Horror Film Review: Warm Bodies (dir by Jonathan Levine)


Warm Bodies

I did not see Warm Bodies when it was first released back in February.  I was certainly aware of the film, having been bombarded with the trailer since December of 2012. and I assumed that I would see the film but, for whatever reason, I simply could not work up the enthusiasm necessary to actually see it.

Perhaps it was because the concept — a zombie love story — simply seemed too cutesy and, as much as I love zombie movies, they’re not exactly what I want to watch on Valentine’s Day.  The fact that the movie was being called a “zombie twilight” didn’t help.  (Don’t get me wrong.  The Twilight films are a very guilty pleasure of mine but that still doesn’t make the comparison a selling point.)

As a result, as much as I thought I would end up seeing Warm Bodies in the theaters, I never got around to it.  Instead, I waited until Warm Bodies premiered on Cinemax earlier this month to watch it and you know what?

I was surprised to discover how much I loved it.

Warm Bodies takes place after the zombie apocalypse has decimated America.  The undead wander through the ruins of society while the few remaining humans have barricaded themselves in a heavily guarded enclave.  Leading them is Col. Grigio (John Malkovich) who continually tells his citizens that the only way to survive is to kill every zombie that they see.  As Grigio explains it, the zombies may look human but they have no humanity left.

This would probably come as news to R (Nicholas Hoult), a zombie whose day consists of wandering around an airport, looking for people to eat, and occasionally acknowledging his friend M (Rob Corddry) with a grunt.  R spends most of his time thinking about how bored he is with being a zombie and wondering who he once was.  That’s one reason why R enjoys eating brains because, by doing so, R gets to enjoy the memories of his victims and, for just a brief few moments, he can know what it’s like to be human.

Things change for R when he and a group of zombies come across humans that are searching the city for medical supplies.  R spots one of the humans, Julie (Teresa Palmer), and finds himself immediately drawn towards her.  However, R is also shot in the chest by Julie’s boyfriend, Perry (played by Dave Franco, the younger brother of my beloved James Franco).  R responds by attack Perry and eating his brain, which causes R to experience all of Perry’s memories of Julie.  Now in love with Julie, R saves her from the other zombies and takes her back to the airplane where he makes his home.

Warm Bodies 3

As Julie and R bond, R finds himself slowly becoming more and more human.  Yes, that’s right — the cure to the zombie apocalypse is love.  Now, that may sound predictable or simplistic and I guess it is.  But you know what?  I’m a romantic and I loved it!  It helped that both Palmer and Hoult have a really likable chemistry.  Even before R’s heart starts to beat again, they make a really adorable couple.

Unfortunately, the more R tries to act human, the more the other zombies want to eat him.  This is especially true of the Boneys, zombies who have decayed to the point of just being skeletons and who prey on anything that happens to have the slightest trace of a heartbeat.  Meanwhile, Julie’s father — Col. Grigio — remains firmly convinced that the only cure for zombification is a bullet in the head.

Though there are moments of horror in Warm Bodies (mostly involving the Boneys, who are genuinely scary), the film is mostly concerned with telling an audience-friendly love story.  As I watched the film, I occasionally found myself wishing that the movie has been directed by someone like James Gunn, who would have brought a bit more of a satiric bite to the film.

And yet, despite being occasionally frustrated by how (literally) bloodless the film was, I loved Warm Bodies.

What can I say?  It’s an incredibly sweet and romantic movie and, as much as its fashionable to be cynical, who can resist a good love story?  If anything truly elevates Warm Bodies above being just another supernatural romance, it’s the performance of Nicholas Hoult.  Even when he’s just stumbling around with a blank face and uttering meaningless groans, Hoult makes R into a likable flesh eater.  As sweet as the idea of love bringing life to the dead may be, it’s Hoult’s intelligent performance that makes both the idea and the romance feel real.

And that’s why I loved Warm Bodies.

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4 responses to “Horror Film Review: Warm Bodies (dir by Jonathan Levine)

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