Here’s a serious question: Do we really need another zombie movie? Apparently we do.
Not only does the Brad Pitt starring–World War Z loom on the horizon, but also in the past decade there have been nearly countless zombie films.
The online lists—most of which name films that even the makers’ loved ones haven’t seen—go on and on and on.
Some of those movies are great, or at least a lot of fun. There’s Ruben Fleischer’s Zombieland, a gory comedy that features four heroes driving across the country, trying to outwit the zombie hordes and give the youngest of their group an actual childhood. Then there’s Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later, which is scary, bloody and, in its way, wholly plausible.
There are many, many others. And, of course, there are George A Romero’s recent zombie movies, such as Survival of the Dead, Diary of the Dead and Land of the Dead. What is there to say about them? Not much, as the zombie king’s touch has been in something of downward spiral since his 1978 masterpiece Dawn of the Dead. Rick and Ilsa will always have Paris, and we’ll always have Romero’s Dawn and Night of the Living Dead.
So, what can we make of the latest zombie flick, Warm Bodies?
Aside from featuring zombies, this movie takes a tack few others do. First, it’s a love story (though Brian Yuzna’s much, much gorier Return of the Living Dead III is, too). Second, it’s a comedy (as is Zombieland and parts of Romero’s Dawn of the Dead).
Maybe those aspects of Warm Bodies aren’t so novel. What it has that most other zombie flicks don’t is the zombie’s story. Our narrator, R (Nicholas Hoult), is a zombie. He doesn’t know why he’s a zombie. He just knows he is. He also knows he’s different from most other zombies. He collects things, like vinyl records, and he tries to make friends, and has one in M (Rob Corddry).
What he shares with his zombie brethren is a taste for brains. When a band of humans looking for medical supplies raids the zombie-plagued section of town where R lives, he kills Perry (Dave Franco), and falls in love with Perry’s girlfriend, Julie (Teresa Palmer).
That’s when R starts to change, becoming more interested in love, and less interested in killing people.
He has an uphill struggle. There are other zombies who don’t understand why he’s falling in love with a human; the humans don’t trust him—in particular, Julie’s father, Grigio (John Malkovich), who runs security in the walled-off city where the humans live; and then there are the Bonies, zombies who have no humanity left.
They just want to eat.
It’s absurd, but Warm Bodies is the right kind of absurd.
It’s just bloody enough to make the zombies appear as a real threat. It’s just funny enough to make you forget how ridiculous the premise is. And most importantly, it sets its own rules and lives by them, mostly.
Hoult, who’s come a long way since playing the outcast kid to Hugh Grant’s hip loner in About a Boy, has the right face for R. His bright eyes show what’s going on in his dead head—zombies can barely speak—and as he becomes more human, he revels in his rediscovered ability to move and talk.
He’s matched well with Palmer, who, like R, is something of an outsider within her circle. Her Julie is tough but not afraid to see some life in the dead.
Corddry’s shtick—inappropriate jerk with a heart of gold—translates well as M becomes more human.
All in all, Warm Bodies is a fun way to spend a couple hours. You may even find yourself saying “Awwwww” once or twice before the credits roll.
Directed by Jonathan Levine / With Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer and Rob Corddry / Regal Santa Fe Stadium 14 / PG-13 / 97 min.