Warming Hearts.. And Brains
Valentine’s Day season is upon us, accompanied by date night movies and slasher films, an accurate display of consumer demands during that time. Warm Bodies, the latest zombie apocalypse chronicle, surprisingly appeals to both the single and dating crowds with a quirky mix of violent thrills and romantic chills. It seems that after years of dead duds in the zombie genre, the industry is combining modern gags with old fashioned undead antics (brain-eating and all).
R (played by BBC’s Nicholas Hoult) is an unsatisfied, recently deceased twenty-something who spends his days wandering an airport surrounded by his peers of the decaying dead. Even his closest friend M (Rob Corrdry) is distant at best. However, R’s life takes a poetic turn when he falls in love with a human girl after killing her boyfriend. In order to protect the fair Julie (Teresa Palmer), R steals her away to his home and keeps her safe. The longer the two stay together, the more they begin to resemble star-crossed, yet horribly conflicted lovers. Even more of a shock is the jumpstart R gets to his heart as he continues to fall for his female heartthrob. Their secret friendship eventually causes trouble not only for zombies and humans, but also among the dreaded “Bonies,” zombies who have given up all humanity to hunt and kill. The hour and a half long film uses every minute to its full potential as it packs in comedy, romance, suspense, and gore.
The script is arguably the most refreshing in years to come to the undead genre. At times, characters harken back to traditional zombie attributes, such as eating brains and awkwardly grunting, giving diehard zombie fans something to relate to. The film also steers away from areas where plot lines have been overused, such as how the plague began and spread. Instead, it jumps straight to the present time in R’s afterlife, a good choice, as the story is told from the adorable zombie’s perspective. The occasional symbolism is even thrown in for audience members looking for death, such as the airport (a place where one waits before beginning their next journey), where the zombies make their homes. There is little time wasted on introducing the main players in the plot, allowing for more attention to be paid to their personalities and actions. Of course, there is the occasional plot hole, but, for a feel-good film like Warm Bodies, they can be overlooked.
As our narrator, Hoult perfectly resembles an awkward zombie attempting to woo a beautiful human. His inner monologue is somehow conflicted, enamored, yet apathetic all at the same time, exactly how a love-stricken zombie would theoretically sound. Palmer plays off of R’s sweet advances expertly, accepting them when appropriate and backing off when things get a bit uncomfortable. Together, the couple keeps their relationship in the realm of possibility (as far as a zombie-human romance can go at least) throughout the film, allowing audiences to enjoy the film without worrying about an undead intimacy scene. However, it is Corrdry who is given the best lines of the movie. We come to worry about him in tight situations and he is often greeted with laughter upon entering the scene.
In a zombie film, the makeup is a focal point. Warm Bodies continues to follow tradition by darkening eyes and paling faces, instead of going over the top with decaying sores. The subtle reanimation of R’s complexion is a testament to the attention to detail the production team focused on. The zombies are also dressed in clothing that suggests who they once were, providing variety and development (especially when R deduces his previous identity from his tattered red hoodie). Joined by bleak, cloudy lighting, the ghostly makeup brings the ominous tone of a well-made zombie flick.
Warm Bodies is not the next Academy Award winner, but it is the best choice for the inevitable Valentine’s Day evening. Mixing eccentric comedy with unlikely romance and intense conflict appeals to all audiences. Grab you apocalypse survival kit, the world is about to be hit with a revived wave of zombie fever.