In a long-abandoned airport, the last gasps of humanity are being rapidly extinguished. Day in and day out, a red-hooded boy who calls himself R (Nicholas Hoult) wanders the wastelands, occasionally heading to the city with his zombie pal M (Rob Corddry) to try and scare up dinner. In this case, dinner is people. They’re zombies, who are basically dead people who eat other people. There are also the Bonies, creatures who started out as zombies, then lost whatever listless spark that connected them to their human selves, shed their unnecessary skin and flesh, and became hungry skeletons.
On one such trip to the city, R and M run into a hunting party sent by Grigio (John Malkovich) to gather medical supplies. That’s where Julie (Teresa Palmer) first meets R. R and his friends stumble across Julie’s group and proceed to get their hunger satiated by fresh, screaming, bleeding humans. However, while R is a zombie and while R does eat human flesh, he just can’t bring himself to eat Julie.
But, can he figure out a way to make Julie care for him? Or at least, convince Julie that a) he doesn’t want to rip her to bits and b) maybe keep his skull bullet-free? And what of the other zombies? Are they like R, or is he special?
There’s a certain amount of charm to the actors in this movie. Nicholas Hoult is no doubt angling for the post-Pattinson heart throb mantle, and he has real chemistry with the lovely Teresa Palmer. It’s a shame John Malkovich wasn’t used more (and he seems to be playing a little more understated than normal), but Rob Corddry is a brilliant addition to the cast, who turns out to be a pretty consistent scene-stealer and source of comic relief in a pretty amusing little movie.
The script isn’t perfect, but it’s clever. Very clever, in fact. There are multiple little amusing moments tossed in, be they visual jokes or some clever jokes in the narration. Generally, I don’t like movies that depend on narration, but in this case it works. We need that disconnect between R’s thoughts and R’s actions, to emphasize that within his cold, stiff body remains the mind of a human, for all its strengths and flaws. There are some serious plot holes, but it’s definitely an interesting take on Romeo And Juliet.
The opening meet cute is pretty brilliant, all things considered, and it’s a credit to writer/director Jonathan Levine that he both embraces the structure of the teen romantic comedy but also the zombie movie. There are some holes, and the solution to the zombie problem is far too cute by half, but I can’t fault the film for it. It’s as corny as Iowa in spring, but it’s also something other zombie movies are not: cheerful. There’s no explanation for the outbreak, and millions of people are presumed dead, but there’s the lingering hint all throughout the film that people—and zombies—can change themselves for the better. Even when things get heavy or veer towards action and horror, there’s still a lightness to the film.
It helps that Levine is such a deft hand. He does some very clever shots from the zombie perspective, and the framing device for the flashback sequences is really well-executed (and makes sense from a traditional zombie trope perspective). The movie moves quickly, is tightly edited, and makes good use of its musical cues and lighting. It can be a little heavy-handed, but considering its teen target audience, it’s way better than it has any right to be.
Warm Bodies opens on the 8th February in the UK.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan might call this film the teenage version of Shaun Of The Dead, but not as funny or clever. That’s not intended to be faint praise, either. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi