The zombie hoards get romantic in Jonathan Levine's sweet, deadhead tribute to John Hughes.
George A Romero’s Day of the Dead features a zombie – the friendly-sounding Bub – who appears to be learning what it is like to be human again on a simple, hopeful, level. Warm Bodies essentially takes the godhead of the walking dead’s premise – along with aspects of Brian Yuzna’s romantically-inclined Return of the Living Dead Part III – and redrafts it in search of teenage kicks.
The ‘zombie romance’ concocted by novelist Isaac Marion for this film adaptation isn’t a world away from a certain mega-franchise about sparkly vampires, although the major stylistic homage is to 1980s teen movie giant, John Hughes. Warm Bodies is – if you’ll forgive the pun – Pretty in Stink.
Hardcore genre traditionalists will likely loathe this sickly sweet, zero-gore effort, yet Jonathan Levine’s film is bolstered tremendously by Isaac Marion and Isaac Marionas the two leads who share a cutesy onscreen chemistry. The young British actor’s portrayal of zombie boy outsider, the symbolically named ‘R’, is a real winner.
As with the Twilight movies, there’s an attempt to soften what can be read as contentious. Necrophilia is very much a staple of the classic vampire movie, but given this subgenre’s setup, it’s a taboo that's cheerily thrust in your face. Warm Bodies gets around any controversy with a spot of magical realism in which “love, love, love,” becomes the engine for revival. Slowly the hordes return to a more normal state of being, making R’s and Julie’s coupling less perverse.
At least that’s the idea, because it still comes across as deeply icky, especially when they pucker up for a kiss. None of this is on par with Jörg Buttgereit’s grotty Necromantik movies, but there’s something plain wrong about this beyond how it’ll play with those fans of the genre who want splatter frolics and strictly slow-moving deadheads. Both the pair and the film coyly remain on first base.
Warm Bodies has very clear literary and cinematic lineage and duly handles this rich heritage in postmodern fashion. And yet it never smothers the material or makes it too clever for its own good. Only the CG über-zombies, known as ‘Bonies’, strike a sour note.
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