Early in the film we see the human resistance against the zombie horde. They’re present in the way they’re present in Night of the Living Dead, 28 Days Later, television’s The Walking Dead – packed with guns and the intent to kill. The zombies surprise them in a small room and while a couple are shot, the protagonist walks out with his new, ahem, girlfriend (Julie - Theresa Palmer) from the human squad. The problem with this is the protagonist is a zombie. His name is ‘R’ (Nicholas Hoult), adopted for him given his inability to remember his own name beyond the first consonant. R is part of the new wave of undead that is, very slowly, re-developing a conscience. The human resistance gunfight is a small allotment of very little featured in the way of humans at all. In this film the standard tale of mass killing is turned on its head. We’re given a story from the zombie’s POV and I don’t think we know what to do with it just yet.
Warm Bodies is another instalment in the still-growing zombie romantic comedy (or zom-rom-com) genre. Beginning with the excellent Shaun of the Dead, a film that cleverly acknowledged the rules of a zombie film, Warm Bodies seems to not want to advance the genre but play on its own terms (the undead are given developing vocabularies and can not only run well but can operate a vinyl turntable too!). Perhaps from another viewpoint this means the genre is very much being advanced however it all seems too early to tell from here.
It insists on doing away with the standard heavy violence and plays happily within the confines of the romantic comedy (yes, even the “vinyl is better” conversation features). Regardless, outside of the niche audience that are truly fascinated with the zombie mind and how it works – though confusion still lies given its heritage is solely fiction thus who is the decider? – this operates as yet another pulpy addition to the everything-zombie craze of late. And apart from a couple of cute moments in R’s developing stage, it feels very unnecessary.
Even twelve hours later it all feels a bit silly. Zombies turning human? There’s a few jokes made about this whole process however director Johnathon Levine treats his subject matter very seriously. To the point of it almost becoming nauseating, especially John Malkovich’s completely wasted supporting role as the father of the love-interest’s girlfriend. He’s treated as the butt of a crap joke (“My Dad kills zombies and oh my God he’ll kill you!”) and his redemption scene is the stuff of even crapper romantic comedies (“But Dad, I love him!” I’m paraphrasing but you get the idea.)
Outside of a few nods to The Zombie Film that we’re familiar with, Levine is attempting to break away and offer something uniquely different. He hits the board a few times but that’s all within the first act and from then on it wears out its welcome. Like the novels re-imagined with zombies (e.g. Pride & Prejudice & Zombies), there’s plenty of teen movie staples to be found here and the joke of the guy not being human grows tiring after the third time. The zombie-fanatic crowd will love it; everyone else needn’t bother.
[rating=1] and a half
Nicholas Brodie - follow Nick on Twitter here: @fodusempire