Based on a novel of the same name, Hollywood’s newest zom-com, Warm Bodies, gives audiences a zombie story that breaks from type. In most Zombiepocalypse horror movies and T.V. shows, zombies are mindless killing machines, hell-bent on eating the main characters; usually, they don’t even have a name. However, writer/director Jonathan Levine (50/50) wasn’t afraid to turn the rules of the genre on its head by making a zombie the film’s protagonist instead of its villain. The audience sees the world through the zombie’s eyes and is privy to his thoughts thanks to a hilarious tongue-in-cheek inner-monologue that explains the difficulties of zombie life: constant slouching, grunts instead of words, brain eating… you know, normal problems.
Warm Bodies begins eight years after an unidentified plague turned most of mankind into zombies. The film centers around “R” (Nicholas Hoult), a lonely zombie who actually feels conflicted about killing humans for food. When he is not moping around in an abandoned airplane listening to old love songs like John Waite’s “Missing You”, R inhabits an airport full of other zombies and “bonies”, skeleton creatures that viciously attack anything with a heartbeat; all zombies eventually turn into bonies after losing their humanity. None of the zombies can really speak to each other, except for random words here and there. They instead stumble around, grunt, and look for humans to eat.
But hope seeps into this dreary world, and the zombies begin to change for the better when R meets and falls in love with Julie (Teresa Palmer), a human. Along with many other apocalypse survivors, Julie lives in a heavily fortified colony, led by her zombie-hating father (John Malkovich). When she and her group of friends leave the colony in search of medicine and other supplies, they are attacked by a horde of zombies. R saves Julie’s life and brings her back to his abandoned airplane for “safety”. With Julie’s help, R begins to turn his grunts into actual words and the two realize that humans may not be so different from zombies after all. It is up to them to bridge the gap between both of their worlds, all while avoiding the true bad guys, the bonies. While some may see this film as a nod to Romeo and Juliet, I think it is actually a modern-day re-telling of Beauty and the Beast; only in this version, the Beast is a zombie and instead of Belle being impressed with the Beast’s library of books, she instead enjoys his “library” of vinyl records.
The best part of this film is that it never takes itself too seriously; even the few cheesy scenes didn’t take away from the overall sentiment of the film. R’s hilarious inner-dialogue constantly picks on the traditional zombie archetype and the love story between R and Julie really gives the story depth and heart. Hoult is able to give R semblances of humanity, and as a result, his “zombie” isn’t too outlandish or scary. Hoult and Palmer also have great chemistry, thought at times it was hard for me to focus on anything other than the fact that Palmer looks exactly like Kristen Stewart. Rob Corddry, who plays R’s “best friend” M, shows that a talented actor-comedian doesn’t need a lot of dialogue to make a scene-stealing impression.
Warm Bodies proves that you don’t need horror and gore in order to create a great zombie film. Though I will admit, for all of the zombie traditionalists, you may want to wait for Brad Pitt’s World War Z coming out this summer.
My score: B+/A-