I love zombies. I love them more than cake. And it’s not just me. There is something about zombies that has become so universally appealing that investors and studios have no problem throwing their money behind the next creative story involving the walking dead. For me, I love their innocence. It’s almost childlike. Face eating aside, all they’re doing is playing the hand they’ve been dealt. I guess you could call me a ‘zombie sympathiser’. So when I heard about a film where the story is purely from a zombie’s point of view, it felt like someone had just made me a zombie shaped cake.
Warm Bodies is the fourth feature from director Jonathan Levine. His previous films include the very underrated All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, the very overrated The Wackness, and 50/50 which like its title was very average. Adapted from the Isaac Marion novel of the same name, Warm Bodies provides us with a fresh take on the zombie genre, its marketers calling it a ‘Rom Com Zom’. Our protagonist and zombie in question simply goes by the name ‘R’. His voiceover narration from the opening doesn’t tell us how or why the world has turned to shit, why he forgets his name, or his past. He simply forgets. We accept all this because after all, he’s a zombie. He resides at the airport where during the day he wonders around aimlessly, pondering life after death. The closest he gets to communicate with anyone involves staring and grunting with his friend ‘M’ at the airport bar. At night he finds solace in his home, the inside of a 747, where R’s collection of vinyl and other objects are memento’s substituted for memories.
One day R encounters a human named Julie (Australia’s Teresa Palmer) while out on an eating frenzy with fellow zombies. It’s love at first sight. From here on out, we’re in for a love story with a very different pulse. Two very different people from very different worlds (You get the Shakespeare shout-out? R and Julie? Don’t worry, you will at the balcony scene). This strangely warm relationship starts to have an effect on R, where slowly but surely he starts regaining his humanity. Together they must convince other humans, in particular Julie’s father (the always impressive John Malkovich) who leads the human race’s battle against the dead, that they may have found a cure for the zombie nation. Along the way they must also do their best to avoid an even bigger threat known as ‘Bonies’ who are simply skeletal zombies who have just taken shit too far.
Nicholas Hoult, best known for his Tony character on UK’s Skins really does an amazing job as lead character, R. Gifted a chance to take on a great role, he impresses from start to finish. A simple turn of the head or blink of an eye garners more laughs than the constant and maybe overused voiceover narration, where the jokes fall flat and get a little tiresome. In fact, the humour as a whole falls a little flat and that’s probably the films biggest downfall. Maybe the humour will resonate well with a younger audience, but it lacks bigger laughs and more consistent humour that zombie greats of the past decade such as Planet Terror, Shawn of the Dead and Zombieland all provided.
Despite this, a zombie film should by and large be judged on originality. If you are a lover of this genre you’ll be pleasantly surprised at seeing a new take on an old convention. Even if that ‘new’ take has been borrowed from Shakespeare.
Directed by: Jonathan Levine
Written by: Jonathan Levine (screenplay), Isaac Marion (novel)
Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, John Malkovich
Distributed by: Icon