Any film that (however unconsciously) evokes the genre of Rom-Zom-Com (Romantic Zombie-Comedy) will always have a lot to live up to; however, Warm Bodies is not just a Shaun of the Dead ripoff with an American sheen. Rather, it is a witty, self-conscious and, well, warm affair that plays up the ridiculous nature of the film’s premise without diluting the sincerity of the central story.
Set in a generic, post-zombieapocalypse America, Warm Bodies revolves around R (Nicholas Hoult), a lonely amnesiac zombie who struggles to find connections in an undead world where people just shuffle around moaning. Yes, this is something of a parable for finding connections in an increasingly isolated world, but it’s handled with a light touch, and is offset by the playful dark humour and sense of self-parody that the film embraces.
When looking for food with some rotting chums, R meets the blood-pumping girl of his dreams, Julie (Teresa Palmer) – and eats her boyfriend’s brains. This sets in motion the path to his redemption and establishes a message about the all-conquering healing power of love that works surprisingly well considering its utter ridiculousness and lack of explanation.
However, one of this film’s strengths is the way it comes across so strongly and coherently despite the leaps in plausibility that its plot involves (though arguably discussing ‘plausibility’ in a zombie film is a moot point). This is largely due to a great script that works around the inherent problems in the genre (the ‘zombie dialogue’ gives the film its funniest moments) and the work of the cast, most notably Nicholas Hoult, who really sells the ‘creepy staring corpse’ chic and monosyllabic dialogue of his undead protagonist to create a likable and – weird though it may seem – believable character.
In many ways, the scope is quite limited, both in terms of locations and events. John Malkovich as Julie’s gung-ho solider father seems a little
glossed over too, with some interesting hints of his motivation and antagonism towards the ‘corpses’ not fully explored (it’s hinted that he killed his wife once zombified, and the events of the film show that her fate may not have been sealed.) But really the surprising thing about this
film is how easy it is to ignore its flaws, limitations and sentimental conclusions and just get on board with it.
Whoever said romance was (un)dead?