H'wood unearths new wave of zombie tales

Hollywood is often criticized for the mindless entertainment it generates and for the zombie-like behavior of its denizens.

Never has that criticism seemed more apt: The town is suddenly crawling with zombie movies, and there’s no relief in sight.

Next week brings the U.S. release of Danny Boyle‘s zombie epidemic drama, “28 Days Later.” In the hopper are Universal’s remake of George Romero‘s campy horror sequel, “Dawn of the Dead,” which just started shooting outside Toronto; and “Shaun of the Dead,” a Working Title zombie romantic comedy — or as the marketing copy calls it, a “Rom Zom Com” — now shooting in London.

Shlock rocker Rob Zombie, who directed “House of 1000 Corpses,” is developing another installment in the series for Lion’s Gate. Screen Gems is developing “Resident Evil 2″; and in October, Artisan will release “House of the Dead,” adapted from the Sega vidgame.

The zombie genre is an apt metaphor for an industry that perpetually goes back to the vaults to cannibalize its past when it runs short on ideas.

And zombie mania refuses to die: The IMDB lists 317 zombie movies, beginning with a 1932 Bela Lugosi outing, “White Zombie.”

In “Dawn of the Dead,” the zombies were an allegory for the consumer culture.

“It’s the title that speaks for the whole zombie genre,” says Strike Entertainment’s Eric Newman, who’s producing the remake.

Romero’s 1978 social satire seems even more prescient 25 years later, in a year of SARS and other global anxieties.

Just ask SNL writer Max Brooks — son of Mel Brooks, who’s just written “The Zombie Survival Guide,” a how-to spoof with instructions on how to survive a zombie attack that includes a history of zombie epidemics dating back to 60,000 B.C.

The book, says Brooks, presents “logical solutions to an illogical problem.”

At this rate, however, it may soon be required reading for anyone trying to break into the movie biz.

“If they do turn out to be real,” Brooks says, “I’m ready.”

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