When Shaun of the Dead hit theaters, it completely changed the way zombie comedies were looked at. Sure, there were great ones in the past, specifically Return of the Living Dead, but once sequels started coming from that movie, even that franchise turned out mostly low brow zombie comedies, to put it nicely. However, Edgar Wright did something special with Shaun of the Dead. He created a zombie movie that treated horror with respect, yet remained bitingly funny. The Canadian zombie comedy Fido did the same thing.
However, with the advent of The Walking Dead on television, the zombie is more popular than ever, and that makes it even more important for movies that spoof the zombie genre to tread carefully or find zombie fans and keyboard critics eating it for lunch. It is the popularity of The Walking Dead, and how it has almost desensitized people with its intense violence and propensity to kill anyone, that has doomed a movie like Warm Bodies.
Warm Bodies just isn’t mean enough to satisfy fans of The Walking Dead.
I was trying to explain this movie to my wife when I got home from my screening and I came up with a very strange description. She isn’t a big fan of horror movies, or zombies in general, and the gore and violence of the genre is a major turnoff for her. Yet, I knew she would love Warm Bodies and I tried to figure out how to explain that to her. That is when I came up with this statement: Warm Bodies is the Juno of zombie movies.
I am sure that statement alone will make most horror gore fans run away in terror.
Based on the novel by Isaac Marion (BUY IT HERE), Warm Bodies tells the story of a zombie named R. At least he calls himself “R” because he doesn’t remember his name, only that it might have started with an R. We see R walking around a deserted airport after the zombie apocalypse has destroyed almost everything, and unlike most zombies you see, he actually has a brain and thinks about stuff.
Honestly, that is a good way to describe it – he thinks about stuff. He lives in an old airplane and collects knick knacks and has an old record player that he uses to play some vinyl albums by bands like Guns n Roses and John Waite. Actually, the music in this movie is pretty great, all a throwback to one of my favorite musical eras. Anyway, this is where the movie will lose a lot of people. Get past how the electricity still works, especially with the record player in the plane. The fact is that we have a movie where a zombie mopes around because he is different and can’t figure out what he wants to do with his afterlife.
It is the most overused plot line of every generic indie drama.
This all changes when he kills Perry (James Franco) and then collects his brain to snack on later. See, in this movie when a zombie eats the brain of their victim, they actually gain all that person’s memories and feelings, the only way a zombie still has to enjoy those emotions. Well, he starts to remember Perry’s past and that is when R falls in love with Julie (Teresa Palmer), the girlfriend of Perry and daughter of the baddest zombie hunter of them all, Grigio (John Malkovich). So, R does what any good zombie would do – he kidnaps Teresa and then promises to protect her if she stays with him.
The rest of the movie shows what happens when true love makes a zombie’s heart start to beat again and brings dreams back to the undead. Plus, John Malkovich tries to hunt R down and kill him along with every other zombie left in the world.
If that all sounds disgustingly saccharine (except the Malkovich parts of course), it really isn’t. There is a big problem in this movie in the fact that people coming for zombie carnage won’t get it. There are fights with Bonies, zombies who have already eaten all their skin off and no longer have any mode of humanity left, but they are infrequent and shot in a way where we never really see any of the carnage. The movie is PG-13 and is perfectly fine for older kids to watch, so anyone who loves The Walking Dead will probably leave disappointed in Warm Bodies.
I love The Walking Dead too, but I also found a lot to like in this movie as well. I’ve been a fan of Teresa Palmer since I am Number Four, and I really thought that Nicholas Hoult (X-Men: First Class) was really good as R. Plus, you have John Malkovich, which raises any movie’s score just by being in it. So, you have great acting, great music and a nice quirky indie styled story line.
The movie never tries to be more than just a light hearted “zombie love story” and never promised more than that. The bottom line is this – don’t go into Warm Bodies for the zombie carnage. Go in looking for a quirky story with some great acting and some really unusual humor. If you do that, you won’t be disappointed. If that isn’t enough for you, The Walking Dead is on every Sunday night on AMC.