Warm Bodies (2013, 1 hr, 38 mins)
I must warn you. This is not going to be a pleasant post. It will, in fact, be a zombie rant. I don’t know if I would call myself a purist, but I like my zombies a certain way. Be it in a comedy or a gruesome throat-biting, blood spurting romp, I feel zombies should get a little respect, kind of like the tough kid in the playground. Back in my day, you gave him/her space, ran if they notice you, and stood your ground if they caught up to you. There have been plenty of successful attempts to create a different view of zombies within reason, such as Shaun of the Dead and In The Flesh. Two well done, brilliantly written (and both British) takes on zombies on either side of the spectrum. And then there is of course, The Walking Dead, which goes without saying: your traditional survival of the fittest, zombies vs. us deal that has me and millions of fans hooked. Even the 2004 low-budget Zombie Honeymoon brought us a creative take on zombies. Each represent zombies with respect to the genre and the proper fear, loathing, or comedy that doesn’t dull their iconic place in horror.
Imagine my delight when I heard about Warm Bodies, a rom-com take on the zombie experience. Of course I missed it in the theatres (because I’d rather stay at home where it’s safe), and was looking forward to seeing it when it came out on DVD. Well, fellow horror fan, that delight was short-lived. You will learn why in a few.
The film is about ‘R’ (Nicholas Hoult), a handsome young zombie fellow, who gives us his point of view of life as a zombie. He gives us an inside look with a voice over of what it’s like to be the walking dead, some stuck in a loop of what they were before their untimely death due to a plague that took over 8 years ago. The living stay entrenched in The City, a walled section of a sprawling metropolis that they protect ferociously from the ongoing zombie threat. Julie, a lovely blonde Kirsten Stewart look-alike (Teresa Palmer) is part of the patrol and her father, Grigio (John Malkovich) is the militant head of The City. R and Julie meet during a fateful battle where he eats her boyfriend’s brain and kidnaps her in order to keep her out of the jaws of his zombie colleagues, because you see, R has feelings-or a semblance of them. He falls in love with her on sight, and by eating her boyfriend’s brain, his love is reinforced since her boyfriend’s memories become his. R basically holds Julie hostage, citing the need to have the other zombies forget about her after her attempts to escape has brought attention to her living flesh. So of course, R, being the music-loving, collector zombie that he is, shows her a good time in his airplane bunker. Julie then suffers from what I can only call zombie Stockholm Syndrome and slowly begins to warm up to him ’cause he’s different, and R realizes he is becoming more human. Cue the fun montage of Julie teaching R how to drive, playing records and dress up, and committing utter blasphemy by having a DVD of the 1979 classic Zombie in a scene. Hey Julie, can’t you smell your boyfriend’s brains in R’s pockets? Not leaving a stain? Can’t smell R’s decaying flesh breath? No? O.K., whatevs.
The movie soon spirals into saccharine, feel-good, Romeo and Juliet territory that often made me retch and dry heave. Love will warm the flesh of even a zombie. Um, last time I checked, love don’t pay the rent, so making a zombie human? Tall order. Oh yes, and it’s not just R that feels the love. His fellow zombies are starting to get the warm and fuzzies too (cue that Neil Diamond song about your heartlight). Ugh. The only things I like about this movie were the “bad” zombies, or “Boneys”-zombies who were too far gone, skeletal and real hungry. They proved to be a threat for the “good” zombies and humans alike; forcing them to unit and feel the love. I actually wanted to drive the Boneys into battle myself in a lowrider caddy (with hydraulics, blasting some Snoop Dog) just to stop the nonsense.
Here’s the thing. I actually liked the idea of zombies retaining some sort of intelligence, but the returning to humanity was a bit of a stretch as zombies are traditionally motivated by instinct and hunger, not emotion (check out the 2008 indie film Colin for a more traditional zombie p.o.v) Although I haven’t read it yet, there is no doubt in my mind that the book is great. I just hate movie adaptations that dumb down the story and force a sentiment on the viewer. This movie made me feel like I was invited to play laser tag and ended up at bible study. Not even John Malkovich, Rob Corddry ( R’s friend ‘M’) and Analeigh Tipton (who played Julie’s friend Nora), all of whom I love, could save this flick for me. I don’t know what else to say, except that the only winners for me in this film were the Boneys, who ain’t no phoneys. At least they were honest (and hungry).
Most Memorable Line: When besties Julie and Nora dish about R, Nora says, “I mean, I know it’s really hard to meet guys right now, with the apocalypse stuff. Trust me.” You haven’t been to Toronto, sister. Dating after an apocalypse amidst the zombies and roaches sounds just dreamy compared to dating in this town.
Most Hateful Scene: has to be hands down the heinous Pygmalion-esque “Let’s Make R Look Like A Real Boy!” scene. I think the intention was tongue in cheek, but it just brought bile to mouth. Sorry folks, didn’t work for me.