Monday, July 8, 2013

Horror Film Review

Warm Bodies (2013):  Zombie romantic comedy.  Yes, it's a zom-rom-com.  This isn't a new idea (see my review of Deadheads) but in this case, special care was taken to create the definitive film of this new genre.  And I'll be damned if they didn't do just that. 

How did they accomplish it?  Well, start with two of the most attractive people in the business for the leads, give each of them a funny best friend, make the villains more scary than normal zombies, devise a mostly plausible love story, and finally, toss in John Malkovich.  What could go wrong?  As it turns out, not much.

R (Nicholas Hoult) is a zombie who, thanks to his voice-over, explains what it's like to be undead.  Turns out it's frustrating (he doesn't remember his pre-zombie life except that his name starts with an R) and overall, not a lot of fun.  Eight years after the initial outbreak, he wanders around the airport, calls an abandoned jumbo jet home, and occasionally goes human hunting with a pack of other zombies. On one such hunt, they encounter Julie (Teresa Palmer) and her unit scavenging a pharmacy.  The humans, by the way, have walled themselves inside the heart of the city.  Their leader is Grigio (John Malkovich), a hard-ass  military man who also happens to be Julie's dad.  Anyway, at the pharmacy, R and his pals attack (he explains he really doesn't want to but can't help himself) and R takes down Julie's boyfriend Perry (Dave Franco) and munches on his brain.  Interestingly, when zombies eat brains, the memories of their victims become their own.  That could be why R chooses to protect Julie and take her back to his plane, much to the confusion of his best friend M (Rob Corddry).  During their time together, R falls hard for Julie and inexplicably, his heart starts beating, he loses his taste for brains, and is able to sleep and dream again.  Unfortunately, Julie just wants to go home and after a few adventures with R (and after learning R ate Perry) she bails. 

The villains worse than zombies I mentioned before are the bonies, zombies that have degraded so far that they're little more than skeletons; but they're crazy fast, ruthless, and relentless.  Accepting Julie's departure, R heads back to the airport where he learns from M that their fellow zombies are all changing, becoming less dead.  He also learns the bonies are massing for an attack on the humans.  R decides he needs to warn Julie and tell her the zombies are now allies, so he sneaks into the walled enclave to find her.  He does, and they try to explain to Grigio that R's reverting back to human but the leader won't listen and tries to kill him.  He and Julie go on the run at the same time the bonies attack and M and the other zombies show up.  It's really quite the climax.

Zombie purists will undoubtedly cry foul given that R is able to climb stairs, open doors, run a record player, and, well, talk.  He's monosyllabic for the majority of the film but it's still talk.  These purists are morons.  Complaints...So the zombies are becoming human again.  Why?  How?  It's not terribly clear, except that it has something to do with hand-holding and love.  John Malkovich isn't goofy enough, that is to say he's not himself.  Beyond these minor beefs, I can find nothing else to bitch about.  How rare is that?  By the way, the soundtrack is super groovy.


Acting:  Hoult is simply amazing.  Palmer as Julie is more than good.  Malkovich plays it straight but still manages to be a very believable commander and caring father.  Corddry is a hoot as M.
Story:  A clever reimagining of not only the classic romantic comedy but also the classic zombie flick.  It really is very, very funny.
Direction:  Jonathan Levine balances the action, comedy, and horror with impressive ease. 
Production Values:  No budget information although there was obviously plenty of money to play with given how good it looks. 
Gore/FX:  It's light on blood and even lighter on guts.  That's suits this movie, though.  Excellent zombie make-up.  The bonies are CGI and if I'm honest, not of the best quality. 
Scares:  Not what you'd call a priority. 
Ending:  Rainbows and unicorns.  Well, not literally but you get the idea.
Verdict:  Should you see Warm Bodies?  No question about it.  Put this one up there with Shaun of the Dead, Evil Dead, Night of the Living Dead, and World War Z.  No joke; it's that's good.

Rating:  5 out of 5

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