31 Days of Halloween: Day 08 – Warm BodiesA movie review article by: Paul Brian McCoy
This Schlocktober, Comics Bulletin will be exploring the world of horror cinema, featuring thirty one films released between Halloween 2012 and Halloween 2013. Next up is writer/director Jonathan Levine's Warm Bodies.
How does Romeo and Juliet with zombies sound to you? Yeah, normally I would have steered way clear of this concept too, but after some thought, it's really kind of a genius idea. We all know that the zombie genre has exploded into mainstream pop culture. That brings a lot of good and bad things with it. The bad, most obviously, is that there's a zombie glut going on. Anybody with a video camera and some Karo Syrup seems to have thrown their rotting hat into the zombie ring. But there's not a lot of original work being done.
You can only Lock A Bunch Of Assholes Up In A House And Force Them To Work Together To Keep The Dead Out so many times before the distinctive variations are so slight as to not really be worth your time.
The good aspect of the glut is that your more talented and innovative film makers are finding ways to tell stories involving the living dead that bring fresh insights into the thematic dynamics and whole new ways of realizing the zombies. Shaun of the Dead was the first zombie film to really embrace this approach while still maintaining a very traditional zombie apocalypse, by combining elements of romantic comedy with brain eating and head shots (although you could argue that Peter Jackson's Dead Alive paved the way).
Warm Bodies is the next logical step in Zom-Rom-Coms, taking a cue from the very entertaining Wasting Away (2007) and throwing some Shakespeare into the mix. The film is told from the perspective of a zombie named R (Nicholas Hoult), who is un-living his un-life is a perpetual fog of limited zombie awareness. The only thing to look forward to is the rush of emotions and dream-like memories that floods his mind whenever he eats a living human brain.
This is an even nicer touch than the whole Romeo and Juliet concept, and it's much more poetic and interesting than the old Revenge of the Living Dead conceit that the eating of brains stops the perpetual pain of death.
After eating the brain of Julie's (Teresa Palmer) boyfriend, R feels a rush of emotion that triggers a slight heartbeat. He's in love! So he saves her from the other zombies in his… um, pack? What do you call a herd of zombies, anyway? A Gaggle? A Murder? Regardless, this opens up a can of worms with his zombie "buddies" as there are really two classes of zombies in play here. Those that still have human qualities, and the Bonies: skeletal creatures who hunt and eat anything with a heartbeat.
They've co-existed since the zombie apocalypse, but R's toe-dipping into humanity is catching, and other zombies – including R's "best friend" M (Rob Corddry) – are feeling more alive and therefore becoming targets themselves. So with a third party to team-up against, everything turns out all right in the end for most of the living and the dead. Despite Julie's dad, Colonel Grigio (John Malkovich), who heads up the military-styled walled-off city where the last remnants of humanity are struggling to survive, being pretty hard-core anti-zombie.
There's a lot to like here just in the concept alone (the film is based on the 2010 novel of the same name by Isaac Marion), but the combination of Levine's clever script and Hoult's heartfelt performance that really brings Warm Bodies home. It's PG-13, so while there are glimpses of gore, it's almost family-friendly – although the CG Bonies might still creep out younger viewers. But at this stage in the zombie game, I'm starting to wonder if there's anyone who doesn't love zombies anymore.
Read our previous review of Warm Bodies here.
Paul Brian McCoy is the writer of Mondo Marvel and a regular contributor/editor for Comics Bulletin. His first novel, The Unraveling: Damaged Inc. Book One is available at Amazon US & UK, along with his collection of short stories, Coffee, Sex, & Creation (US & UK). He recently contributed the 1989 chapter to The American Comic Book Chronicles: The 1980s (US & UK) and has kicked off Comics Bulletin Books with Mondo Marvel Volumes One (US & UK) and Two (US & UK). Paul is unnaturally preoccupied with zombie films, Asian cult cinema, and sci-fi television. He can also be found babbling on Twitter at @PBMcCoy.