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“Warm Bodies” director Jonathan Levine explains why Seth Rogen was the film’s “safety net”

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When you listen to the voiceover in the new zombie comedy “Warm Bodies,” think of Seth Rogen. Director Jonathan Levine, who worked with the comedian on his cancer comedy “50/50,” showed him the film at around the same time as Rogen was finishing up his apocalypse comedy “This Is The End,” and the two directors gave each other a screening of their respective films and swapped notes. For “Warm Bodies,” Levine had been struggling with how to help his zombie lead R (played by Nicholas Hoult) to articulate himself, given that he’s mostly prone to grunts at first.

“Seth was like, ‘You either have to make the voiceover funnier, or lose the voiceover entirely,'” Levine told IFC. “I was like, ‘I want to make it funnier,’ so he said, ‘Okay, here are some ideas.’ So I stole his ideas. I do whatever he says.”

Levine, who said he’s been a fan of Rogen’s since “Freaks and Geeks,” called him his “safety net.” “He helped with the voiceover, helped with the pacing, and then I came in and kind of maybe helped him with his movie. His movie is in great shape. I’m giving it two enthusiastic thumbs up. It’s going to be a monster.”

And Levine knows his monsters. He put actors such as Hoult and Rob Corddry through “zombie training school,” a class led by Jean-Jacques Pillet from Cirque de Soleil, who taught them how to move like corpses, “a lot of really weird shit.” (Though the director has a cameo, he didn’t play a zombie himself, just a guy teaching a zombie how to catch a ball. “I have a cameo in every movie,” he admitted. “In ’50/50,’ I’m in the back of the bus. In ‘The Wackness,’ I’m the first person walking down W. 4th Street getting the middle finger.”)

When not in zombie training school, actors on set bonded over watching viral videos. John Malkovich, in particular, became quite adept at imitating them. “It was the funniest shit ever,” Levine said. “He was talking whatever video was the top thing of the week, party boy, girl on a toilet, and re-enacting it verbatim, in character, perfectly. And he’s John Malkovich, so you can imagine. There was one where he was like, ‘I want some waffle fries for free!’ I remember that one: ‘I want some fucking waffle fries.'”

“Warm Bodies” is based on the book by Isaac Marion, and the author is already working on a sequel, which both intrigues and scares Levine. “I always find it really weird to talk about sequels when we have no idea if anyone’s going to go see the movie or not and like it — which I really hope they do!” he laughed. “So if that happens, then, yeah, I would be thrilled to have the opportunity to revisit these characters.” Just don’t ask to him to try to survive an actual zombie apocalypse, because that scares him even more. “I’d be fucked,” he said. “I’d be totally fucked. I’d be horrible. I would just curl up in a fetal position and weep copiously, and I would do that maybe even before there was a zombie apocalypse. I’m a bad person to have in the trenches.”

Will you be checking out “Warm Bodies” this weekend? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

Warm Bodies

Bloody Valentines

10 Romantic Horror Movies for Valentine’s Day  

Catch My Bloody Valentine this Valentine's Day Sunday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Paramount/courtesy Everett Collection

Watching hapless victims running for their lives might not sound romantic, but a scary movie is perfect for a cozy night on the couch with someone special. (Unless you’re a character in a horror movie, as any romantic moment eventually turns into murderous mayhem.) Before you catch My Bloody Valentine this Valentine’s Day on IFC, check out some horror movies that will both warm your heart and chill your bones.

1. Let The Right One In

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A surprisingly touching tale of a bullied child and his vampire crush, the acclaimed 2008 Swedish horror film perfectly captures the feelings of being in the throes of naive first live. Pair it with the solid 2010 American remake, and be sure to have some tissues on hand to go with the blood red wine and dark chocolates.


2. Bram Stoker’s Dracula

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Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 take on Bram Stoker’s classic tale upped the lavish romanticism with an ageless, yet alluring, Dracula driven by a centuries spanning love. For better or worse, we wouldn’t have Twilight without this sumptuous gothic romance.


3. The Fly

The Fly

One of the greatest body horror movies of all time centers on the most doomed relationship you’ve ever seen. If you find Jeff Goldblum as attractive as Geena Davis does, well, we advise you to make the most of it early on before Cronenberg’s masterpiece mutilates him.


4. Bride of Chucky

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Why can’t movie monsters find love? Because it’s literally horrifying. Luckily that’s the point in Bride of Chucky, where the murderous puppet finds a soulmate who shares his penchant for sharp objects. A high point in the series that spoofed its own silliness while still scaring the hell out of us.


5. Bride of Frankenstein

Bride of Frankenstein

Of course, there wouldn’t be a Bride of Chucky without the original movie monster romance. James Whale’s horror classic both introduced a new level of pathos to the Frankenstein story and gave us a lady monster for the ages.


6. Hellraiser

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Lemarchand’s box first broke the barriers between life and death as part of a (deeply unromantic) love story. An unfaithful wife seduces and murders men to resurrect her dead lover, and when her daughter finds out things get gorily complicated.


7. A Chinese Ghost Story

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A night in a haunted temple has a man falling in love with a beautiful ghost in this horror comedy from director Ching Siu-tung. Oh, and he has to save her spirit from an evil tree demon. We haven’t mentioned the swordsman or the gymnastic martial arts yet, but you’ll definitely enjoy them too.


8. Candyman

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The creepy Candyman is looking for love, which is a hard sell when you’ve got a hook for a hand and are usually covered in bees. Oh, and you’re a revenge-fuelled murderous specter. Helen Lyle must deal with his romantic intentions as well as an unfaithful boyfriend, and it really doesn’t go well for anyone. You’d think it’d be nice to have someone who always comes when you call…


9. Warm Bodies

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An unlikely love story between the living and the dead, Warm Bodies follows “R” as he grunts and groans his affection for the chief zombie-hunter’s daughter. No other story has ever so completely shown the healing power of love.


10. My Bloody Valentine

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My Bloody Valentine stars the Grinch of the holiday, the murderous miner who has sworn that a small town should never again host a dance on that day. Of course a gang of sexy teens decide to ignore him. And of course he comes back, with wonderfully horrific results.

“Warm Bodies” review: A zombie story with heart… and a lot of brains

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Just when you thought the zombie genre had shambled off into the sunset bereft of any fresh ideas, a movie like “Warm Bodies” comes along and makes the undead seem, well… very much alive.

Written and directed by Jonathan Levine (“50/50”) and based on Isaac Marion’s novel of the same name, “Warm Bodies” unfolds in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse that has made humans the food of choice for hungry zombies and the savage, skeletal “bonies” that some of the undead turn into after a certain point in time. However, unlike the zombies portrayed in most media, some of the undead in this story still show signs of life, stringing together thoughts and even communicating with the occasional grunt or single-syllable word. “R” is one such zombie, and when he falls in love with a human girl that he saves from some of his fellow zombies, their relationship ignites a spark that not only changes him, but also has a cascading effect on both zombies and humans alike.

While it’s easy to dismiss the concept of “Warm Bodies” as just another young-adult supernatural romance that exchanges vampires and werewolves for flesh-hungry zombies, Levine’s film shares more in common with the modern, clever takes on the genre like “Shaun of the Dead” than it shares with the “Twilight” franchise.

British actor Nicholas Hoult (“X-Men: First Class”) carries much of the film on his slumped shoulders as R, complementing a smart, funny inner monologue with physical acting that just might make him the funniest zombie since Tarman in “Return of the Living Dead.” Emoting shouldn’t be easy when your character is a trudging, near-mindless corpse, but Hoult certainly makes it seem so, adding just the right inclination of an eyebrow or tilt of his chin to give R some genuine depth. The subtle exaggeration of these small movements as the story progresses makes R’s evolution even more believable, and provides a nice showcase for Hoult’s talents.

Playing opposite Hoult, Teresa Palmer (“I Am Number Four”) puts in a good, safe performance as Julie, the object of R’s affections and the daughter of General Grigio (John Malkovich), the leader of a nearby, militarized human sanctuary. Although her character never manages to steal the spotlight away from R, this says more about Hoult’s performance and the focus of the film than anything she brings to the role. The same goes for Malkovich, who plays more of a cameo than anything even remotely as memorable as the characters he’s played in the past.

Still, “Hot Tub Time Machine” actor Rob Corddry does manage to stand out as R’s zombie pal “M,” and the pair have a nice chemistry that translates into some of the film’s funniest moments. Like Hoult, Corddry does a lot with every scene he’s in, right down to the smallest twitch of a shoulder or well-timed grunt, and makes a strong case for M as the character most deserving of his own spin-off film.

In fact, that may be the most impressive achievement in Levine’s adaptation of Marion’s novel: the most interesting, compelling characters in the story are zombies.

Even with all of the story’s allusions to “Romeo & Juliet” (from star-crossed lovers R and Julie, to R’s best friend M serving as the Mercutio to R’s Romeo), “Warm Bodies” never feels like a traditional romance dressed up in a post-apocalyptic theme. The reverse feels more appropriate, with the costume of a classic romance disguising a very smart mash-up of horror and comedy that somehow manages to bridge the divide between two very different audiences and — maybe even more importantly — stand out in an increasingly overcrowded genre.

“Warm Bodies” hits theaters Friday, February 1.

DVR Alert: Freaks and Geeks enters The Automat

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Before Judd Apatow knew what “This is 40″ felt like, before James Franco cut off his arm in “127 Hours,” before Paul Feig directed “Bridesmaids,” before Seth Rogen was a massive movie star and Jason Segel hung out with the Muppets and Busy Phillips moved to Cougartown, before all of these things, there was “Freaks and Geeks.” As you well know, “Freaks and Geeks” is one of the greatest TV shows ever, though it only lasted a single hilarious, heartbreaking, almost perfect season. That season is now airing on IFC’s The Automat a.k.a. the DVR-friendly part of the day.

While we all hold our breath and cross our fingers in the hopes of a “Freaks and Geeks” movie, set your DVR to record the show when it airs at 5 am ET/4am CT a.k.a. The Automat.

Watch a few clips to help you remember why you love “Freaks and Geeks” so darn much:

Now go set your DVR!

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