Zombie films have become a dime a dozen and finding a diamond in the rough is like trying to find a Golden Ticket in a Wonka Bar. All types of zombie films have been explored and re-explored, examined and exhumed leaving nothing new to impress the modern day film-goer. Warm Bodies (2013) is the latest rom-com-zom that tries to explore a different kind of love story between a woman and a zombie. This is nothing new mind you. The same material was explored in Zombie Honeymoon (2004) and My Boyfriend’s Back (1993) but in this modern day age of self-referential zombie knowledge and YA novels everything has changed and Warm Bodies is a different kind of zombie.
R (Nicholas Hoult) doesn’t remember who he was before he became a zombie nor does he remember his own name. All he knows is that the airport that he calls home is solace but when a group of humans invade his place of resident the only thing he can think of is – food, but when one of these humans - Julie (Teresa Farmer) causes an unexpected spark within he finds himself saving her from his brethren instead of making her a midnight snack. He takes Julie back to his secret hideaway of an abandoned airplane where he has collected items of a past life he can’t remember. As he shields her from the dangers outside the Julie begins to see R as something never seen before as he starts to regain some of his past humanity. As R begins to regain his human qualities Julie must try to convince the other humans of an evolution in the zombie apocalypse before they see R as just another zombie that needs to be put down.
As written & directed by Jonathan Levine (based on the novel by Isaac Manon) most of the film is told through narration as R is unable to talk at first and the whole film is told from his perspective. This can be a detriment to many films but here Hoult is able to bring humanity to his character both through the narration and his performance. R is a character that audiences will come to sympathize with despite snacking on a few humans here and there. This is one of the first things the film does right. For the YA audience of which made the original book hugely popular they will be satisfied. For the regular film-going audience the film also works as a zombie film with lots of kills (and great SFX and action) and as a comedy, as R’s progression to gaining his humanity makes for a very humorous undertaking without the film crossing over into self-parody territory. It’s a very delicate balancing act to mix comedy with horror with the romantic film of which Shaun of the Dead (2004) set the bar high. Warm Bodies may not reach those lofty heights but it comes pretty close and is only a good sign of where film-makers and zombie films will go next.