On this drizzly Sunday, at high noon, three full-grown male individuals walked into the theater, sat down leaving one seat bro-buffer between them so as to avoid any suspicion, and proceeded to watch “Warm bodies”. I have to say that the social aspect of going to see a romantic comedy with two fellas had me slightly anxious at first, but in the end I was rather positively surprised by what “Warm Bodies” had to offer.
Here’s the deal: I’m all for playing with genres, crossing them over and breeding all sorts of nonsense, because more often than not the result turns out to be at least interesting. And frankly, the genre of zombie horror would use a little love in that regard. For all we know, most of the movies that belong to the genre follow a simple pattern and look more or less the same. From George Romero to Danny Boyle the living dead were most often the centerpieces of survival horror stories where we got to follow the footsteps of the lucky few survivors left on earth that managed to live through the apocalypse. I don’t intend for this to sound like I don’t appreciate the genre because I am a huge fan, but however the story is served – be it a dystopian saga of survival in “The Walking Dead” or a hopeless odyssey like in “28 days later” – the zombies are getting more and more stale by the minute. And it would seem that at this point in time the only thing we could expect zombie horror has to offer is more realistic violence, gore and blood, but in reality more of the same in terms of the narrative.
Of course, I would be lying if I claimed that all zombie movies are the same, because even quite recently Ruben Fleischer’s “Zombieland” showed that you can put a modern, witty, humorous spin on the zombie genre and end up with a good quality product. (Update: Geez, I nearly forgot to bring “Shaun of the Dead” to the table when it comes to zombie comedy) At this point I am rather hesitant to include titles like “Pet sematary” (adaptation of Stephen King’s novel which technically is a play on the genre) or “Braindead/Dead Alive”, because they’re no longer modern or relevant. What matters now is the fact, that – apart from the aforementioned “Zombieland” – the vast majority of horror films belonging to the genre looks, as though they were made with a stencil.
“Warm bodies” take a comedic look at our poor rotting corpses that for some mysterious reason refused to lie in the ground. We meet R (Nicholas Hoult), an unusually self-aware zombie who spends his time walking around pointlessly, socializing with other zombies (groaning awkwardly at other corpses) and quite obviously – looking for some fresh brain to eat. It so happens that along with a group of fellow undead he stumbles upon a team of young scavengers sent to recover medical supplies by some sort of self-appointed chief-of-all-survivors (John Malkovich). Once most youngsters are dispatched, R notices Julie (Teresa Palmer) – the last lass standing – and quite strangely he decides to rescue her from the inevitable death at the hands and teeth of his compadrés. His brave act then triggers a chain of events that in the end will turn this post-apocalyptic world upside down… through the power of love, of course.
Yes, the film is a blatant mix of “The beauty and the beast” and “Romeo and Juliet” (and, yes, it boasts a balcony scene that in its own right is quite hilarious) served on a rather generic platter of romantic comedy narrative, garnished with zombies and seasoned delicately with mild gore. I don’t really know how “Warm bodies” can pass for a ‘date movie’ – my lovely wife rather fiercely voiced her disdain at the notion of going to see it together – but apparently the majority of the viewership is comprised of young adolescent women… which for a zombie flick is an achievement. However, I would be most displeased if the creators decided to milk the box offices even more and turn “Warm bodies” into a franchise that would surely aim at becoming the next “Twilight”, thank you very much.
All things considered, “Warm bodies” can make up for a good 90 minutes of entertainment with laughter and the occasional facepalm here and there. While the rom-com feel becomes overwhelming at times, the witty humor of R’s off-screen remarks quickly dismantles the awkward lovey-dovey tone and lets the viewer forget that, after all, it was supposed to be a romantic comedy, but ends up just a comedy with ‘romantic’ sprinkled on it.