DM Haight

Warm Bodies in an interesting case in terms of genre. It sits in a the nice niche of zombies, one that has dominated literature, television, and most obviously films for the better part of five years now. But the interesting part is that while almost all of those films had a fatalistic tendency–a feeling of the end of humanity, imminent doom, if you will–Warm Bodies does the exact opposite. It’s a film that’s blatantly telling us that it isn’t over, which is nice for once. There is no doubt that the onslaught of post apocalyptic films has hit the theaters hard in recent years. ZombielandDawn of the DeadQuarantineDay of the Dead, and not to mention The Walking Dead hitting our television screens every week, are all examples of a world gone to hell where the people simply try to survive.

It’s a game of adaptation for them, a kill or be killed world. And that’s how Warm Bodies starts: in a kill or be killed world. But what makes it different is obvious upon first glance–the zombies. They aren’t the pseudo zombies of I Am Legend. No, they are full throttle zombies with a hunger for human flesh and an awkward gait. But it’s their return to normalcy that sets them apart right from the start. Much like Znyder’s remake of Dawn of the Dead, we find our undead heroes in a fairly high traffic hub of humanity; or at least it would be if they weren’t all dead. The zombies return to the places they are most familiar with, or perhaps it’s the place they died, but regardless of why they are there it is apparent that they are living out an existence. Nicholas Hoult, who plays the oddly handsome zombie protagonist, R, is a wanderer who thinks to himself a lot, but is, like his other reanimated fellows, unable to articulate his thoughts. We see the world of the post apocalypse through his eyes, and it’s a dismal one, very similar to the monotony of an everyday in-and-out existence, much like most of us face–except with more blood and rot. R works with Marcus, played by Rob Corddry, to find stupid kids running around the abandoned city so that they may feast upon their brains, and enjoy their memories. It’s a new look into the zombie lore, effectively altering the fiction of the zombie narrative in cinema. We can now see from the eye of the zombie, who can see from the eyes of those they ingest. It’s a very cool thing to think about while watching Corddry muster up words and act like a stiff bro.

The only real under-performing aspects of the film were the love story, and not because it was incredibly creepy from the start. It’s like watching Beauty and the Beast for the first time, then realizing it’s a story about beastial love, only instead of beastial love its necrophilia. Hollywood certainly has some interesting ideas lately, but the in-love aspect of some of these films, considering their themes, comes across as unsettling unless we relinquish all disbelief. But the problem is that it is a movie that would have done well without the romance aspect. It would have been a nice shake up if we didn’t get the angsty teenage romance of so many other supernatural films based of young adult novels. The other under-performing piece of the film was the CGI Boneys, literally walking skeletons. And it’s not that we don’t believe in the Boneys, it’s that they are poorly rendered considering the technology we have at our disposal. They look like the zombie-vampires from I Am Legend, and although they are intimidating, even creepy, they don’t work after visual feats like Avatar and The Hobbit.

But overall Jonathan Levine has done a great job of making us want the kiss between a zombie and a living person. It’s usually a moment of dread in horror films, the sexual outcome of the post-apocalypse is never looked forward to, and often the result is unsettling (on purpose, of course). But there is enough love and sentiment here that we don’t want to turn away, we want to watch with a sick desire. The dead coming back to life is often the part of the film where the fear begins, but Levine manages to shift our consciousness, reverse our memories, and has us cheering for the dead to come back. Unlike Romero’s Land of the Dead, this film isn’t about social injustice, but more about a connection bridging two worlds. We don’t learn about how the world was lost, and we don’t need it. What we do get, and what is refreshing, is the story of how the world is being pulled back together. We are certainly not seeing a change in the genre, but we are witnessing the expansion of the genre into a relatively unknown territory of romance. We are taking an old hat that’s seen blood, guts, gore, death, screams, horrors unimaginable, and we are watching as it’s slowly cleaned off and redelivered to us as a relatively new product. Warm Bodies will not escape the stigma of the Zombie flick, but it certainly can put some much-needed life into a genre on its last, rotted legs.

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