Warm Bodies (2013) Review
Warm Bodies presents a completely different view of the zombie apocalypse, and zombie lore generally, in the form of horror comedy that mixes in a little bit of Twilight mainstream along with romantic comedy and some good old fashioned brain feasting. Meg Ryan would NEVER have participated in this one. For the hard core zombie fans, though, allowing in a different take on what a zombie is capable of might take a little work.
Warm Bodies starts with a first person accounting of one particular zombie, who later becomes known as "R" (Nicholas Hoult). He wanders and rambles around mindlessly as one might expect, but inside his head there are actual coherent thoughts and a bit of frustration that his dead and rotted body is unable to better express itself. It has been a number of years since something struck the human race, causing the dead to reanimate and seek to feast on the flesh and brains of the living. Long ago the few living survivors had congregated behind a great wall to protect them from the rest of the world, completely overtaken by zombie mayhem. With the severe lack of available food the zombies have become slow and lumbering, and ultimately those that don't eat for an extended period of time "give up" and become "Boneys"… zombies with no flesh to speak of that race around in skeletal form looking for living flesh to eat wherever it can be found.
Periodically youngsters are sent out into the zombie zone from within the safety of the walled city to retrieve medical supplies and other necessities. One one particular mission the daughter of the leader of the city (Julie, played by Teresa Palmer) ventures out with her boyfriend and several other youths. When they are all surprised by an attack of a small hoard of zombies, including "R", many of them are killed. R kills Julie's boyfriend Perry (Dave Franco) and eats his brains… and in doing so is able to experience Perry's memories and get to know Julie from his eyes, and he falls in love with her. He saves her from the rest of the hoard and begins a journey of regaining humanity in her presence.
Warm Bodies is a comedy that takes a stance on zombie lore that is completely foreign to current conventions… kind of. One of the allures of zombie movies and zombie dramas is that the zombies themselves are completely mindless, flesh-eating monsters that are actually pretty fun to take down with a head shot. One of the beauties of this arrangement is that zombies can be dispatched without any moral conflict whatsoever, other than the internal battles the living face when they must take out a family member or someone they knew before the zombie experience took them over. Warm Bodies turns that concept upside down by presenting a scenario where there are indeed thoughts going on within the dead carcass of walking dead bodies, and that it is actually possible for zombies to make progress toward a bit of regained humanity.
For those truly in the know, it is not entirely out of left field that zombies may become a little closer to "thinking individuals". I submit that the father of modern zombie lore, Mr. George A. Romero himself, also saw the logical conclusion of a zombie apocalypse being that the zombies themselves begin to evolve. Who can forget Bub from Day of the Dead when it was discovered by scientists that he retained a number of his human abilities, or Land of the Dead where the zombies learned how to communicate with each other and coordinate an attack against the human city? One of the things missing from just about all zombie features is a "what's next?". Often the only conclusion is that the world ends and everybody dies, but even Romero addressed the likelihood that something else would ultimately need to happen. Warm Bodies addresses that concept as well.
There were a few moments as this film developed that it seemed like the wheels had fallen off before the feature had begun, but those moments were short lived and ultimately the pace and direction of the film was able to "right the ship" before it went south. As a zombie fan much of Warm Bodies brought about resistance, thoughts of "that's not right" that threatened to terminate any enjoyment of the film, but again, the compelling story and credible filmmaking was able to bring about a change of heart. The comedy helped too, and a few particular moments diffused my apprehension and brought me along for the ride. When one zombie responds to the suggestion that there should be an attack against the Boneys with a "fuck yeah", it's hard not to get engaged.
At the end of it all Warm Bodies has an incredible amount of varying appeal. On one hand this is a horror comedy using zombie lore as it's plaything, that it very enjoyable. On another hand this film takes the bold stance of challenging common zombie sensibility in a time when zombie fandom is at an all time high and presents a different view of what the coming zombie mayhem may have in store. Frankly, this new vision is not one I choose to embrace as a headshot to take down a mindless flesh feaster is just too appealing, but it's a nice fantasy to whyle away about 90 minutes.
Also on the Web
Note: Comments May Take up to 60 Minutes to Display