Nicholas-Hoult-and-Teresa-Palmer-in-Warm-BodiesIt’s been nine years since the Dawn of the Dead remake revived (reanimated?) the zombie genre, and eight and a half since Shaun of the Dead deconstructed it for comic effect.

Since then we’ve had a near endless parade of movies featuring the undead. Some serious, some humorous, most rubbish. What’s surprising is that it’s taken so long for a flick like Warm Bodies to come about. Given the other zeitgeist for films and TV shows where girls fall for vampires, werewolves and ghosts, you might have imagined an Epic Movie-style zombie-centric spoof to have come out years ago.

Thankfully it didn’t. Instead Warm Bodies works as both an entertaining and touching romantic comedy, and a really clever and original zombie movie that manages to subvert conventions while offering a wry satire on the genre.

Narrated by lead zombie, R, the film has a slightly odd tone. At first this seemed as though it’s a side effect of the zombie’s-eye-view, but as the movie finds its feet it becomes apparent that its more familiar than that – with a protagonist who lives in a cluttered, dirty pigsty, and is obsessed with the benefits of vinyl it’s not so much a zombie film as the ultimate apex of the 90s slacker movie. And it seems that Nicholas Hoult’s performance is designed to emphasise this.

This may sound like a criticism. It’s not. Hoult manages to maintain an incredible amount of charm and charisma throughout the film, even while shuffling around under heavy makeup. Teresa Palmer is equally engaging as Julie. The one criticism here is that, once in a while Hoult struggles to find the right balance between shuffling stiff and living &breathing, and seems a little too in control when perhaps he shouldn’t be, but this is a minor niggle rather than a major complaint.

The supporting cast are also strong, Rob Corddry in particular, but what’s really striking about Warm Bodies is how funny it is. Consistently so. And while it does fall flat on occasion, particularly in the scenes where R and Julie are getting to know one another, those moments where it gets the humour right are so good, and so frequent as to allow viewers to forgive a handful of dropped beats.

Sharp, original and exceptionally funny without sacrificing emotional engagement for cheap laughs, Warm Bodies is a substantial step above most zombie films. And most rom coms for that matter.