In the absence of cited (and sighted) non Haitian zombie behaviour we are left only with trodded tropes since the dawn of Romero and variations of other in-universe continuities. The basic shake is shuffling corpses with a ravishing appetite for brains and other body parts as appetisers. Stoke that thirst for human flesh and the undead will rule your life.
Warm Bodies (based on Isaac Marion's novel of the same name) gives us a world with three stages of zombie. Humans, those trotting about in the aftermath of an unnamed and never mentioned cause for the apocalypse. Zombies, those trotting about in the aftermath of the same fallout but with neater clothes and slow moving by Romero's default. And the bonies, the fast moving lot of a zombie infatuation nation. Near skeletal and completely urge driven, they lack any nuance of the first two undead states. They are more akin to the zombism afflicting those poor folk beset by the rage virus seen in Danny Boyle's 28 Days universe.
It's heavy on the voice-over narration as zombies have a hard time articulating themselves verbally. R (Nicholas Hoult) works the teenage slacker self-doubt from the zombie brain perspective. Angst and second guessing plague his outlook of the undead life and make him an easily relatable lead. (Is this where Marcus ends up? Does that explain that fish tank?) On the other face, Julie (Teresa Palmer) is a product of being put into situations and waiting around for something to happen to her. It's not really until the second half, maybe even the last third of the film that she steps up to take a step of her own. But it's fun watching these two get closer to each other on the plane through the art of montage and they gel wordlessly.
There is a scene where the two lovebirds share a short snip of dialogue at a balcony. Clearly an off-riff, an homage of diversion, to Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice as much as it is the one with a Romeo and a Juliet. Rob Corddry and John Malkovich (whose character name sounds like a wine, aged well like a tall drink of puppetry) then are the respective father figures if we're plying this heavy hand right. One talks less than the other, but they're both gruff men.
The universe starts off following its rules, keeping track of its tropes and conventions. But when it's time for the closing credits to start knocking on the door we're throwing body parts out the window and watching strings form out of nowhere. We have the cure in one powerfully treacle form, yes. Then we have it in an almost fashion and that's a bit of a jump. It's drippings of René Magritte's The Treachery of Images ("Ceci n'est pas une pipe"; "This is not a pipe") that gets us toward the final hump that leaves an ashen taste toward the resolve.
Ultimately we learn that we don't have to be divided or split. We can have both types of zombies, we can join our camps and live side-by-side in pieces of harmony and despair. The world's gone to rot so there's no need to create arbitrary divisions when all fresh brains are the same under the chew. We can get along people. Put down your purity pitchforks and start a campfire to roast some skulls.
Love, obviously, conquers all. That's the whole point behind a romantic comedy billed as a rom-com-zom. If it didn't it'd just be a comedy. And that works too.
It's worth a light-hearted matinee. Sop up the laughs and forgo applying consistency in the cure and build the bridge they take the leap for.
Reviewed on Monday, 1 April 2013