Late last year, some wag filed a freedom-of-information request inquiring if the U.K. government had any contingency plans for a zombie apocalypse. The Telegraph duly reported that some other wag filed a response. In Britain, at least, it turns out that the walking dead will be handled by the cabinet office, not the ministry of defence.
Well, at least it’s a plan, if not a very good one, according to Teresa Palmer. “Golly, I dunno who’s better,” she muses, meaning neither of them. “I think the community should take it into their own hands,” she finally decides.
The lady has some wisdom in these matters. In the film Warm Bodies, which opens Friday (February 1), Palmer’s character, Julie, has to balance her growing affection for a hot young zombie named R (Nicholas Hoult) with the obvious disapproval of her father. Dad is a military man (John Malkovich) who spearheads the mobilization of the living against the dead from inside a walled city that looks a lot like Montreal.
Gradually, Julie and R fall in love—something that seems to have a literally thawing effect on the ghoul and his fine Brit-pop haircut. Zombie purists, please shush. The impulse to treat these poor bastards with a little compassion is something that goes right back to George Romero’s 1985 flick, Day of the Dead, with its domesticated zombie, Bub.
Palmer, calling the Georgia Straight from Toronto, agrees that Warm Bodies follows that thread to its obvious conclusion. “Wow, they actually have feelings, and they just want to connect again, and they’re actually not happy being dead,” she says. “I love that! There’s a lot of social commentary in the story, as there is in all zombie stories. I think it’s representative of the fact that people can become quite zombified by life, and Warm Bodies spreads the message about that. For me, I also think the idea that love really can heal us, and that love breathes life back into us, that’s what we need. We need to connect back to the roots.”
Of course, in Warm Bodies—writer-director Jonathan Levine’s kinetic, music-video aesthetic aside—love comes at a shuffling pace. During an assault on the human population, R kills Julie’s boyfriend, Perry (Dave Franco), and feasts on his brains. In the lore created by author Isaac Marion for the film’s young-adult source novel, this means he acquires Perry’s memories—and falls for Julie. She’s a little nonplussed when he kidnaps her and takes her back to his surprisingly well-decorated loft inside an abandoned airplane (complete with record collection and turntable), but nobody ever said love was easy.
More to the point, the film contributes a vital new angle to a growing public discourse on the strategies available to us when the dead finally rise. “I know what I’d be doing,” Palmer asserts. “My tactic would be to pretend I’m also a zombie. At nighttime, I’d pretend I was hunting for brains and return back to my little lair, eat my tinned food with my friends, and apply each other’s zombie makeup.”
“I’d capture one and charm his pants off,” she says.