Corpses. Walkers. Biters. The Risen Dead. They go by many names, but popular culture is positively overrun by the genre, and everyone who’s anyone knows how to deal with a zombie uprising: move quickly, move quietly, and aim for the head.
But what if there was more to it than that? Yes, there’s the whole “the monster is you” trope that’s so prevalent in zombie-based horror, what with the human survivors of a zombie apocalypse being more of a danger to themselves than any shambling corpse could ever be, but it’s been done to (un)death. Where are the advocates for the other side? Is there no one that will stand for our rotten, stinking, voracious, inexorably cannibalistic former brothers and sisters? Won’t anyone think of the zombie children?
Well, there’s good news for all you bleeding-heart liberal types and zombie apologists, thanks to Warm Bodies, a new film that pulls elements from not just horror films but also the supernatural romance and comedy genres as well – and combines it in a way that largely works. Based on a novel by Isaac Marion, the film chronicles the completely bizarre tale of “R,”a zombie undergoing an existential crisis. Trapped in his own head and unable to communicate beyond groans, moans, and the occasional word at first, but this all changes after him and his undead friends stumble upon a group of foragers from the nearby human stronghold. One thing leads to another and R eats the brains of a young man named Perry – pausing only momentarily to admire his watch – and finds himself briefly experiencing Perry’s memories, which includes his relationship with Julie, another of the foragers, and leads him to save her and keep her safe.
That’s right, ladies and gentlemen: a zombie falls in love.
There’s little else to say about Warm Bodies besides the fact that it’s funny and entertaining, especially if you appreciate it for its highly successful subversion of the moribund zombie horror genre and its not-so-subtle lampooning of supernatural romance stories like Twilight, where the pale, lifeless ghoul ends up falling in love with Robert Pattinson. Suspending your disbelief will be necessary – this is the first zombie movie where the power of love is more powerful than semiautomatic gunfire – but the performances alone are absolutely worth it. Nicholas Hoult in particular is riveting as R, and in a role where most of his dialogue is spoken in the kind of groaning, undead stammer his physical performance as a zombie slowly remembering what it means to be human shows a depth of talent that needs to be seen in order to be appreciated. Hoult is like a 21st century Marcel Marceau, using his body and facial expressions to sell the character, and his performance is matched perfectly by Rob Corddry’s character “M,” the closest thing R has to a friend at the beginning of the film and his undead ally in the long road back to thinking and breathing on his own.
In the end, I can’t recommend Warm Bodies enough. As long as you don’t mind the purposefully goofy idea that love can turn a zombie back into a human, you’ll enjoy it.