Movie Review: WARM BODIES (2013) – Abandoning The Established Perception Of Zombies
Genre bending is all fine and good, as long as it is in keeping to the genre’s essence in style and tone. Zombie movies have had various comedic interpretations from SHAUN OF THE DEAD to ZOMBIELAND, however, WARM BODIES may be the first Zombie romance, but it doesn’t come anywhere near as close to the success of the aforementioned films.
Blank Page Rating: 2 out of 5 Articulate Zombies
WARM BODIES opens with something that I feel completely goes against the established zombie genre: The voice over narration of a Zombie. Let me elaborate. The well throughout out, self reflective and articulate, voice over narration of a Zombie. Right off the bat this rubs me the wrong way; a Zombie, very precisely narrating his condition to the audience with full cognizance and a cohesive thought process that blows ‘mmm brains!’ out of the water! The Zombie in question happens to be played by Nicholas Hoult, recently seen in X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (my Review here), so his charm and humor caused me to let this gross heresy of the Zombie culture pass… for now.
The film continues, as this self aware Zombie, attacks a group of humans, and takes a girl hostage simply because he is immediately attracted to her and wants to date her. So the bastardization continues. What follows is a typical situation where the girl and (dead) guy are forced to spend time together, as she can’t go home because of the hoard of Zombies outside the abandoned commercial plane he’s taken her to, so they’ll have to wait a few days… even though he brought her there in the first place. During their time together they listen to music together, have meaningful one-sided conversations and even go for a drive together… even though it’s not safe for her to go home yet. Oh and he talks. Yep. Not only does the Zombie narrate with effective communication skills, he even speaks. At first with one words, but then he starts conjugating verbs and adverbs… My patience wore thin by this point.
As charming, humorous and light hearted the over all film may be, punctuated that much by Hoult’s deliveries and blank expressions that convey his narrative voice, the film asks for way too much suspension of disbelief when it comes to Zombies. I’m aware that believing in the existence Zombies themselves are a stretch of the imagination, but if you then ask the audience to throw away everything that they know about a certain fictional concept that’s been established and perpetuated for decades, it’s that much harder to believe in your take of it all.
The driving force of the story is that love for a woman causes the Zombies to stir and slowly come alive, thereby curing the world of the Zombie crisis and making everything rainbows and roses, but the progression isn’t real, believable or even plausible. Nicholas Hoult’s character acts less as a Zombie and more as the awkward and gawking teenager that he probably was before his ‘death’. Even before the introduction of the girl, played by Teresa Palmer, Hoult’s character had unspoken comradery with Rob Cordry’s character, showing their friendship. He walks, pulls up a stool with his friend at the bar and grunts to each other. WTF?
As much as WARM BODIES could’ve been an enjoyable and new take on the Zombie genre, it asks for way too much dismissal of what we know of Zombies to take it seriously. The amusingly cute scenes fall flat when Hoult emotes more deadpan than undead. The serious scenes are anything but, when considering that the brain-eating Zombie has a preference of Vinyl records over mp3s because ‘they sound better’. As surprising as it may sound, WARM BODIES fails because it takes way too many liberties with a concept that’s already been established to the point of having its own template for characterization in films. While modifications and tweaks have been made to that in other Zombie movies, WARM BODIES completely abandons it for a movie where the Zombie element isn’t the conflict of the story, but rather a plot device to overcome through self-indulgent shenanigans.