Warm Bodies (PG-13)
Dread Central (Blu-ray/DVD); Gold Label; IMDb; Lionsgate; Rotten Tomatoes; TV Tropes; Wikipedia
So... this is something I wasn't sure how interested I was in seeing. But when I finally did, I liked it a lot more than I possibly could have expected. Um... it's hard for me to decide where to put my review. I think "quirky" but I also linked to it in my "comedy horror" section, even though it isn't really scary. I do think it's a really funny movie, but also interesting from a dramatic (and vaguely philosophical) standpoint. I also could have put it under "romantic," although the main reason I had my doubts about the movie is that it just seems too silly and gimmicky to make a zombie romance movie. But, even if I do have some qualms about the romance angle (and really, I almost always do in any kind of romantic movie), the story pulls it off better than I could have imagined. Although really, I think the relationship between the lead characters is more a sort of friendship, with cultural overtones, rather than an actual romance.
Anyway, the movie is narrated via the internal monologue of a zombie known only as "R." (He thinks his name started with an R, but he can't remember what it was. And it's a bit later that the other lead character decides to use the letter as his name.) I must say, I've never been particularly a fan of zombie movies, but I've never had anything against them, either. Zombies just tend to strike me as just about the least interesting of all monsters. That's largely because they have no personality. They don't think. They're not even particularly strong, and really the only reason they pose any kind of threat is because they travel in large groups. Strength in numbers. Also, they're almost always depicted as so slow that it shouldn't be a challenge for anyone to escape them, unless they hole up in some house or other hiding place where they can be easily surrounded. There are movies where zombies move more quickly, however. In this movie, they normally move at the familiar slow pace (and R even comments on that, in his monologue), but once they attack, they're actually pretty quick. But what's really interesting about this movie is that it's from the zombie perspective, and that despite an inability to clearly express their thoughts, they obviously have thoughts. Honestly, R's internal monologue displays a surprising amount of existential angst. Meanwhile, the only other zombie of any significance in the movie is R's best friend, who I guess is called M, though I didn't learn that until the end of the movie, when we learn his real name. (We never do learn R's real name.) Although calling R and M "friends" seems like kind of a stretch, considering how limited their communication skills are, we eventually learn that their friendship really is quite important. (And one might also question if it's really so different from most people's friendships, considering how little actual communicating some people do with their friends, even if they can talk.)
There is a city full of human survivors of whatever caused the outbreak of zombies. It's unclear whether there are any other such groups of survivors anywhere in the world, but that's not really important to this story. The city is run by a man named Colonel Grigio, who has overseen the construction of a massive wall around the city. He periodically sends groups outside the wall to salvage supplies, and one such group includes his daughter, Julie, her boyfriend Perry, her friend Nora, and some others. And on one of their missions, they are attacked by a group of zombies including R, M, and a bunch of others. It seems as if R has instant feelings for Julie when he first sees her, but he gets distracted by the battle, and ends up killing Perry and eating his brains. And we learn that eating human brains allows zombies to experience those humans' memories, which is both the closest zombies ever get to dreaming, and the most alive they ever feel. In this case, it seems to provide R with genuine feelings for Julie, because of the feelings Perry had for her. Which... is my major qualm about the relationship that eventually develops. It's not just the fact that he had killed her boyfriend, but also, I can't help questioning how much his love for her is based on his own feelings, and how much it's based just on Perry's feelings. It's definitely disturbing. But whatever the case, he feels the need to rescue Julie from his fellow zombies, so he makes her appear to be one of them, and takes her back to the airplane that he's made his home (since the zombies all spend most of their time randomly shuffling around at an abandoned airport).
R and Julie spend a few days together, and gradually get to know each other. Julie is shocked to learn that zombies aren't just unthinking, unfeeling monsters, even if they do kill and eat people in order to survive. And as they get to know each other, R slowly starts to seem more human than he originally did, and his communication skills improve, somewhat. Julie eventually returns to the city, leaving R behind. But he's surprised to find that M and some of the other zombies, inspired by the friendship that had developed between R and Julie, are beginning to regain their humanity, as well. So they decide to go to the city, so R can explain this to Julie, and hopefully put an end to the ongoing conflict between zombies and humans. Meanwhile, Julie tries to explain things to Nora, who is understandably skeptical. At least, until R shows up, and she gets to know him, too. But I must say, it was when R showed up outside Julie's home, and she talked to him from her balcony, that it first occurred to me that this was actually a new take on "Romeo and Juliet." It's kind of amazing that I didn't think of that sooner, because R and Julie's relationship is about as star-crossed as it gets. (Julie's name is also obviously very close to Juliet, though I doubt R's real name is Romeo. I kind of like that we never learn his name, because trying to contemporize the name Romeo would probably just be lame. Incidentally, I imagine M is supposed to be a variation on Mercutio, Nora a very different take on Juliet's nurse, and Perry on the County Paris.) In any event, Julie and Nora want to explain the situation to Julie's father, but he refuses to accept the idea that zombies (or as the humans in this movie call them, "corpses") can ever be cured. So Julie and R go on the run.
Meanwhile, another interesting concept in this movie is that there are creatures that the zombies call "boneys" and the humans call "skeletons." They're basically uber-zombies, which even the regular zombies fear. They're certainly scarier-looking and faster than the regular zombies, and are too far gone to ever become human again. I'd actually like to see a movie from their perspective, to know if they really are mindless, or have some kind of plan or purpose. In a way, they seem smarter to me than the zombies, more organized. But basically they just exist to give the zombies and humans a common enemy, which ultimately helps Colonel Grigio and the other humans accept the zombies. There is a big battle of humans and zombies versus boneys, after which R and the other zombies become increasingly more human and more communicative, and are reintegrated into human society. So the movie has a happy ending, which I quite liked.
Anyway... yeah. I think the movie can be interpreted as an allegory for any number of things, such as certain groups being ostracized from mainstream society, and people building emotional walls that keep others out, and how love can ultimately bring people together, conquer differences and even death, etc. Which is all sort of interesting, but probably not something that bears deep scrutiny. Mostly, it's just a cool story. And it's got a pleasantly humorous undercurrent throughout, peppered by a few really funny bits. And it has some really good music, which is, in my opinion, cleverly and amusingly incorporated into certain scenes to serve the story. And of course Julie and Nora are easy on the eyes. And, um... it's just a fun and endearing movie.