Warm Bodies,
directed by Jonathan Levine
(Lionsgate, 2013)

Much like Shaun of the Dead, Warm Bodies is a genre film on three fronts: a zombie flick, a comedy and a romance. But Warm Bodies has a twist that may be a cinematic first: this sweet, charming and funny zom-rom-com has the love story happening between a zombie boy and a living girl.

It opens with the by-now-expected apocalypse of living vs. undead. A wall separates the desperate and dwindling-in-numbers still breathing survivors from the living dead. On one side is "R," who shuffles aimlessly around an abandoned airport terminal. In another neat twist, and again a probable cinematic first, we see his point of view as narrator of the film. He knows who he is, what he is and how he got there. He hates his pointless existence, which is ruled by a hunger he can only satisfy in a way that repulses even him. But a guy's gotta survive, hope or no hope.

On the opposite side of the wall, bands of humans move out in regular packs to steal food and kill off whatever zombies they encounter. Their leader, Colonel Grigio (John Malkovich), is the father of Julie (Theresa Palmer), who along with her scene-stealing best friend, Nora (Annaleigh Tipton), and her boyfriend, Perry (Dave Franco), are members of a hunting party overtaken by a band of zombies.

"R" kills Perry and munches on his brains, which has the effect of transferring Perry's memories to him. Even as Julie fights for her life, "R" finds himself falling in love with her as he absorbs everything about her from her just-deceased lover. Talk about your speed-dating.

Taking her with him when the attack has separated her from her group and hiding her from the other zombies, he saves her life by bringing her to his hideout, an abandoned airplane.

Keeping her with him for a few days until the others forget she's there, "R" munches up some leftover brains of Perry's that he wisely stuffed in his pocket for snacking on later. It might not be quite the best way to court a woman, but hey, it's the apocalypse, and beggars can't be choosers.

As the time passes they fall for each other, she attracted to him in spite of his cold skin and pulseless body, and he realizing that she's actually making him feel something for the first time since he rose, something which makes his cold, dead heart literally warm up and start pumping blood again. As he recovers, becoming more human all the time, Julie begins looking at him as though he were once again a real boy, which is exactly what he's becoming.

The tenderness between the earnest "R" and Julie, who are obviously modern stand-ins for Romeo and Juliet, really make the movie glow with earnestness. The soundtrack is great, the action is good and the interesting conclusion makes for a new twist on an old genre.

review by
Mary Harvey

27 July 2013

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