Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, John Malkovich
Director: Jonathan Levine
Writers: Jonathan Levine (screenplay), Isaac Marion (novel)
In the aftermath of an apocalyptic event, the majority of the world’s population have been reborn as zombies. Not all of them are happy about this, and one, R (Hoult), sets out to try and reclaim his lost humanity.
Ok. Let’s get this out of the way. Warm Bodies is a love story involving a zombie. I’ll be the first to admit, when I first heard of the concept I was dubious. Surely there was no way such a thing could be pulled off without being either ridiculous or disgusting? Turns out, I was wrong, and I’m more than happy to eat those words, along with a healthy portion of brains as a side.
For a start, and most appealingly, the whole film is shot through with a nicely sardonic, if rather dark streak of humour. Much of this is delivered in voice over, R being a little troubled in terms of articulation, and it’s surprisingly effective, a combination of the sharp script and a cracking performance from Hoult. His faltering attempts at wooing one of the living are glorious to watch, particularly when overlaid with the mantra “Don’t be creepy, don’t be creepy…”
The romance itself also surprises, managing to be rather sweet for the most part. There is a great chemistry between R and Julie (and yes, you should be thinking about those names…), which puts certain other supernatural romances to shame. The portion of the film that focuses on the two of them getting to know each other, and R’s development is easily the best. However, it isn’t just the humour and chemistry that makes it work; despite being a brain eating monster, R is a pretty relatable guy, and aside from the obvious complications it is actually a fairly universal story.
That said, there is no attempt to shy away from the darkness of the story. R gets to know Julie better by eating her ex’s brain, after all, and one of the first things we see is a ‘Boney’ – a zombie that has devolved into a more bestial skeleton, and which provide most of the film’s threat. Thankfully, this grimmer side doesn’t undermine the warmth of the romance, actually helping it by throwing it into relief.
It isn’t all good; most of the secondary characters, particularly the living ones, and especially John Malkovich, are utterly wasted and very underwritten. In addition, the final act of the film tries to pack a bit too much in, leaving most of it rushed and convenient. In an unusual state of affairs for modern cinema, the film might actually have benefited from another twenty minutes or so on the running time.
Still, for the most part, this is a thoroughly good film, well worth a watch. Even for Valentine’s Day.