in the MTV’s Teen Wolf as a dark and tortured high school werewolf. I, Frankenstein starring Aaron Eckhart even attempted an ill-advised sexy reboot of Mary Shelley’s iconic monster, showing that no one is off-limits in the quest to appeal to a teen audience with the horror genre.
The latest effort to do just this comes from none other than The CW, with their newest show from the creators of Veronica Mars, iZombie. Based on the promo trailer that just released, this one might just be the craziest concept the teen-focused network has ever come up with. In it, our protagonist is a pale yet adorkable zombie working in a morgue. When she eats the brains of the bodies that pass through her table, she gets visions of how they were murdered, using this ability to help solve crimes all while hiding her identity as one of the undead. Think Pushing Daisies combined with Warm Bodies, and that’s essentially what we seem to be getting here.
Over at IGN, we see a run-down of what the fantasy parameters are for our our lead zombie, Liv. When she consumes the brain of a victim, she inherits all their traits and abilities until the next brain she eats. If she doesn’t eat, she becomes a zombie similar to that of The Walking Dead or any George A. Romero movie. All the while, she’s a walking, talking, fairly functional person that hides her secret zombie life from the rest of humanity.
There is one bigger aspect that does set iZombie apart from its undead contemporaries. In this universe, the idea of the zombie in pop culture is well-established, compared to others where no one’s even heard of that word much less seen it on TV or in movies. All these sound like interesting and unique takes on a tired genre, but it’s still hard not to be skeptical of a series that plays fast and loose with horror in favor of typical CW fare.
The modern trend of taking classic monsters and rebooting them into smart-talking, attractive, and witty protagonists marches on, but there’s almost certainly a right and wrong way to do things. On one end of the spectrum, we have shows like The Vampire Diaries that, despite their huge audience, have creatively run dry after over 130 episodes spanning 6 seasons. On the other end, we see a movie like Warm Bodies that manages to combine romance and horror in a way that still seems unforced and interesting. Existing off in an oblivion of terrible is of course I, Frankenstein, widely heralded as one of the worst movies to come out of 2014, sitting at an atrocious 3% 12on Rotten Tomatoes. The lesson here: Roadmaps to both excellence and failure are very much in place.
It’ll be up to iZombie to be cognizant of its predecessors to stay on the path to being a good show. The teaser shows us a fair share of a typically CW-esque feel, featuring the laughably cheesy tagline, “living is the new dead.” If it can own its borderline ridiculous concept and use that to its advantage, we could very well have a halfway decent show on our hands. But if I, Frankenstein has taught us anything, it’s that failing on a monumentally massive level is very much a possibility. Let’s just hope this show will have the brains to do the right thing (pun very much intended).