May Issue 2013
Vampires are sexy, be it teen fantasy Robert Pattinson in Twilight or the cast of the more adult-oriented TV show True Blood. Werewolves too have their moments. But zombies, with their rotting flesh and sluggish movements, aren’t exactly attractive. Director Jonathan Levine’s Warm Bodies, a romantic comedy about zombies (a rom-com-zom?), attempts to change all that.
The story centres on R, a young zombie who, through voice-over, tells the audience what it is like to spend his days hanging out in an abandoned airport, communicating with other zombies through grunts and occasionally hunting down human beings for dinner. R is a little blue — both literally and figuratively — but even with exposed veins and lifeless eyes, there is no denying actor Nicholas Hoult’s good looks. His goth-like yet handsome appearance combined with the deadpan humour of his voice-over help him earn the audience’s sympathy.
Julie, a zombie-hunter, is a little harder to win over though. She is part of a militia headed by her father (John Malkovich), who is perhaps more cold and ruthless than some of the zombies themselves. She, along with a group of young, gun-yielding hunters, travels to the gated city where zombies reside in order to raid medicines from an abandoned pharmacy. A few zombies, including R, smell human flesh and come running. The hunters are caught off guard and almost all, including Julie’s boyfriend Perry, are killed. R takes a bite out of Perry’s brain and in doing so he relives the deceased’s memories, many of which include the young, beautiful Julie. With Perry’s memories stirring emotions in R’s otherwise cold heart, he decides to save her from the other zombies who are about to attack her. He ‘kidnaps’ Julie, taking her to an abandoned plane, which he has turned into a personal den. There he provides her canned food, plays romantic music and tries to assure her that she will be safe. Julie is not so easily convinced and she often tries to escape, only to find herself facing hordes of hungry zombies and needing R to come rescue her.
Slowly, she starts to see R in a different light. He is no longer just another a zombie, but instead a sweet, awkward young man who is willing to risk his own safety for her. A romance between a zombie and a human being seems improbable, except R soon learns that kindness and compassion from human beings is actually helping him come to life. In fact, Julie and R’s friendship seems to have a multiplier effect as other zombies too exhibit signs of life. The rest of the movie then follows the pair as they try to convince the outside world that zombies can recover while also fending attacks from the Bonies, skeletal creatures which were once zombies but have now reached a point of no return.
The allusions to Romeo and Juliet (if the characters’ names aren’t enough, Levine throws in a balcony scene) add some dimension to the plot but ultimately the film unfolds rather predictably. Hoult’s lovable depiction of R as a jaded young man, rather than a creepy zombie, is perhaps the biggest selling point of the film. Unfortunately, even his best quips, (“This date isn’t going well. I want to die all over again,”) aren’t enough to bring the story to life and ultimately the film is more cute than laugh-out-loud funny.
Zehra Nabi is a graduate student in The Writing Seminars at the Johns Hopkins University. She previously worked at Newsline and The Express Tribune.