Movie review: ‘Warm Bodies’ – zombies in love; enough said

Ed Symkus

I’m not sure that they actually had to put a balcony scene in this tale of a boy named R and a girl named Julie to convince viewers that it was, in part, a riff on a certain story of doomed, star-crossed lovers by one William Shakespeare. And I’m less sure that the film’s intended audience (teens who have read the popular Isaac Marion novel) will even recognize or, if they do, give a hoot about the blatant “Romeo and Juliet” references. Besides, the dilemma in Shakespeare’s story is that the lovebirds came from two feuding families. The problem with the two kids here is that one is living and one is dead. Well, OK, he’s a zombie.

The movie is fun, in a horror-romance kind of way. We’re not told exactly what happened to the world by the film’s narrator, R (Nicholas Hoult). Just that there was a plague eight years ago, resulting in an ever-growing population of wandering zombies, which led to pockets of humans survivors banding together and building a huge, supposedly impenetrable wall around a portion of Montreal. The survivors keep sneaking out to bring in stores of supplies they find, but most of them have come to grips with the idea that the world is on the way out.

But wait a minute. Maybe the zombies are just ailing. Maybe (apologies to Bryan Ferry) love is the drug for them.

Yeah, that’s where this well intended but rather silly story heads. Hungry zombies are lumbering around in burnt-out streets. Beautiful Julie (Teresa Palmer) is in the wrong place at the wrong time, and is about to become a victim, when R saves her, takes her away to his airport lair, and convinces her (interesting note: He can’t speak in any kind of communicative way) to hang out with him for a few days.

Two questions bubble up right away: Why does he do this? Why does she even go with him, never mind stay?

He does it because, ummm, maybe he has a conscience, or maybe he’s tired of hanging out with his grunting zombie pal M (or should I say Mercutio?), or maybe he just thinks she’s hot. There’s no doubt why she stays: She’s tired of living under the survivalist rules of her power-mad dad (John Malkovich), and R has a very cool vinyl record collection, including Dylan, Springsteen and the Byrds.

But those motivations are never really made clear. And there’s not a lot more to the film. Oh, we get quick, garishly colored flashbacks to the pre-plague days, and horrific Ray Harryhausen-like creatures called Boneys that are what bad zombies eventually become, and the neat idea that when zombies eat someone’s brain, they immediately know everything about that person.

The two leads do go through character arcs that are exact opposites but arrive at the same place. That, too, is a good idea, but it’s not done convincingly. Though the script attempts to build up dramatic urgency, it’s done in a slapdash way and everything comes across as being ridiculous. In the end, not a lot of sense is to be made out of the story. Kind of like love.

Ed Symkus covers movies for GateHouse Media.


Written and directed by Jonathan Levine

With Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, John Malkovich

Rated PG-13