Disclaimer: I know zombie movies are not for everybody. Some folks can’t see past the gore to the heart of the story. (See what I did there?) That’s cool.
But they are missing out. The fact is that life is a story–one which is not always pleasant. Some folks respond to one kind of story, and other folks respond to others. I understand why some would deem, on the surface, such fare unedifying.
But in the case of Warm Bodies, they would be making a grave error.
All of that to say that if you are amongst those whose inclination would be give this film a pass, you would be missing a powerful modern parable.
For there is a story at the heart of Warm Bodies that transcends the zombie genre. (Really all zombie stories serve as a lens to reflect life back at us. The truth is zombies are us (or were us). They are us freed of all restraint–nothing but pure appetite. And in another sense, we are the walking dead: we’re alive, but dead inside until Christ makes us live).
That is what Warm Bodies is about: the transformational power of love. About one zombie who, not so unlike us, dreams of something more: a life with meaning. He tries so hard to remember what it was to be human, but can’t. He has surrounded himself with all the accouterments of life, but these are not life itself
Until one day.
One day, when an emissary from a walled city (the church?) ventures out into the dangerous world on a mission. It is in this encounter that R, our erstwhile zombie, is given something higher, purer, to live for: love (the Gospel?).
He has found a reason to live again. He chooses, against instinct, to save a life instead of taking it. Thus begins his metamorphosis into something else: human.
In the Scriptures, God has said, “And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 11:19, ESV). What is stonier than the unbeating heart of a zombie? Not much.
And this is literally what happens: R’s dead heart begins to beat again. In so doing, and in refusing to consume Julie (the object of his love), he unwittingly sparks a revolution: other zombie hearts begin to beat again, too. Which highlights a significant spiritual truth:
Life begets life. Life multiplies. And love, if love it truly is, desires to bless others at the expense of self.
This change puts R, and those like him on the bad side of the demonic “Boneys,” zombies who have, in essence, refused the good news, and have given up all the last vestiges of humanity. They appear as walking skeletons, and are nothing but base creatures of pure appetite. As such, they are dangerous.
When he learns of the danger, R–at great personal risk–infiltrates the walled city of the humans to warn of an impending attack. Like Jesus, he comes from outside, at great personal risk, to deliver a message rooted in love. And unfortunately, also like Him, R’s message is not received by those in charge.
Lest I spoil the film, I will end my summation there. If you think it strange that I see echoes of the Gospel in a zombie movie, I say that the world being God’s, and it really being His story, there are echoes of it everywhere.
For those who have the eyes to see.
Where, or in what, was the strangest place (in pop culture, or otherwise) you ever saw hints of the Gospel story?
Note: I understand that I may well indeed be reading a subtext into this movie that was not intended by either its original author, nor the filmmakers. That may be, but that’s my worldview. We all have one–it’s the interpretive filter by which we catalog our lives, experiences, and the stories we read (or see). But then again, living redemptively is a daily choice. As it says in Romans: “Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” That said, I do not believe my conclusions are that much of a stretch (or really a stretch at all), as the story has to do primarily with dead people who longer wish to be so, but have forgotten the way. And it is love that affects the ensuing heart change.