Warm Bodies is based on a novel by Isaac Marion. And they don’t come much more high concept. It’s Twilight with zombies. Or is it Romeo and Juliet with zombies? I’m sure Isaac Marion would prefer the second comparison, but there’s no denying that the success of Twilight must’ve been in the back of his mind when scrabbling around for a new human/supernatural love story that hadn’t been done before.
Even the female lead, Teresa Palmer, bears a striking resemblance to Kristen Stewart. Thankfully, Palmer doesn’t seem to have an emotional range that consists mostly of one blank expression, whilst occasionally doing a funny thing with her mouth, like she’s just gulped down a glass of bitter lemon. Nope, Teresa Palmer is altogether more expressive than Kristen Stewart, and is essentially a blonder, warmer, more likable version of the Twilight misery guts.
Just as well she can act, as the concept of love between a human and a zombie is a tricky (not to mention icky) one to get the head around.
As ever, one of those pesky apocalypses has screwed the world up. Nobody’s sure how it happened. Nicholas Hoult, playing a zombie called “R”, talks of a number of theories in the film’s opening narration. It’s not important. Because at this point I’m thinking, “Wait a minute? A zombie narrating the movie? I thought they were just walking meat puppets, looking for their next meal?”
Despite him having some semblance of proper human thought, he’s still a zombie, capable only of grunts and moans for communication. But it’s enough to spark something more when he happens across Julie (Teresa Palmer), part of a reconnaissance team sent from a walled off human enclave to gather supplies.
Warm Bodies takes a number of things from romantic fiction — love at first sight, lovers from different sides of the tracks, a man unable to change until he meets the right woman — and mashes them up with zombie fiction. Now, I love the zombie genre. And whilst there are a lot of bad zombie movies out there, if I had the choice, I would take the zombie film over the romcom.
Which is why I’m genuinely surprised that I liked Warm Bodies as much as I did. To balance the horror of zombies with the sweetness of romance can’t have been easy. We see “R” eating brains. We see one guy ripping half his face off to become one of the film’s super zombies, a “boney” (who are beyond saving). But in expanding on something Romero tried way back when with Day Of The Dead, there’s a touching, more optimistic side to this particular zombie apocalypse.
The zombie and human relationship could have been too daft (it is quite humourous at times though), and it could have been too unpleasant. But Palmer and Hoult who dominate huge stretches of the film, are good together. Palmer moves from fear through to understanding, then acceptance. Houltgrunts a lot. Sure, the premise might be a bit sappy for those of you looking for a more traditional zombie film where humanity has no hope. But we have plenty of films like that already.
Warm Bodies is a bit different. I like different.