Film review: WARM BODIES, from Built For Speed

I have to confess, I’m not normally a fan of zombie movies and that includes lauded films like 28 Days Later.  I generally find the sight of people in bad make-up shuffling around and eating gizzards pretty tedious.  Warm Bodies, however, is a different kind of zombie film.  First of all, it’s told from a zombie’s perspective and secondly it is, believe it or not, a romance.  As weird as this might sound, it actually works as the film successfully subverts the zombie genre by cleverly weaving in elements of love stories like Romeo and Juliet and the social commentary of films like District 9.

Based on the Isaac Marion novel, the film takes us into a post-apocalyptic world where a plague has turned half the population into flesh-eating zombies while the uninfected humans have walled themselves off in the middle of a city.  The film begins with an interior monologue from one its main characters but it’s not a heroic human, it’s a young zombie named R (Nicholas Hoult).  He delivers an amusingly sardonic commentary on his unfulfilling life (so to speak) as a zombie much like a teen lamenting the drudgery of Middle-America in a John Hughes film.  Apart from staggering about and chomping on the occasional human, his existence has little purpose.  That is until he and his zombie buddies ambush a group of humans which includes the stunning human Julie (Aussie Teresa Palmer).  While R would normally munch on the brains of any human he encountered, Julie inspires in him the unusual sensation of love.

Some of this film is played for laughs and the acerbic comedy generally hits the mark.  Other parts play as straight action and gory horror but these scenes aren’t always well staged or clearly shot and they are the least interesting aspects of the film.  The nasty skeleton monsters who represent the worst of zombie society look less convincing than the ones in Jason and the Argonauts from 1963.

What really works are the sensitive scenes in which flickers of humanity begin to stir in R’s shrivelled heart.  These sequences recall the moving, tentative rapprochement between Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder in Edward Scissorhands and even the emotionally gripping relationship between the two young outcasts in Let the Right One In.  It also helps that these moments are backed by classic tracks from Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan.

Hoult delivers one of his better performances as R as he switches from funny to scary to sympathetic all without saying very much.  Teresa Palmer also makes a fine feisty heroine as Julie although at times she seems to be attempting a sullen Kristen Stewart impersonation.  John Malkovich makes sporadic appearances as Julie’s gung-ho, zombie-hating dad but his character is underwritten and has little impact.  Rob Corddry, however, is possibly cinema’s most likeable zombie as R’s dryly humorous buddy M.

This is a funny and surprisingly moving film that falters occasionally but still manages to re-energise a well-worn genre and turn clichés like the healing power of love and the need for acceptance into powerful statements of humanity.

Nick’s rating: Three and a half stars.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Jonathan Levine

Release date: 11th Apr 2013

Running time:  98 mins.

Related Posts: