Sunday, March 24, 2013

Warm Bodies


The commercialism of the “zombie” product is probably one of the most ironic statements in the direction of our society as a whole. The phenomena is a little strange, a little bizarre, and maybe a little rough for the hardcore fans who have been watching these movies for decades. I mean, you have Zombie Walks, one of the top rated shows on television is about zombies, and zombies are creeping into culture on nearly every level. The staggering success in movies, comics, books, video games, and television shows has given the Hollywood Machine a fairly standard addition to their rolling assembly line of cookie cutter garbage. Nothing else so summarily describes this cultural numbness than that of the movie “Warm Bodies”.

I don’t mean that in a negative way, either.

No other movie dares to expand the zombie mythos, no other movie shatters the paradigm, and no other movie better illustrates the utter ridiculousness of the success of zombie films as  much as “Warm Bodies”. And that is not to say that the film does all of this with any such intention. In fact, it may be with the complete lack of intent that the film makers managed to make such a ridiculously moronic blend of genres into such an entertaining bit of fluff that it acts as a parody to itself in every sense you may never expect. Many people saw this movie as the “Twilight” with zombies, other people saw it as “Romeo and Juliet” with zombies, and still others saw it as cheap popcorn trash. I think there’s something much more important going on here. 

Not only were all those opinions right on the money, but they all failed to truly recognize the piece of artistic genius this film may have unintentionally created. At the core point of the story we have a zombie named “R” who falls in love with a human girl. The story is told solely from the point of view of the zombie. Now, because we are being told a story from the point of view of the monster, we have got to already take some liberties with the zombie mythos from the very start… mainly, that zombies are capable of thought. Zombies are driven by more than just the deepest of hungers. Zombies are not monsters. And in that very important decision, the film makers have completely undermined the purpose and intent of the “zombie” as a creature, as a feared monstrosity, and they’ve dressed it up in cartoonish buffoonery for the core purpose of entertainment.

Once you accept that point, it’s easy to see why this film has to bend over backwards in order to get the PG-13 rating it so richly deserved. People don’t really get ripped apart in view of the camera, there aren’t too many real ‘scare’ moments, and what ‘horror’ there is occurs just out of view of the frame… even “R”’s devouring of brains looks more like a gelatinous mass he scoops into his mouth too quickly to really count as much of anything. The zombies aren’t really scary in any way. Rob Courdry is featured in the film as R’s “best friend”, M. He brings a lot of humor and genuine emotion to his zombie character and is probably the most well developed character the film, so it’s easy to like him and root for him when the conflicts reach their apex.

The movie is a film about zombies, and rather than showing them as only “near-human” creatures capable of life, there are a group of zombies who have rotted to near skeletons and abandoned all sense of humanity. The “bonies” are driven by hunger, hate the possibility of change with their near cousins, and seek to devour both humanity and “near”-humanity with equal relish. In point of fact, these cheap CGI creatures aren’t even the decaying mockeries of life afforded to Romero’s traditional creature. These are more Harry Hausen-like walking skeletons from the old Sinbad movies… choppy movements, constant leering grins, and a total lack of any real horror to be found in most zombie films.

Fans of Zombie movies aren’t going to find much to be impressed with in regards to “Warm Bodies” as an entry into their much-beloved genre… it’s teen-age soft-core horror at best, an amusing parody, and an unintended satire on the state of our society at this point in time. It’s a perversion of the core themes found in all the genre’s mixed into this little twisted salad… “Romeo And Juliet” is not a romance, it’s a tragedy. “Zombies” are not about misunderstood creatures that need a little love. And “Twilight” doesn’t come anywhere close to making the kind of unintended statement this movie actually seems to thrive on. The farcical concept of bringing humanity to monsters in a contrived Zombie Apocalypse seems to be a cringe inducing nightmare waiting to happen, but the movie never promises to be anything more than what it is. It delivers on what it promises and it sort of succeeds in not being too blatant of a slap to the face in doing so.

What I think a lot of zombie fans need to remember is that these are “fictional” creatures… before George Romero brought the ghouls to the screen, zombies were the result of a voodoo ritual in tropical island movies. Different film-makers have introduced various concepts… the fast zombie, disease zombie, demonic zombie, deadite zombie, brain-eaters, alien parasites, and on and on and on. The core point was that they were mobilized walking corpses that attacked humans for whatever reason. If someone wants to make a horror flick geared toward teenagers, let them have it. Not every teen-based horror film is a travesty to the genre incapable of entertaining in any way, shape, or form. And if this movie happens to be a little less insulting than many, it should be given an opportunity of some sort.

3 out of 5.

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