Zombie Romance Discovered: Eating Brains & Breaking Hearts

Whoever said, “Zombies are monsters,” didn’t know that looks could be deceiving! We’re taking a look at this rare Zombie subgenre, to see what it’s all about.

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I don’t think anyone thought it was possible to normalize zombie romance until Isaac Marion’s novel Warm Bodies was adapted to the big screen. This week at Bookstr, we are going to take a deep dive into rotting flesh and love at the same time. How is this going to work, you may ask? Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered.

The Formula

movie cover of Warm Bodies. Zombie movie. Zombie tries to give a girl a flower. red cover. zombies in background.
IMAGE VIA IMDB

Like any and every book, plots can get melted together and overlap. I swear you can find romance in every genre!

There are two ways to write zombie romance

1. Two people fall in love during a zombie apocalypse 

2. A human and a zombie fall in love, whether in a dystopian society where zombies coexist or during an apocalypse.

History of Zombie Fiction

The genre started within Haitian folklore in the 17th century and, from this, expanded into a genre of zombified monsters. In 1929, The Magic Island by William Seabrook, a journalist, wanted to explore Haiti to immerse himself in their culture. Here he has introduced the historical background, the everyday lifestyle, voodoo, and witchcraft practices. He also discusses the many tales that Haitians created– one of them being zombies. 

the magic island book cover. 2 zombies stand side by side with a person looking up with a red cross on his forehead
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However, the very first recount of zombies roaming in fiction was in 1697, in the novel The Zombie of Great Peru: Or the Countess of Cocagne by Pierre Corneille Blessebois. This tale of flesh-eating walkers rises from graves. The story is pretty erotic, which is ironic considering the genre we are discussing. It’s filled with lust, desire, and sex. The narrator has his eyes on the beautiful Creole Countess. She offers him sex to acquire magical powers. He tricks her into believing she’s an invisible zombie. I know, it sounds bizarre. 

Let’s all be honest… Night of the Living Dead by George A. Romero was the real catalyst of the modern Undead. This was the start of many zombie-inspired horror films to keep us up at night. 

Zombies Falling in Love? How?!

So how does this happen? Aren’t zombies brainless walkers trying to eat brains? Yes, but for this to work, the zombie person must be semi-conscious. Take, for instance, R from Warm Bodies. Before Julie, he only thought of eating. The fact he could think about eating rather than instantly eating someone’s brain shows he has the ability to think. Unlike the walkers from The Walking Dead, they don’t think about eating… They just eat. And, of course, the zombie has to be attractive. He’s a walking corpse, after all. 

Themes

A girl with tan skin and afro curly hair surrounded by flowers. the undead truth of us book cover
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Death and acceptance are the primary themes of the zombie romance genre. Take, for instance, The Undead Truth of Us. After Zharie’s mother unexpectedly dies, she meets her new neighbor Bo. The problem is he’s half a zombie, so she should be afraid of him. Instead, Zharie surprises herself when she begins to develop feelings for him. He may look like a monster, but just because you look like one doesn’t make you one.

In Until the End, death is shown from a different perspective. We have Alissa and Jordan embarking on a journey to survive the zombie apocalypse. However, Alissa suffers from an illness that is already slowly killing her. Death coming from inwards and out can definitely make someone lose it. Can Alissa rely on Jordan?

Check out this list for the top zombie romances!

Zombie Romance on the Big Screen

Since Warm Bodies, there has been little luck on the big screen regarding success. Eat, Brains, Love and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies were adapted to films, but both have received little success. Although, romance in these films is more of a buffer because comedy is the primary genre in these types of movies. There haven’t been many “serious” romantic zombie films yet, but who knows, maybe in the near future!

The reason why zombie films lean into more comedic undertones is that these films don’t want to take themselves seriously. There for good fun, a mixture of horror, and a kiss at the end of the day.

The Undead aren’t many things, but they should not be overlooked in the romance category. As we further into the future, books and films are becoming more and more creative. 

Check out our horror romance subgenre here, and if you want to see how vampires can love, you can click here!

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