Written and Directed by Jonathan Levine
I love this movie. It’s one of my favorite romance movies and one of my favorite zombie films. It is definitely a different take on both because it’s largely told from the point of view of the main zombie character R. I can’t think of any zombie movie that tells the narrative from the zombie perspective.
A zombie apocalypse has struck the earth. How it all began is never revealed but that’s not important. The movie opens with an internal monologue from a zombie only ever identified as R. It goes through a typical day for him. In his daily routine R even has a zombie best friend known as M. From the very beginning it’s clear he’s a different type of zombie than the rest and even he knows it. One day R (Nicholas Hoult) and a group of fellow zombies come across some human survivors scouring for medicine to take back to their walled settlement. R notices one of them and his reaction to Julie Grigio (Teresa Palmer) causes his heart to beat for the first time in a while. Julie’s boyfriend Perry (Dave Franco) attacks but R manages to kill him. R snacks on Perry’s brain and that’s when his need for connection mixes with the boyfriend’s feelings for the girl.
2/3 of the film is about R’s growing relationship with Julie. Through this relationship he starts to develop feelings and slowly become more human. The more he connects to her the less he is a zombie and the more he is a person.
Through the internal monologue the character of R identifies himself as a slacker when he was alive and even in death he’s still a slacker. Hoult manages to convey that with his performance. He gives some life to a zombie performance without making him human-at least not right away. The connection between R and Julie is what begins the cure. Other zombies notice this connection and it sparks connections among them and memories of what came before. The villains of the film, the Boneys, don’t like this and that makes Julie and R a target.
The Boneys (or as the humans refer to them “skeletons”) are the most seriously gone of the zombies. They’ve been undead the longest. They’re mostly skeletons with a minimal amount of flesh on them. They are also the alphas among the zombies and control the others with fear. Whether or not they have intelligence is unclear. What is clear in the movie is they are vicious.
Most zombie films have something in them about finding a cure or having a cure and this one is no different. What makes this cure unique is that it’s not some drug but rather it’s building human connection. The cure is being better and more connected people. Its underlying theme is getting closer to your fellow man. That’s a very positive message in a genre that’s usually very downbeat. And a very timely one as well.
The soundtrack is great in the movie. We have a sampling of older music as well as more modern stuff. What is a romantic zombie film without a good without a good soundtrack? R’s unusual habit (for a zombie) of collecting things-specifically records-provides the excuse for some of the musical interludes. There was some thought put into the music and it does a good job of aiding the scenes in which it is used.
As a general rule I enjoy Teresa Palmer’s work. This is no different. She’s got an every girl look about her and it makes the character of Julie very relatable and easy to care about here. She wants normality during the zombie apocalypse. Who wouldn’t? But it’s not done in a heavy-handed way.
John Malkovich plays Colonel Grigio who is Julie’s father and leader of the human survivors. This is quite probably the only type of dad John Malkovich could ever play. He could never play the suburban easy-going dad just because that’s not the kind of actor he is. A dad during the end of the world that’s intense and a bit unreasonable is the perfect role for him. The Colonel is a bit of a hard ass and unreasonable because his wife had been taken from him early in the apocalypse.
Being a romantic zombie comedy, this movie has some humor. Julie is definitely the straight girl in this with R providing or being the catalyst for the humorous moments.
The big battle at the end between the zombie factions and the human forces is exciting and anyway hopeful. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a zombie movie where some of the zombies join forces with the humans and everybody goes all out with the big villain. It was a unique twist that really worked.
The story is quite sweet. R’s struggle to be better is weirdly moving. It’s comparable to what we should strive for in relationships-to be better for and worthy of those we love. Julie’s realization that R loves her and his love is causing a change really hits all the right notes.
Warm Bodies is a definite date movie. It has the bonus of being a date movie that a guy can easily enjoy. There’s humor and action and even creepy creatures. Watch it and you will be pleased. I guarantee you it’s something you’ll enjoy and re-visit quite often. It’s a must see.