“Don’t be creepy, don’t be creepy, don’t be creepy,” the lovesick zombie begs himself as he stares, slack-jawed, at the very blond, very alive
object of his affection. His name is “R” (he thinks) and he’s your average twentysomething zombie. He’s conflicted about all the killing, but considering his only way to reconnect to the world is to download a human’s memories by devouring their brains, he’ll take it. That is, until he locks eyes with shotgun-wielding Julie and falls head over undead heels in love. In a genre already clogged with teens trysting with milquetoast vampires and hunky werewolves, forcing zombies to woo humans sounds like a calculating cash grab. But director Jonathan Levine’s goofy wisp of a film, based on Seattle author Isaac Marion’s 2011 novel, is a charming lurch through zombieland that bypasses the usual headshots to aim at the heart—and scores a surprisingly direct hit. It helps that Nicholas Hoult is the world’s cutest corpse: all mussed hair, starburst eyes and deep-shadowed lids…and a little mouth slime. After saving Julie from his “friends” (including a hilariously marble-mouthed Rob Corddry), he courts her with canned fruit cocktail and Coronas. Men do a lot of strange things for a date, but this is the only case (so far) of a dude eating a girl’s boyfriend’s brain in order to get to know her better. When Julie (Teresa Palmer) starts to warm up to her undead suitor, he in turn remembers how to be human. Eventually the pair must face skeletal, fury-filled zombies called “bonies” and, even scarier, John Malkovich (as the human resistance leader and Julie’s dad). The CGI effects are laughable, and it takes a while to adjust to the willfully cheeseball tone. But once it clicks, it’s irresistible. In this world, all you need is love. And sometimes a shotgun.