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Warm Bodies
USA 2013
Directed by Jonathan Levine
Running time 98 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Andrew Lee
4 stars


Synopsis: R (Nicholas Hoult) is a zombie. He spends his days wandering around an airport wondering what life was like before he was dead. He can’t really remember but he tries. When he and his friends head out to find some food he meets Julie (Teresa Palmer) and rescues her from being eaten taking her home instead.

I’m going to start by putting my zombie purist hat on. Warm Bodies is a somewhat inconsistent movie. Its zombies are slow-walking shufflers who mope about an airport, occasionally leaving to hunt in packs. Seems straightforward enough.  But the moment they get close to one of the living they’re fast-moving engines of unstoppable death. It’s not that big a deal in the wider scheme of things, but an early joke is reliant on their being the former whilst the plot needs them to be the latter. It’s worth it for the gag but it rubs me the wrong way anyhow.

Purist hat off now. Warm Bodies is a ripper film that evolves the zombie genre in interesting ways. And whilst zombies have always been at their best as source for satire and subtext (see Romero’s excellent Dawn of the Dead for example), Levine pushes further and uses it to explore the disconnectedness that seems to lie at the heart of our modern era. See, there’s three classes of existence it seems. The living, who huddle together in fear, the zombies, who struggle to remember what they once were and are trapped between nostalgia for their past and dissatisfaction with their present, and the bonies, zombies who have lost all hope and strip away their skin, giving up the last vestiges of humanity to embrace their inner monster. The core of it all seems to be hope. Hope stops the dead from sliding further away from who they were. Loss of hope leads the dead to shed their human shells and turn into walking horrors. And hope and love can change the world. It’s a remarkably positive message for a post-apocalyptic film about the end of civilisation. And what’s better is that it avoids mawkishness and leaves you feeling happy without feeling manipulated.

As R and Julie find themselves falling in love we’re gifted with something both icky and emotionally satisfying. It’s awkward and strange and makes me think this is going to play best to the teen crowd, since they’re going to identify strongly with the awkward romance presented. Warm Bodies is the zombie film John Hughes would have made. It’s a story of an awkward guy wooing a seemingly-unattainable girl and it absolutely nails it. It’s a great film, full of humour and horror with some genuinely original ideas mixed in amongst the classic tropes and genre staples. Highly recommended.

 

 

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