The infestation of zombies across our television (The Walking Dead) and cinema screens (World War Z on the way) as they immerse us in grim apocalyptic worlds, shows no signs of abating. However you only have to look at the phenomenal success of the Twilight Saga with its unconventional ‘girl falls in love with a vampire’ premise to realise.. a ‘ZomRomCom’ was inevitable. Courtesy of acclaimed indie director Jonathan Levine (50/50), ‘Warm Bodies’ dares to subvert audience expectations as it hybridises and toys with traditional genres.
Complete with inspired and often amusing narration, Nicholas Hoult plays R, a quirky vinyl loving zombie struggling to conform to the obligations normally associated with the undead. Initially limited to endless shruggling to convey emotion and meaning with his ‘best friend’ M (Rob Corddry) whilst living in ‘fear’ of the eventuality of being reduced to joining the skeletal ’Bonies’ clan, R is craving human connection. With survivors of the epidemic barricaded, the odds are hardly in our lead protagonist’s favour.
Leading the charge against the threat of R’s kind is tough talking General Grigio played by John Malkovich. Unluckily for his resilient daughter Julie (Teresa Palmer), she’s set to become the unlikely object of R’s affections. A routine ‘feed’ for R and his ‘posse’ as he feasts upon the brains of her ‘cheeseball’ boyfriend Perry (Dave Franco) soon turns into a meet-cute between the pair, protecting her from harm. Allowing her to take refuge within the confines of an abandoned plane, the obvious reservations soon evaporate as their bonding through common interests, awakens R. Is he undergoing the transition from human to zombie.. and back again?
With such a gleefully demented premise at its core, in lesser hands Warm Bodies whilst original, could have been perceived to be an immature piece of filmmaking. So it is quite remarkable how well director Levine executes the material breathing much needed life into a ‘bludgeoned to death’ formula. Granted, the film eventually resorts to a formulaic splattering of thrills in its resolution and the menace is predictably provided by the convincing ‘Bonies’.
However the film thrives on its sweet natured romance and a consistently funny script, riffing on a classic Shakespearean setup in sly fashion and playfully providing R a Roy Orbison accompanied ‘makeover’ being worthy mentions. In a confident turn, Nicholas Hoult as R is a wonderful demonstration of discipline and despite essentially being played for laughs, his shy nature around the opposite sex will resonate with its target demographic. Falling for a honourary member of the walking dead isn’t the easiest of sells, so kudos to Teresa Palmer’s spunky performance as Julie cooking up a genuinely cute chemistry between herself and R.
Occasionally uneven it may be. Liberties with zombie folklore it may take. However, in expertly interweaving universal themes into its audacious premise, ’Warm Bodies’ proves to be a thoroughly entertaining and admirable breakaway from the ‘norm’.