The zombie apocalypse has left the humans fighting against a horde of shambling corpses. R (Nicholas Hoult) is one of those zombies, except he’s beginning to wonder if there’s more to life than stumbling about groaning. When he ‘meets’ Julie (Teresa Palmer), a beautiful human survivor, R falls in love. He sets about trying to charm her, as best a rotting corpse can, and soon finds he’s undergoing more than just a change of heart.
The first zombie films had a message to deliver, the same is true here. But on top of this, Warm Bodies is refreshing, original, and one of the wittiest films you’ll find.
Every single scene is an analogy waiting to be realised by the audience, complimented with endearingly sweet narration by the protagonist, R. Worrying about his posture, taking “better care” of himself, and chasing unattainable females is something any teenage boy can relate to. Underneath every zombified scene, you can see the oddball-boy-meets-girl engine running smoothly, and as your brain translates each to the other it is sumptuously heart-warming and satisfyingly hilarious. A zombie chanting to himself “don’t be creepy, don’t be creepy” as he approaches the girl he fancies is just one fine example of this film’s unique humour and play on the norm.
The set-up is so peculiar that it offers opportunities for laughs at every turn, from zombie conversation to the strangest ‘getting-to-know-you’ montage ever committed to film. Its self-referential jibes are never pretentious, but play on the audience’s own thoughts about the film and the genre as a whole. R’s neurotic insight into zombie life introduces a whole new dimension to the idea of zombies.
Nicholas Hoult’s portrayal of R balances the zombie stereotype and oddball-guy well, introducing just enough personality at just the right moments to ensure that we fall for R, while keeping in mind that he is, in fact, dead. Hoult and director Jonathan Levine overcome a huge barrier in making you connect with a rotting body.
The film glides effortlessly from gruesomely dark to touching and tragic. Unlike every other zombie film, however, there is an enduring feeling of hope and faith in humanity. It is also one of the few, if not the only, zombie films that truly makes you think about what the creatures were when they were alive: people.
The soundtrack enhances each moment brilliantly, providing colour in the bleak atmosphere. The cinematography drives home the desolation at the start, shifting slowly to a more vibrant, and cheerful world as R becomes slowly more human. True, incidental characters progress a little too quickly, and when the film briefly tries to enter the realm of ‘Zombie Action Film’ it is out of its depth, but put in contrast with the originality and pitch-perfect characterisation, these short-comings are vastly overshadowed.
Be warned, however, this film requires audience participation: if you take this everything at face value, you’ll find a stomach-churningly awkward flick that is difficult to reconcile after years of stagnant zombie films. But, if you put in the effort, relating everything you see to its real-life equivalent, you’ll be treated to a heart-warming story and carpet burns from rolling around on the floor laughing.
Overall Verdict: A rich and refreshing retelling of the greatest love story ever told (balcony, hint, hint!), this is a layered, witty and heartwarming story that will stay with you long after you see it. If you were looking for Twilight, a typical zombie-flick, or even Shaun of the Dead you will be disappointed. Instead this is something truly unique and very, very special.
Reviewer: Adrian Naik