Lainey emailed me about the first promotional image of Warm Bodies, a bit confused about the plot, and wanted me to write about it, because, as she said, I have a “PhD in zombie”. Of course my first thought was, Oh my god I WISH I could get a real PhD in zombie. The ball’s in your court, universities.

T has been after me for a while to read Warm Bodies, and the last time I was ordering from Amazon I threw it on the list and recently read through it. Not a challenging book but sweeter than I expected and unusual in the zombie genre in that the walking corpse is the hero and it has the idea that zombies are people, too. Warm Bodies is about R, a zombie who, after eating a guy’s brain, absorbs his memories and falls in love with the dead guy’s girlfriend, Julie. In an attempt to win Julie’s heart, R rediscovers his humanity, only her dad turns out to be a major buzzkill. It was cute, appropriate for a beach/airport read but it wasn’t life-changing.

Summit Entertainment, the studio that made a mint on Twilight, is producing Warm Bodies and is presenting it right now at the American Film Market, thus, the promotional image. Because they lack any marketing creativity, they are selling it as “Twilight with zombies”, which is just…way to stretch yourselves, guys.

The cheap and easy approach to this first foray into marketing is disappointing, given the quality of people involved with the movie. Jonathan Levine (The Wackness and the wonderful 50/50) is directing and the cast includes John Malkovich and Lizzy Caplan, and R is none other than my boy-man crush, Nicholas Hoult. He makes a really, really cute zombie, right? Julie is being played by Teresa Palmer, whom I generally like, but who has yet to distinguish herself among a crowded field of young actresses.

Warm Bodies is due in 2012 and despite the general dreaminess of the leads it’s going to be a tough sale, made harder still by promoting it as Twilight: Zombie Dawn. Warm Bodies’ tone is more cultish and genre than Twilight’s, but at the same time it has the chance to appeal to a broader audience because the romance isn’t the main focus of the story. Or at least, it shouldn’t be.

As for the issue of a zombie having feelings and falling in love and how that's possible, well, it isn't. But R isn't a mere zombie--it's clear there's more to him than just a desire for brains. The world author Isaac Marion created is a little more complicated than just zombie vs human. There's something that scares even the zombies (the Boneys), R has a friend, and the zombies live in a vaguely defined community. The interior logic of Marion's world is sound and I accept his modifications because there are reasons and justifications behind why R is the way he is. Warm Bodies is a decent book and should make a better movie, and here's hoping the marketing eventually amounts to more than photoshopping Hoult and Palmer's faces onto old Twilight posters.

(Lainey: if the above zombie information seemed advanced, click here for Sarah’s Zombie 101)