Zombies are usually more than just slow-moving monsters. They’re often used as metaphors – embodiments of all sorts of societal and political ills.
The new zombie movie “Warm Bodies” tries on a very different metaphor for size.
From the inner monologue of the main character, a young zombie who is only able to identify himself as “R”: “What am I doing with my life? I just want to connect. Why can’t a connect with people? Oh right, it’s because I’m dead.”
Welcome to zombies as metaphors for adolescence. That’s the central insight of “Warm Bodies.” And the more you think about it the more apt the idea becomes – what ARE teenagers stumbling along on the clumsy path to adulthood if not inarticulate zombies whose main goal in life is simply to survive to their next feeding frenzy.
“What am I doing with my life?” R asks himself. “I’m so pale. I should get out more. I should eat better. My posture is terrible. I should stand up straighter. People would respect me more if I stood up straighter. What wrong with me?”
What’s wrong with him is that he’s a young, good looking zombie who’s unable to even remember his name, let alone find a purpose in life.
He may be a walking corpse but he gradually realizes he still has social needs with fellow zombies, even it is mostly grunting and staring at each other.
Things pick up considerably for our favorite zombie when he falls for a very human girl. After killing her human boyfriend and eating his brains, he kidnaps her, to protect her, of course, from the other zombies who only want to kill and eat her.
It’s during all this downtime hiding from the other zombies that these two fall into a wary relationship. This awkward courtship between a zombie and a girl – he keeps telling himself, ‘don’t be creepy, don’t be creepy’ – is classic adolescent stuff and the movie knows how to mine it for laughs and sentiment.
“Warm Bodies” has a superficial resemblance to the Twilight phenomenon. Adolescents falling for vampires, werewolves, and zombies may all seem of a piece. But whereas Twilight is all about emotional hyperventilating, “Warm Bodies” takes a wry and clever look at romance, teen or otherwise. After all there’s a little bit of the zombie in all of us, right?