Release Date: April 11
It’s hard to swing a shovel these days without hitting a zombie … movie. These shambling undead have stumbled into the TV and DVD slots that were until recently the resting places of teenage vampires. The same could be said for the cinemas, and leading the charge … er stumble these holidays is the quirky zombie romance, Warm Bodies.
Based on the book by Isaac Marion, Warm Bodies is a tale about an unusual zombie called ‘R’. Most of the human race has perished in a biological apocalypse and the laconic, sometimes laugh-out-loud internal dialogue of an undead teenager drives this story. R finds himself staggering through the streets next to his fellow undead, with not much to beyond waiting for their limbs to fall off. He is as adolescent as a zombie can get, anxious over the pointless nature of his existence and keen to differentiate himself from those walking nightmares who are little more than skeletons:
R: “They call these guys Bonies. They don’t bother us, much, but they’ll eat anything with a heartbeat. I mean, I will too, but at least I’m conflicted about it…”
But one day his bleak existence is interrupted by Julie, a gun-toting blonde belonging to the last group of human hold-outs. She’s foraging with her boyfriend for medical supplies and unfortunately R makes a meal of his brains. However, the brutal murder of her partner not withstanding, R falls in love with Julie and spends the rest of the film trying to work out how a zombie might get on the good side of a human girl.
Warm Bodies is a brilliantly dark comedy by director Jonathan Levine (50/50) staring Nicholas Hoult (Jack The Giant Slayer, About A Boy) as R. It’s an excellent repacking of the classic Shakespearean love story – R and Julie, get it? – that not only includes a laughable take on the balcony scene but some clever insights on present life. Much of what passes as a zombie’s humdrum existence is mirrored in our own meaningless 21st century. Death hasn’t stopped R worrying about fitting in – “Don’t be creepy. Don’t be creepy. Don’t be creepy,” he tells himself – and look out for the sad bar scene between him and his zombie friend that could take place in any city after 5:00 PM today.
A more interesting feature separating Warm Bodies from the vast majority of zombie films, though, is the suggestion there is a cure for the living dead. The factor that restores the colour to our zombie boyfriend’s skin is his encounter with love. The more he loves Julie, the more human he becomes. This dramatic change of events works because somewhere deep in the public subconscious we accept the premise that love is capable of bringing people back to life. Hollywood has experimented with this formula in so many ways that were no longer surprised when the determination of a lover is capable of restoring life to a breathless body – and in this love-brings-life conviction I see another God-buried truth. If we’re going to rise from our graves, if we’re going to take our place in an undying world, if we’re going to be united with those we desire the most, then love will play the crucial role. Or, as the apostle Paul puts it,
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.”
Next year interest in Warm Bodies will have cooled, but by then Hollywood will have undoubtedly found a whole new way of love delivering someone from the grave.