Zombies have always been popular, but are the flavor of the month right now, probably as a result of the huge success of the US TV-series THE WALKING DEAD. Normally, however, storylines and events revolve around the various survivors fighting for their lives against overwhelming numbers of the slow-moving (fortunately!), undead and their craving for human flesh. But who thinks about the poor zombies? Such slowly rotting, hungry creatures can’t have it easy. And it’s not like they have any kind of a lobby. Luckily Jonathan Levine (50/50) has come to the fore to tackle the issue from the zombie’s point of view.
This droll adaptation of Isaac Marion’s novel features R played by Nicholas Hoult (ABOUT A BOY, X-MEN: FIRST CLASS), a somewhat unusual zombie, who spends his lifeless days shuffling around an abandoned airport, only venturing out into the post-apocalyptic world with others of his kind in search of food. Menu of choice: fresh human brain. And whenever they’re lucky enough to get some, it stills their hunger and fills them with new strength. They also absorb the memories of their victims. Which is just what happens to R when he consumes the brain of Perry (Dave Franco), one of a unit sent out beyond the city walls to survey the extent of the zombie threat. For a plague has visited mankind, killing millions, turning others into zombies, and leaving only a scarce number uninfected.
Most of the unit is massacred by R and his hungry fellows, but upon eating Perry’s brain, R feels a sudden attraction to his girlfriend Julie (Teresa Palmer), another member of the group. Without further ado, he rescues the girl and hides her in his secret refuge, a scrapped Boeing 747. Over the days in which R keeps Julie hidden from the other zombies, a sort of friendship develops between the two, as Julie realizes that her undead savior is more than just another soulless monster. And R, too, seems to undergo a strange transformation; his guttural grunts gradually evolving into comprehensible words. Could it be that Julie is turning him back into a human? And how will she react once she discovers that it was R who ate her former boyfriend?
As opposed to your standard horror movie, WARM BODIES is an amusing variation of the classic ROMEO & JULIET theme – but with zombies. Levine mostly dispenses with large doses of blood and gore (although some of the more gruesome out-takes are apparently included in the home-video version), preferring to use humor, charm and some novel ideas.
R is wonderfully funny, explaining his feelings and frustration with his zombie existence and all the unpleasantness that it entails in his voiceover narration – so that the viewer is constantly aware of the difference between his social ambitions and his actual capabilities. When he meets and falls for Julie, he is hopelessly out of his league – let’s face it, he’s a corpse. Not many disadvantages could be worse than that.
The premise works very well for the first 15 minutes, but soon begins to wear thin, as the story is predictable and we all know how it is bound to end. A “B” plot might not have been a bad idea and could have added some welcome spice. But as it is, the characters, together with the amusing inclusion of some hackneyed genre clichés, and the 80s rock songs in the sound track, make WARM BODIES good enough to cheer it on.
WARM BODIES (USA 2013); Genre: Comedy-horror-romance; Running time: 97 Mins: Director: Jonathan Levine; Writers: Jonathan Levine (screenplay), Isaac Marion (novel): Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Parker, John Malkovich; Cinematographer: Javier Resarobe; Composers: Marco Beltraim, Buck Sanders; Distributors/Release dates: Summit Entertainment (US), 1.Feb/Concorde Filmverleih (Germany), 21. Feb.