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Film / Warm Bodies

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He was dead inside... until he met her.

Warm Bodies is a 2013 zombie romantic comedy, the tale of a girl and a ghoul slowly falling in love. It is based on a 2011 book of the same name.

R (Nicholas Hoult) is a zombie. He doesn't enjoy being a zombie, spending his time shambling around aimlessly and wondering who he used to be. One day, while joining in an attack on a group of survivors, he stumbles upon a beautiful young woman, Julie. He falls instantly in love, or at least as close to love as a zombie can fall. After eating the brains of Julie's boyfriend and absorbing the man's memories, R decides to protect her from his undead cohorts. While hiding in an abandoned airplane together, both R and Julie start to realize that he's becoming more than just an undead monster. But if these Star-Crossed Lovers are going to find any kind of happy ending, they're going to have to contend with both the Boneys, a breed of super-zombie, and Julie's dubious fellow survivors, particularly her militalry leader father.

This film contains the following tropes:

  • Abduction Is Love: Sort of. R leads Julie away from where he killed Perry, as she's weaponless and far, far from the home base. R knows it's creepy as hell, and Julie thinks he's still going to eat her for quite a while.
  • Abhorrent Admirer: Played for awkward laughs when M meets an attractive woman in the end and starts hitting on her. She's clearly uncomfortable with a former zombie following her and telling her she's pretty.
  • Action Survivor: Julie, later skirting this and Action Girl.
  • Adaptation Expansion: Started as a short story.
  • Adapted Out: Colonel Rosso does not appear at all in the movie. Neither does R's zombie wife and "adopted kids".
  • All There in the Manual: The book goes into a little more detail about what is going on in the world and the difference between Boney and Fleshy zombies, and what may be the reason behind this zombie apocalypse. This information is not crucial to the movie's plot, though, so it isn't really hurting anything by being excised.
  • And I Must Scream: All the zombies. While R seems just alternately annoyed by and self-conscious about his inability to communicate, some zombies eventually give up on what little humanity they have left and become Boneys.
  • Armies Are Evil: Played with, in that the security forces are the "antagonists" and have no idea that the zombies are slowly regaining their humanity, leading Julie to have to hide herself and R for a majority of the film. In the end, thanks to zombies managing to save several soldiers from Boneys, and a strike force not opening fire due to the sheer strangeness of zombies fighting amongst each other, they manage to not kill any of the zombies, and put down their guns when R's zombification reverses.
  • Ascended Demon: R and the other zombies who pursue love reconnect with their humanity, which starts to reverse their zombie-ism and bring them back to life. Not so much with the Boneys...
  • Attractive Zombie: The protagonist R, who has a romance with a human girl Julie. Thanks to Julie and her friend Nora, he gradually becomes even more attractive after taking a shower and wearing makeup to pass off as a human, much more so when he fully regains his humanity.
  • Back from the Dead: Would all the zombies starting on the path to becoming human again count?
  • Beergasm: R manages to scrounge up a Corona for Julie when she asks for food and drink, on the first day of her rescue by R. Julie appreciates it very much - heck, it's still carbonated. She hasn't had a beer in a long, long time, after all.
  • Girl Meets Ghoul: R, a zombie, becomes attracted to living woman Julie then learns more about her as a result of him eating her boyfriend's brain. This results in him slowly regaining his humanity, and she eventually reciprocates his attraction.
  • Brain Food: R doesn't just eat brains, but doing so allows him to experience the memories of his victims and remember what it was like to be alive. Eating Perry's brain results in him falling even more in love with Julie.
  • Call-Back: Nora states in R's dream that she would have liked to have been a nurse if not for the Zombie Apocalypse. In the end, she's acting as a nurse. This is also a reference to her counterpart character in Romeo and Juliet: the Nurse, though that character would be called a "nanny" in modern terms.
  • Call to Agriculture:
    • Nora mentions to Perry and Julie in a dream-or-possibly-cannibalism-induced-flashback that if not for the apocalypse, she would have wanted to be a nurse, helping heal people instead of killing to survive. This is exactly what she does at the end of the film.
    • Perry was explicitly interested in agriculture, not soldiering. He loses it when his father becomes a zombie. It is strongly implied that his volunteering for dangerous missions is really an attempt at suicide by zombie.
  • Cannibalism Superpower: With brains and proximity to Julie come memories, more intellect and motor control, and a higher chance to undo the infection.
  • Comforting Comforter: R gives Julie a blanket on the night of their first meeting. This is the first sign for her that he is genuinely kind.
  • Creator Cameo: Isaac Marion can be seen shuffling around as a zombie when R and Julie go through the metal detectors at the airport.
  • Creepy Blue Eyes: R has eerie light blue eyes that highlight his zombie nature. They change to a regular blue when he turns back into a human.
  • Dead to Begin With: When we learn about R's desires, he lampshades this trope.
    R: I just want to connect with these people. Why can't I connect? Oh that's right. It's because I'm dead.
  • Dem Bones: "Boneys", zombies who are completely rotted to just sinew, skin, and bones. They're far more zombie-like, predatory, and animalistic than the regular zombies, who are mostly interested in shambling around and finding humans to eat, whereas Boneys actively seek them out.
  • Despair Event Horizon: The reason regular zombies become Boneys. They basically give into despair and tear off their skin, quite literally shedding the last of their humanity. R states, rather somberly, that it seems to be the inevitable fate of all zombies. Apparently, the undead lifestyle will grind you down eventually. However, once Julie turns up and zombies start feeling again, a more hopeful option begins to emerge.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Warm Bodies presents the experience of being a zombie as basically being depression, but with the urge to feast on the flesh of the living. It's especially noticeable in R's opening narration, but recurs throughout the film: a zombie becoming a Boney (see Despair Event Horizon) is akin to extreme self-harm that would be suicide for the living, and being cured involves experiencing emotions again, establishing or restoring relationships in spite of the fears and urges that get in the way, and ultimately restoring your desire to do.
  • Easily Forgiven: Julie forgives R so fast for the whole "eating my boyfriend" incident that it's possible to get the impression that she didn't care much about Perry. This could be chalked up to a gentle understanding that, at the time, R wouldn't have had a way of stopping his hungry impulses. It's explained later to R that it isn't that she doesn't miss Perry, but growing up in the freaking Zombie Apocalypse has made her used to losing people. The film does imply the two had grown apart long before his death and that Perry was possibly a Death Seeker. The book explores both these elements in more detail.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: It takes a while, but R and Julie's effort to show General Grigio that not all zombies are mindless and that they can become human again works out, and the surviving humans gradually help zombies recovering their humanity, while the zombies, in turn, help them destroy the Boneys, who are beyond recovering. In the end, humans and zombies coexist peacefully, and it's implied that all zombies will eventually recover. Also, aside from Perry, nobody else of significance died in the movie. Even General Grigio is Spared by the Adaptation.
  • Eat Brain for Memories: Zombies hunger for brains because they experience the memories of the victim when they do, which is the closest they can come now to feeling alive. Besides feeling love, that is.
  • Emotions vs. Stoicism: The zombies (and R and Julie) versus the Boneys and Julie's father's security force, the former of whom try to learn to live again, while the Boneys aren't concerned with anything but eating people, and the Army doesn't realize that the zombies are regaining their humanity back, and are far, far too used to desperate survivalism and corpses trying to eat them. Emotions also are the first step to reversing zombification.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Being a zombie isn't fun if you have anything resembling a conscience. Exaggerated with the zombies themselves actively trying to avoid Boneys.
  • Flashback Stares: M triggers a memory while staring at a picture of a couple holding hands. This is important because before now, zombies had almost no recollection of their past.
  • Food Chain of Evil: The dynamic between zombies and Boneys has shades of this. Boneys are noticeably feared by the regular undead and openly antagonistic towards them throughout. As the movie progresses, they begin fighting zombies regaining their humanity, attacking them en masse.
  • Grilling the Newbie: Nora starts questioning R on what it's like being a zombie as soon as she meets him. Julie calls her out on this.
  • Guilt-Free Extermination War: Played with. The humans see zombies as just animalistic monsters, but R desperately tries to dispel this fact. And in the end, the Boneys, who really are bloodthirsty animals, are all destroyed. R lampshades it, acknowledging that what essentially is genocide is screwed up, but there could be nothing done for the Boneys, who are too far gone to be saved.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Zombies, given enough time and recollections of their past lives (and possibly brains), will eventually become conscious enough to resist Horror Hunger and enough to protect loved ones from other zombies. They begin to develop empathy, as well. This leads to M, who initially tried to get R to eat Julie, to save him from Boneys, and manages to awaken enough zombies to lead a horde to rescue the human survivors from the Boneys.
  • Horror Hunger: R is conscious enough to know that eating people is wrong in the beginning, but on top of zombification having a constant, driving hunger, zombies have to eat to survive. R, at least, eats the brains to ensure that his victims are spared undeath (and because they are the best part, they make you feel human again), which kicks off the plot.
  • Humanity Ensues: Julie turns out to be the catalyst for the zombies regaining their humanity, first with R, and then R spreading it to his fellow Corpses.
  • Improvised Weapon: R uses a metallic briefcase to defend himself and Julie from two Boneys that managed to catch up with them.
  • In Love with Your Carnage: Even before R eats Perry's brains, he's a bit smitten with Julie when he sees her fighting off zombies with a shotgun.
  • Kill Me Now, or Forever Stay Your Hand: Done to a degree by the Corpses. As they regain their humanity, they are given the option to bury it, run away, or try to get help from the living who they can BARELY communicate with. They take the last option and manage to survive despite the prejudice that exists in the living.
  • Left the Background Music On: During the Lipstick-and-Load Montage by Nora and Julie to make R look human enough, Nora cranks up "Pretty Woman" by Roy Orbison. Julie doesn't find it funny.
  • Lemony Narrator: R, who self-deprecates near-constantly and hands out details on the apocalypse. He'd be articulate if his rotted, decayed, hungry brain didn't get in the way of coherent, conscious thoughts.
  • Lighter and Softer: The movie excises a number of darker moments from the books, most significantly by sparing General Grigio, and keeping R from killing any of the Living after Perry's death. Perry's debraining and thus permanent death is also treated as, in part, a mercy by R's (rationalizing) internal narration, rather than just falling to the hunger for emotions as in the book.
  • Lingerie Scene: Julie strips to her underwear after getting wet, while telling R to look away. He does after a moment, realizing he's actually feeling sexual attraction for her at the sight, as another sign of his returning humanity.
  • Lipstick-and-Load Montage: Done by Nora and Julie to R, in order for him to look human enough to get to the General to warn him of the large horde of approaching Boneys, and that the corpses want to help.
  • Literal Metaphor: At the start of the film, R says that he's lonely, and lost. Literally, he's never been to that part of the airport before.
  • Love Hurts: Halfway through the film, as Julie and R make their way towards the Wall, Julie and R share a tender night together, and Julie admits that R is one of the nicest people she's met since the Zombie Apocalypse. This prompts R to admit what happened with Perry and and Julie takes off in the morning, leaving a hurt R to wander back towards his home, wishing he was truly undead, so he didn't have to feel loss and sorrow and getting dumped. M showing up and telling him that the Boneys are massing and heading for the survivor compound makes him realize he was foolish, and he heads back for the compound.
  • Makeover Montage: How the girls disguise R as a human. Lampshaded, of course. Doubles as a Mythology Gag, as in the book, R says "I wish in real life you could switch to a Makeover Montage".
  • Meet Cute: As my friends and I try to devour you and your friends!
  • Men of Sherwood: The Citadel City's soldiers are surprisingly competent and long-lived, with the exception of most of Julie's fellow salvagers. Only a few soldiers die in the climax, and most live to join forces with the zombies who've regained their humanity and wipe out the Always Chaotic Evil Bonies.
  • Missing Mom: Julie's mother was infected and zombified at some point prior to the events of the film. Her father still doesn't appear to have gotten over it. This drives his hatred of zombies and belief things never get better.
  • Name Amnesia: The zombie protagonist explains about the Identity Amnesia he has; the most he can recall from before "waking up" as a zombie, is that he thinks his name used to start with an "R".
  • Nice Girl: Julie notices R slowly regaining his humanity after being rescued by him, tags along to help him interact with the world again, and eventually falls in love with him.
  • No Zombie Cannibals: Played with. Zombies don't actively attack each other, but Boneys can and will, if only to intimidate. Even then, they don't do much but shriek at zombies with a bit of life in them threateningly, or pin them to the ground. This is especially weird as Boneys eat their own flesh, meaning they should find other zombies appealing.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: Downplayed. Zombies are referred to as "corpses," "Boneys" and "skeletons" depending on the type and who's speaking. However, the word "zombie" is used a handful of times. Julie jokingly calls R "Mr. Zombie" before asking for his name, Marcus refers to his stiff fingers as "zombie-fingers" and R does at one point call himself a "dead-eyed zombie". Plus there's a Shout-Out to the film Zombie.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Grigio shoots R in the shoulder before seeing that he's become human again. Later, R is shown to be fine, but realistically, this could do a lot of (potentially permanent) damage, even assuming the bullet didn't hit any major blood vessels.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Zombies are mostly patterned after Romero's; shambling, undead, passive and when they're not busy hunting for food, they're repeating what they remember of their life. However, they can also use tools, they appear to be able to think rationally as time goes on, and they realize old features of their past life. Their fondness for eating brains, which eases the pain of being dead, comes from Dan O'Bannon's Return of the Living Dead spin-off. As far as intelligence goes, they are capable of complex internal thought, but their capacity to act on those thoughts is limited. There are also Boneys, who have apparently surrendered to despair, ripped off all their skin, and become completely monstrous. It's eventually revealed that fleshy zombies can come back to life with the Power of Love.
  • The Power of Love: What makes zombies come back to life.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • Used twice by M. Both times, it's used for humour and to demonstrate how the zombies are growing in linguistic skills and becoming more human. The first time is when he meets up with R after Julie leaves: "Bitches, man." Later, when M manages to gather a force of zombies who have done a Heel–Face Turn and want to help R: "They say 'Fuck yeah'."
    • Subverted with Perry, who says "Smile, Motherf-", but gets attacked and eaten by R before he can finish.
  • Product Placement:
    • In his hideout, R gives Julie a bottle of Corona beer.
    • Berg plays SOCOMUS Navy Seals: Fireteam Bravo 3 on a PSP. Although, he is playing on Mission 2 but says he is close to reaching "Level 5". it is unknown if this is a case of Cowboy BeBop at His Computer in-universe or he is actually playing an online game with other survivors.
  • Race Lift: Nora is dark-skinned in the books. In the movie, she's played by a white woman.
  • Refuge in Audacity:
    • Like in the book, R pretends to be one of the living and straight up walks right into the quarantine zone and goes to the house of the local General Ripper to meet Julie.
    • The living have a shoot-on-sight order on Corpses. The Corpses are regaining their humanity, but are still unable to talk coherently. Their choices are to bury their humanity and join the Boneys, to hide, or to ask the living for help. They then proceed to start an all-out suicidal war against the superior Boneys and help the living. The platoon of soldiers that run across them are so confused by the sight that they are unable to bring themselves to shoot. They heard news that one of their soldiers was saved by a Corpse from Boneys. One of the Boneys is thrown from the fight and the only thing they can agree on is to kill ones like it. M then walks up to them while the battle is still raging and non-nonchalantly says "hi" to them. They are so taken aback from the surreal situation that they spare the Corpses and help them with the Boneys.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shout-Out Theme Naming: Several characters' names are based on the characters of Romeo and Juliet (R is Romeo, Julie is Juliet, M is Mercutio, Nora is the Nurse and Perry is Paris) as a part of the Whole-Plot Reference.
  • Soft Water: R and Julie fall a good two dozen stories into the water. Julie emerges completely uninjured because R was on the bottom. R is merely knocked unconscious for a brief moment, still being undead.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: General Grigio survives the ending confrontation and does not succumb to Boneyfication as he does in the book.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: R and Julie, whose names are a reference to the most famous star-crossed couple. In their case, they're kept apart by the fact that R is, y'know, not completely alive. Julie's family and friends don't really approve. Though they thankfully enjoy a distinctly happier ending.
  • Team Power Walk: Played for laughs, as R and M lead a zombie horde... and it's not in slow motion, it's the zombies shuffling verrryyyyy slowly.
    R: God we're slow! This could take a while.
  • Too Dumb to Live: When in zombie-occupied territory, it's best not to ignore it when someone says they hear something. It might be zombies coming to eat your brain.
  • True Love's Kiss: Julie's kiss turns R back into full human
  • The Un-Reveal: We never find out R's full name even after Julie asks him about it. Given that she rattles off a bunch of R-names, and he dismisses them all, it's implied that his full name actually is Romeo.
  • Unspecified Apocalypse: R mentions a couple of possible reasons the zombie plague happened, then admits he isn't sure which if any is true and concludes it doesn't really matter.
  • Up Close with the Monster: R finds himself face-to-face with a suspicious Boney, a member of a race of predatory skeletal superzombies who actively seek out living humans to eat, and attack regular zombies in the process of regaining emotions, and thus, their humanity.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: It's Romeo and Juliet IN THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE. R is Romeo, Julie is Juliet, M is Mercutio, Nora is the Nurse and Perry is Paris. R and Julie are Star-Crossed Lovers from opposite sides of a conflict. There's also a version of the famous balcony scene. Jumping off the building in each others' arms looks like it's setting up the same ending, but it turns out much happier.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: The plot of the film's one major struggle with this. M initially comes to the realization that R is hauling around a living being and tries to force him to eat her but realizes something is off about this and wants to see them together. He lets them go - saving them from the Boneys not too much later. This is a recurring theme in the film, with the zombies struggling to shrug off their braindead animalism to become human again, despite the danger of doing so, and the Boneys attempting to enforce animalism.
  • Zombie Gait: Played straight and subverted. Zombies can break out into a full sprint to chase down prey, but their degraded motor skills mean they still have the gait when they're not hunting. Boneys crawl and run like animals.

Was there ever a tale of more woe
Than this of Julie and her Romero?