Have you ever walked out of a theater after seeing a movie asking yourself “What on earth did I just watch?” That certainly sums up my initial reaction to “Warm Bodies”. Now I’ve watched a ton of zombie movies over the years but I can honestly say I’ve never seen one quite like this. This is actually a romance film (Yes, you read it right. It’s a romance film). It also features some good humor and throws in some horror elements as well. After all this is a zombie flick so you have to have horror, right? But the bigger question is how does it all come together and does it equal a fun and entertaining movie?
There are several uniquenesses that “Warm Bodies” throws out there. Perhaps the biggest is that the story is told from the zombies’ perspective. I mean let’s be fair, in our movies we’ve seen a countless number of zombies shot in the head, ran over by vehicles, chopped up by helicopter blades, and blown to bits by an assortment of explosives. Isn’t it time that we see things through their eyes? Don’t we all just want the voices of the zombies to be heard? Okay probably not but that’s what we get here and I have to admit I kinda liked it.
Right off the bat we’re introduced to a young zombie simply named “R” (Nicholas Hoult). Through narration he sets the table for us, laying out the post-zombie apocalypse landscape and describing what it’s like to be a walking corpse. He does have a level of consciousness. He tells us about his desire for simple things such as casual conversation and we see his affection for 80s and 90s pop rock tunes. All of this is laid out in a pretty humorous fashion and it gives R his own odd but entertaining personality. Like a worker getting through his workday, R and the other zombies go about the mundane daily grind of shuffling through the ruined outskirts of the city.
The inner-city is protected by a giant wall and that’s where the living call home. But even they need supplies so periodically a group of young people will go into the outskirts of the city to bring back food and medical needs. Julie (Teresa Palmer) leads her friends on one of the supply missions but they are attacked by a group of hungry zombies which includes R. It looks as if Julie and company are doomed but then R sees her. And in what plays out as an ‘I saw her across the dance floor’ type scene, R is instantly smitten and leads Julie to safety. Julie triggers something inside of R which begins to change him. Is true unwavering love the remedy to bring the zombies back to life. As goofy and cheesy as it sounds, that appears to be the case.
As wacky as it sounds the romance component between Hoult and Palmer works mainly because it’s laced with some really good humor. The absurdity of what we’re watching is actually fun thanks to some clever writing by Jonathan Levine and two committed lead performances. The movie works best when it keeps its focus on this. But the film tries to develop a big threat in the form of a group known as ‘the bonies’. The bonies are basically zombies who have deteriorated into ravenous skeletons. They turn out to be the real antagonists of the film which sets up a big climactic showdown at the city walls. The problem is none of this really worked for me. The bonies feel like a tacked on addition to the story and they take away from the movie’s real strengths. And then there is the CGI used to animate them. It’s really terrible. I know this isn’t meant to be a big special effects picture, but they should look a lot better than this.
But I would rather dwell on the positive and on how the filmmakers took something so preposterous and made it entertaining. There are several stand-out gags that I think are really funny and I appreciated the film’s originality. Now don’t let the zombie thing scare you off. This isn’t a scary or gory picture. It’s a spoof of the zombie movie craze wrapped up as a quirky romantic comedy. Still its hard to imagine this being everyone’s cup if tea and I doubt it has much staying power after a first viewing. But it’s still clever enough, creative enough, and funny enough to make it worth a watch.