RogerBW's Blog

Warm Bodies 31 May 2019

2013 zombie romance, dir. Jonathan Levine, Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer; IMDb / allmovie. After the zombie apocalypse, boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy is still dead.

This is based on a book, but sensibly leaves out some of the sillier elements (particularly the over-explanation of how things got this way): all you need to know is that zombies ("Corpses"), who eventually turn into skeletal "Bonies", have overrun the Earth, and the surviving humans live behind a great big wall with lots of guns.

And if you think that sounds like a setup for a parody of right-wing propaganda, you'll enjoy the scene where Julie finally comes back from a scavenging expedition gone very wrong, and her father (John Malkovich) is asking-not-asking what happened to her in a way that is very clearly modelled on wanting to know whether she met a Boy while she was lost on the wrong side of the tracks. Which, kind of…

"I mean, I know it's really hard to meet guys right now with the apocalypse and stuff, trust me. […] But, Julie, this is weird."

Because while these zombies act like mindless killers, some at least of them have an interior life; and when "R" (he doesn't remember the rest of his original name) starts to make human connections, he starts to move towards being human again. And if one zombie can do that…?

The filmmaking isn't always great; too many scenes are underlit, the time changes from night to day in accordance with the pathetic fallacy, and the bonies in particular are too clearly creations of the computer rather than anything that can interact properly with the human cast. And most seriously, there's very little genuine horror or even gore; this film relies on the viewer's knowledge of other zombie films to fill in the stuff that it doesn't want to show.

But there's some superb acting from Hoult, some pretty decent acting from Palmer, and a script that allows R's interior monologues to work. All right, the relationship starts off with a severe power imbalance, and it would be nice to see the film acknowledge that. And perhaps the basic conceit is stretched a bit far, and some careful cutting could have kept the pace from sagging in the obvious places. But overall it works.

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