Zombies have often been viewed as being ruthless, flesh-eating predators, as seen through the eyes of their potential human victims, in such film and television series as ‘Night of the Living Dead’ and ‘The Walking Dead.’ But with the success of the recently concluded ‘Twilight Saga’ movie series, which popularly sensitized vampires, zombies are also regaining their humanity in the new film ‘Warm Bodies,’ which is now playing at Long Island theaters. Based on the hit 2010 book of the same name by Isaac Marion, the romance-horror-comedy, which was written and directed by Jonathan Levine, is continuing the trend that monsters once perceived to be villains can truly be sensitive and protective of the human race.
‘Warm Bodies’ follows the continued deterioration of America, eight years after a zombie apocalypse has killed most of society. R (Nicholas Hoult) is a zombie who can’t remember his life as a human, but has retained some of his humanity. While he constantly craves human flesh, especially people’s brains, as he is able to get a glimpse into his victim’s memories, R’s final shred of mortality is saved when he meets Julie Grigio (Teresa Palmer). Julie, her boyfriend, Perry (Dave Franco), and their friends, including Nora (Analeigh Tipton), are sent by her father, General Grigio (John Malkovich) from a heavily-guarded walled-off human enclave in the city to recover medical supplies from abandoned buildings.
While Perry and Nora fight R and the other zombies, including his friend M (Rob Corddry), who enter the pharmacy where they’re collecting supplies, R unexpectedly strongly reacts to Julie. He decides to rescue her and keep her safe from other zombies in the abandoned airplane he calls his home. The two develop a relationship, causing R to slowly begin to come back to life.
Much to his displeasure, R eventually agrees to take Julie home. Along the way, he reveals to Julie that he killed Perry, which causes her to abandon him and return to the human enclave alone. When R returns to the airport, heartbroken, he sees that M and other zombies are also beginning to show signs of life. The two lead a group of zombies to the enclave, and are determined to prove to General Grigio that they can indeed change, much to his reluctance.
The romance-comedy-horror’s production designer, Martin Whist, created elaborate, unique locations throughout the film that reflect the continuously decay and collapse of humanity and society. The film, which begins by following R throughout the abandoned airport, providing a voice-over narrative that chronicles his solitary reluctance to harm human society, exquisitely showcases the haphazard conditions the majority of the country has succumbed to. However, Whist skillfully preserves some sentimentality to how American society used to be, particularly in the airplane where R brings Julie for refuge. The two bond over the extensive record collection R has accumulated, despite the scattered debris and tattered condition of the plane’s sets, bins and aisles.
The ragged conditions of the airport and plane are a stark contrast to the militia-run city within the wall, which is under General Grigio’s control. While many residents and military personnel are forced to convene in shabby tents, Whists cleverly shows the general’s authority, and belief that he is better than the zombies, in his highly fortified mansion, with a grand staircase and striking pillars. The blatant contrast between Julie’s structured life in her father’s mansion and under the eyes of his soldiers and the open, decrepit design of the airport, where R has made his home, strongly showcases her desire to break free from the general’s orders.
‘Warm Bodies’ cinematographer, Javier Aguirresarobe, also showed R and his fellow zombies’ desire to recapture and retain their humanity through the diverse lighting and color tint he added throughout the film. When R is first introduced wandering around the airport, questioning why he became a zombie, as well as when Julie suddenly leaves him to return to the city, when he feels the pain of their separation, the cinematographer created blue and gray tints for the scenes. The more depressing colors emotionally show R’s pain and frustration of not being accepted by the humans, particularly Julie. However, the scenes during which R develops feelings for, and connect with, Julie feature more vibrant, rich colors, representing his hope they can truly build a relationship.
The striking makeup featured in ‘Warm Bodies,’ which was created by makeup FX department head Adrien Morot, also impressively showcased the striking differences between R and his fellows zombies and Julie and the other humans. The zombies’ pale skin subtly highlights their lack of feelings and insensitivity to their human victims, who have retained their complexion since the apocalypse started. But as R leads the revolution of the zombies, and begin feeling compassion towards the human race again, Morot and his fellow makeup artists give Hoult, Cordrry and the rest of the actors playing the zombies extreme color and impressive transformations.
‘Warm Bodies’ is a visually stunning film adaptation of Marion’s well-received novel of the same name. Levine expertly incorporated unique visuals to emphasize how two people can unexpectedly change an entire society, including the elaborate sets created by Whist; the distinctive lighting and color tints Aguirresarobe incorporated into the film; and the original makeup created by Morot. The creative visual effects featured in the romance-comedy-horror memorably proved the change people can inspire in those around them.