Warm Bodies (2013)
Oh, the power the love.
Warm Bodies is about a young zombie named R who spends his days walking around an abandoned airport, searching for brains and listening to vinyls in his airplane-turned-apartment. Though he looks and acts like your everyday walker, R’s actually a pretty thoughtful fellow, one that longs to remember the life he once lived. Then one day, on a routine brain-hunt in the city, he and his zombie buddies run into a group of survivors who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The survivors fight back, it’s not much use, and while R’s busy eating some guy, he suddenly finds himself utterly smitten when he catches a glimpse of his dinner’s main squeeze. Rather than let his buddies have at her, he wipes some zombie stink on her like the smooth operator he is and takes her back to the safety of his 747. The more time they spend together, the more R starts to change, and more Julie gets to know her captor/savior, the more she realizes that there’s more to this zombie than meets the eye.
Did I mention that she’s also the daughter of the guy who’s trying to wipe out every zombie on Earth? Yeah, that kinda complicates things.
Fittingly enough, the first time I saw the trailer for this movie was right after seeing the trailer for World War Z. Naturally, I was a whole lot more excited to see the World War Z trailer because, come on, it’s World War Z, and not to mention I’d never heard of Warm Bodies. But then I actually watched the two trailers, and then I forgot about World War Z as I started counting own the days until Warm Bodies hit theaters. The fact of the matter is that World War Z looked like just another zombie apocalypse movie, only this time with zombie flash mobs. Whereas Warm Bodies looked different, it looked fun, and it was oh so very refreshing.
And while originality isn’t the only thing Warm Bodies has going for it, it’s without a doubt the best thing it has going for it.
For starters, I can’t think of any other story that’s treated a zombie diagnosis as anything other than a dead-end street. You get bit, your ass is turning into a zombie. A rogue drop of blood got into your eye because you tried to show a crow who’s boss? Tough cookies, son, but it’s time we blew your brains out. Even though movies have tried to reverse the itis, and even there’s such a gray area when it comes to how people get turned (not to mention the best ways to prevent infection), it’s weird that in all this time I’ve never heard a zombie story that actually showed the plague was reversible. After all, it’s not like this stuff was taken from medical journals or anything.
But then along comes Warm Bodies, and just like that, it becomes a two-way street. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are purists out there crying “Horseshit!” over this turn of events, but as much as I respect that opinion and as much as I’m aware that different strokes are for different folks, it’s about damn time someone started thinking outside the box with this genre. Not to mention that the zombie “cure” is this kid’s crush over a girl. Not a blood transfusion, not a breakthrough in science, but the world-shaking power of love is the thing that’s going to save us. How awesome is that? The last time we got a re-up like this was when zombies started running, and that was over a decade ago, and we have moved on.
So call it a gimmick, call it a novelty, or help yourself to the Kool-Aid. I’ll be over here giving Isaac Marion a high thirty for finally giving zombies the brains they’ve been so desperately needing. And that, dear readers, is what’s so wonderful about our living dead boy, R.
Though I wish he’d been given the better sense of humor, something closer to what Rob Corddry is given, it’s R’s narration that makes all the difference with this movie. For the first time in the history of zombies, he not only has a voice, but he’s surprisingly relatable in turn. Thanks to the clarity and humanity of his thoughts, you can’t help but feel for the kid. Sure, he kills dudes and eats their brains every once in a while, but he can’t help it, he’s a zombie with needs, dammit! But the fact that he’s a living, breathing kid trapped in a dead, cold body isn’t even the best thing about R. The best thing about R is that he sets the tone.
Even during the most lighthearted of zombie apocalypses, like Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland for instance, the stakes are still awfully high. But when your protagonist’s already dead, he’s not exactly worried about getting deader, now is he? Sure, the stakes get raised once Julie walks into R’s life, but all in all, it’s a welcome and playful change of pace that carries throughout the movie. People really need to quit taking the apocalypse so seriously, man. Bumming me out over here.
Now, I realize there’s a good deal of high praise going on this review, but like I said, originality goes a long way. However, I do wish I had more love to give to writer/director Jonathan Levine. As far as context goes, it’s almost apples and oranges to compare this to his last go behind the camera, 50/50. Granted, there are rom-com elements to both, but he gave us some really special moments in that movie that only added to the strengths of Will Reiser’s special script, moments that’s weren’t really there this time even though they could have been. Not to say that they’re non-existent, but when all is said done, his effort is sufficient, not quite up to the special moments that his source material provides.
Although he does know how to put a soundtrack together, and that at least calls for some bonus points.
The cast is also fine, but nothing worth writing home about…except for the shocking fact that Nicholas Hoult somehow blossomed out of his days before puberty. Not like this is the first time I’m seeing him lately, because the kid done blossomed like a mofo back in A Single Man, but I just don’t think I’ll ever get over this adolescent change of changes. As to what the hell he’s doing in Jack the Giant Slayer? Your guess is as good as mine.
It’s been a bit strange telling folks what I thought about this movie, because the answers I keep giving are the ones they’re not expecting. It’s not scary, it’s not gory, and when I keep telling people what a sweet little thing it is, they can’t help but wonder if we’re still talking about the same movie. But as hard as a sell as it may be for some who aren’t already interested, those unexpected answers are why Warm Bodies works. For chrissakes, I said the same thing about The Cabin in the Woods last year, and that was in my Top Five. Who knows, folks, this may just be the future of horror.
Nevertheless, if the whole had been greater than the sum of its parts, I might be so bold as to call this a game changer. But even though it isn’t, it succeeds for what it is. And for a horror genre that was starting to get stale, consider this is a welcome addition.