Warm Bodies (2013) Review

A movie review article by: Janelle Revord




If you could equate the popularity of zombies in the media to global warming melting the polar ice caps, the current rising sea level is just the sickening end result of how many bad zombie movies get made, where anything of quality is merely a tiny drop in the vast ocean. I guess a less confusing metaphor is that the general populous’ obsession with zombies is just as bad as the one it has for bacon-- in standalone form they're great, but time and time again we show how impossible it is to leave well enough alone. In an attempt to distinguish making a great thing better with zombies and bacon alike, there have been some odd combinations that have been attempted, and Warm Bodies definitely falls within those bounds. The only problem is, trying something different with something great doesn’t necessarily make the end result something remarkable by default.

No, just no… I think.

Directed by Jonathan Levine, Warm Bodies is an adaptation of the book of the same name by Isaac Marion. Few zombie movies have successfully staked their claim by treading through the murky grounds of romance as a major plot point, let alone a zombie/human romance. Presented with the concept, it is only natural to wonder how that freaky zombie sex stuff works. With a PG-13 rating, Warm Bodies doesn’t get down to the dirty, and is generally successful at preventing the audience’s mind from going in the gutter, instead following loose reference points to one of the most well-known love stories, Romeo & Juliet. Logically, all the pieces fit the format. If you were a zombie, of course your kind would object to your involvement with a human sans eating them; there isn’t much complexity to this issue other than survival. If you were a human, your kind would similarly hold objections to being eaten -- and, if even the slightest sliver in the structure of morality still remained, it would be an act most treasonous to the remaining survivors of the human race, after all that had been lost, to fraternize with the enemy.

The film establishes two classes of zombies, the first being “corpses,” the type of zombie you typically see and expect from zombie films, who still hold on to some semblance to the humans they once were, just a lot slower, deader, and groanier. The second are “bonies,” more or less skeletons with skin that have given up all hope and accepted the fate of existing only to survive, eating anything with a heartbeat until there are no heartbeats left to eat.

Somehow through the zombification process, a higher plane of intelligence (higher than completely absent and non-existent, that is) remained. If the demise and evolution of a corpse into a boney involves acceptance and loss of hope, all zombies at the very least at a subconscious level must have the understanding of emotion, and potentially thought. “R” (Nicholas Hoult), a corpse who remembers nothing more of his name beyond the first letter, and his best friend “M” (Rob Corddry), are what you could equate to functioning at the zombie MENSA level, capable of thought and the most basic grasping of the capabilities of speech.

Narrated by the articulate (for a zombie) thought process of “R,” it is revealed that “R” wants and aspires to more than the bland existence he has been dealt. Dwelling at an airport overrun by zombies, he has made his home onboard an abandoned airplane that he has filled with kitschy artifacts that he has scavenged and collected while roaming the earth, further enhancing his connectivity to living a life of the, well, living. Most notable is a record player and a collection of vinyl (at one point using an awful zombie pun as he claims to prefer it because it “sounds more alive”), paired with the phenomenal soundtrack to this film with notable indie artists like Feist, Bon Iver, and M83, as well as great up-and comers like The Mynabirds, it just goes to show you that even in the zombie apocalypse, hipsters will never die.

So meta.

Of course, all dreams and desires aside, it still boils down to the fact that “R” is a zombie, and in order for zombies to survive, they of course must eat humans. It was a pleasant surprise, then, to gain insight from “R” about why brains are totally the best part of the meal. Have you ever seen a sleeping zombie? Me neither, that’s just not how that works. So, if you can’t sleep, you can’t dream, which for a zombie such as “R,” can prove to be problematic. Eating someone’s brains gives you access to their past thoughts, memories and feelings, kind of a your life flashing before your eyes type thing. When you think about it though, if your brain is being eaten in real time, your life would probably also flash before the eyes of the zombie that is eating your brain, which is an experience that you probably wouldn’t want to share with anyone, ESPECIALLY that zombie that’s eating your brain.

It is particularly unfortunate in this case for Perry (Dave Franco), the ex-boyfriend of Julie (Theresa Palmer), the human love interest of “R.” "R," in a position of power, essentially kidnaps Julie because he cares for her, or because he can, depending on which way you view all of this. Unbeknownst to Julie for quite some time, however, “R” totally ate the brains of her recently deceased beloved. Call the CW, we have a new primetime rom-dram-com on our hands!

Yet again, the pieces logically fit. With “R” maintaining knowledge, feelings and emotions toward Julie once felt by Perry, “R,” despite already having the obvious upper-hand in this situation because he could eat Julie at the slightest hunger pang, gains an even more massive advantage by literally digesting what most people would have to go through in the dating process, not to mention the likelihood of Stockholm Syndrome.

Julie, plagued by the grief of losing yet another loved one at the end of times, as well as other, less visible psychological trauma one would face during the zombie apocalypse, finds it more than easy to find a connection to this corpse that somehow knows her name even though he can’t remember his own that for some reason wants to keep her safe. The guarantee of protection by the thing that is known to destroy, among other things, somehow makes “R” different in Julie’s eyes. 

Personally, I see it as coping. “R’ isn’t all that decayed, he’s actually one rather attractive specimen of corpse if you ask me. Hell, considering you’d probably have to significantly lower your standards in a zombie apocalypse, he’s almost everything a girl would look for in a guy. He wants to keep you safe, doesn’t talk much, and you can force all your personal interests upon him without objection.

These bitches clearly don’t know how much they’d get for Polaroid film on apoca-eBay, shiiit.

As much as I wanted to love Warm Bodies with the tiny part of my heart reserved for all things zombie, this film fell flat for my logical brain in regards to what the potential cure for the zombie virus actually was. Love. Love is the cure. Love like the goddamn Beatles song. It would seem that with an epidemic that turns the masses into brainless cannibals there must be some scientific cure to fix all of this, but nope, it's just love. 


Affection and attraction begins the heartbeat once more in the lifeless heart of “R,” and JUST BY NOTICING LOVE, other corpses begin to respond on a higher emotional and intellectual level, somehow curing them of an epidemic that more than likely has affected the entire planet. And this isn’t just a cure through the means of them not eating people and having a bunch of useful bodies equipped for menial labor tasks; love is what sparks full blown mental rehabilitation. These zombies no longer crave flesh, but can begin forming full sentences and basically leading normal lives. Honestly though, what kind of world were these people living in if being turned into a zombie really meant you just weren’t loved enough? The possibilities could spawn zombie remakes all throughout history, replacing the tried and true method of “aim for the head” with “just hug on ‘em,” opening up a world of terrible outcomes for how this genre actually has the potential of getting much, much worse.

Janelle Revord is a performer at Austin's Coldtowne Theatre and a frequent guest host on CB's own Paranoid Video. You can find her on twitter @itsjustjanelle

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