Imagine Romeo and Juliet with zombies and you’ve pretty much nailed the plot of Warm Bodies, the latest movie in the burgeoning rom-zom-com genre kicked off by Shaun of the Dead.
Here, the feuding clans to which the star-crossed lovers belong couldn’t be further apart: she’s human; he’s a flesh-eating monster.
Actually, as played by Skins star Nicholas Hoult, Warm Bodies’ hero R is a good deal more soulful than your average film zombie. Indeed, for a victim of the apocalyptic virus, or whatever, that has turned humans into zombies, he’s surprisingly in touch with his feelings.
As for his red-eyes, blank stare, pallor and shuffling walk; surely that just makes him a fairly typical slacker? He has a snarky, angst-ridden voice-over to match, but when it comes to speaking out loud he’s as tongue-tied as the average teenage boy; can, in fact, manage little more than a grunt.
Which means good pick-up lines are something of a problem for him when he meets his Juliet, or rather, Julie, played by Aussie actress Teresa Palmer (the leather-wearing, Ducati-riding, ass-kicking blonde in I Am Number Four).
She’s the spirited daughter of the leader (a coasting John Malkovich) of the human survivors holed up in a walled-off city. And the duo’s meet-cute comes about when Julie’s reconnaissance crew, looking for supplies beyond the walls, runs into a bunch of ravenous zombies.
The encounter doesn’t go exactly to form. Instead of chowing on her brains, R finds himself smitten with Julie, saves her from his fellow zombies and takes her back to his pad – an abandoned 747 at the airport that is the zombies’ favoured hangout.
There, amid his collection of vinyl records (Bruce, Bob; the usual undead favourites), R discovers that falling in love awakens in him dormant feelings and capabilities, suggesting that becoming a zombie isn’t necessarily a one-way street…
Warm Bodies has such a sweet and quirky spirit that it’s a shame the movie isn’t better. Unfortunately, 50/50 director Jonathan Levine’s adaptation of Isaac Marion’s novel fails to sustain the story’s premise and the narrative pace gets stuck at a zombie shuffle. Just because the film is about the undead doesn’t mean that scenes have to die on screen. (See Zombieland for a zom-com with zip.)
Still, the leads are charming, co-stars Rob Corddry and Analeigh Tipton (as the lovers’ respective best friends) provide appealing support, and the film’s best lines – most of them in R’s voice-over – really do have that vital spark.
In cinemas from Friday 8th February.