Warm Bodies Offers Hearts and Monsters

by Sandra Olmsted

Why are so many monster movies and horror films released around Valentine’s Day?  Is it because so many of them are bad, and bad films are usually release in late winter and early spring when fewer people get out to the movies? Or do monster movies and horror films allow for romance?

If the new film Warm Bodies  is any indication than it is the latter because the film taps into a new genre mash-up– the zombie romantic-comedy aka zom-rom-com.

Written and directed by Jonathan Levine and adapted from Isaac Marion’s young-adult novel of the same name, Warm Bodies is a post apocalyptic Romeo and Juliet with the zombie R (Nicholas Hoult) falling head over brains in love with real live girl Julie (Teresa Palmer).

When Julie and her squad go out on patrol to the borders of their safe Green Zone, they encounter enemy Zombies; soon Julie is surrounded and alone. R is smitten with Julie, and it inspires a bit of the human that’s left in him or maybe acquired from eating human brains because that delicacy allows a Zombie to experience that human’s memories. Having taken Julie back to his lair, R shares his collection of vintage vinyl records via a working turntable. Even though the star-crossed lovers can’t communicate initially, R begins to remember more of his mother tongue as the two listen to amusingly on-the-nose songs, such as John Waite’s “Missing You,” Bob Dylan’s “Shelter From the Storm,” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart.”

Julie sees that R is becoming more human and begins to believe that maybe Zombies can be rehabilitated back into humans, but will she be able to convince her widowed father, Grigio (John Malkovich), the authoritarian militia leader? Dad is determined to save his daughter and the rest of the isolated humans in the Green Zone from the Zombies and doesn’t believe that Zombies can be “cured.” Meanwhile, there are worse monsters lurking about — Bonies, reanimated skeletons which will eat the living and dead. Once Julie and R’s romance becomes known, the film veers into many of the typical conventions of forbidden love, but the homage to Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner is fun.

Except for the unsophisticated CGI and motion capture special effects used for the Bonies, the production design is good, especially Javier Aguirresarobe’s evocative cinematography. The story is a bit predictable, but the sight gags and running jokes are quite amusing. Aside from some messages about conformity and teenage angst and alienation, Levine avoids deeper political messages favorite by such Zombie film directors as George Romero. The fun sound track with lots of retro tunes and the minimizing of gore make Warm Bodies an excellent date movie that can inspire romance.

Warm Bodies, a Summit Entertainment release, runs 98 minutes and is rated PG-13 for zombie violence and some language.

Here are some other  new scary movies that provide lovers a chance to snuggle up:

Writer/director Tommy Wirkola’s Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters shows what happens to the grown up Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) as a result of that childhood run-in with the witch with the too-sweet house. The siblings become fierce bounty hunters determined to kill every witch. Although immune to witches’ spells and curses, Hansel is diabetic. After a battle, Hansel is saved by a white witch, who joins the fight to save 12 children from a coven who plans to sacrifice them. Will Ferrell produces this Paramount Pictures release, so the sophomoric humor and story should be no surprise. The film is rated R for strong fantasy horror violence and gore, brief sexuality/nudity and language and runs 88 minutes.

In director Andres Muschietti’s Mama, a father goes on a killing spree and hits the road with his two young daughters, five-year-old Victoria and baby Lilly, but when he wreck his car and ends up at a remote cabin, his plan to kill the girls and himself is foiled by a supernatural being. Several years later, the girls are found, and Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), their uncle, and his goth girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain) become instant parents. Victoria (Megan Charpentier) and Lilly (Isabelle Nelisse), who formed an attachment to that supernatural being they call Mama, are under the care of Dr. Dreyfuss (Daniel Kash), who wants to study the girls. Mama has come with the girls and it is very jealous of Lucas and Annabel’s attempts to bond with the girls. This very creepy film has lots of jump-out-and-get-you moments, but the ending is somewhat unsatisfying because it breaks the logic of the film. Chastain, who is nominated for a Best Actress Oscar® in Zero Dark Thirty, is delightfully unrecognizable in this role. Guillermo del Toro, who is known for sophisticated horror films, executive produces this Universal Pictures release which runs 100 minutes and is rated PG-13 for violence and terror, some disturbing images and thematic elements.

So pretend to be scared and lean closer to those special someones, so they can slip their arms around shoulders because it is almost Valentine’s Day!

More of Olmsted’s reviews can be found at www.thecinematicskinny.com.


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