In the immortal words of New Jersey poet Bruce Springsteen, everybody’s got a hungry heart. Literally and figuratively, it turns out.
Taking its cue from that other “Zom-Rom-Com”, Shaun of the Dead, Warm Bodies takes the genre even further. Where Shaun is a figurative zombie, in Warm Bodies our hero is a literal zombie. But R (Hoult) is not your average zombie, you see. He’s having a bit of a post-existential crisis. He wonders who he is, what he is, what the point to all of this is, and whether he will turn into what he calls ‘Boneys’ – skeletons with no other desire than to eat ‘anything with a heartbeat’ and not be conflicted about it, as R and possibly his friends are. Interrupting his post-existence is Julie (Palmer), part of a group of young hunters who scavenge for food and medical supplies for their camp. In a little doff of the cap to Romeo and Juliet, R swiftly falls in love with Julie, potentially becoming the key to the survival of humankind.
For those sick of zombie films in which zombies tear at human flesh and bits with great relish in a world that seems utterly doomed (erm, I’m sure you’re out there), or those who can’t really stand all that blood and gore business (weirdoes), Warm Bodies is a refreshing change. This is really a film about hope, and how easily civilisation can crumble without it. We get the full spectrum of hope: Julie and R, who know there’s something more out there; Julie’s father (Malkovich) and Julie’s boyfriend Perry (Franco), who are becoming as cold and ruthless as the zombies they fight against; the zombies themselves, who seem to suffer from a need to feel alive again (don’t we all?); and the Boneys, whose absolute lack of hope has lead to feeling nothing but desire to eat flesh. In a way, it is similar to the Spierig Brothers’ Daybreakers, in which the vampires aren’t the baddest bad guys humans have to contend with. The main difference is probably that, you know, Warm Bodies is slightly more upbeat; rather than being drenched in blood, it’s drenched more in rainbows or kittens.
Palmer and Hoult have a nice chemistry but it’s really the friendship between R and M (Corddry) that is the real heart of the film. It’s their buddy love that really seems to suggest the zombies have some of their humanity left, and provides the best comic moments in the film. Add to that a soundtrack that isn’t afraid of cheesy 80s love songs and you’ve got a heck of a cute little zombie flick.
Directed by: Jonathon Levine
Written by: Jonathon Levine, based on the novel by Isaac Marion
Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Dave Franco, Rob Corddry, Analeigh Tipton, and John Malkovich
Reviewer: Sallie Pritchard