Friday, October 26, 2007

What's in your hea-ea-ead? Zombie. Zombie.

Last weekend, I took the Center for Contemporary Arts up on their free noon-time press screening offer. I'm not the film critic here, but hey, a free zombie movie is a free zombie movie. And blogging counts as "press," right?

The film was Fido, a kitschy Leave-It-To-Beaver zombie comedy. Emiliano says he didn't dig it, but he can get his ass a-bloggin' if he wants to dispute my assessment. I thought it was fantastic.

Apparently New Mexico is at the end of the movie rotation line. Fido (2006) was released on DVD on October 23 - it opens here at the Cinematheque today. But, the small screen is still far inferior to the big one, and Fido's the perfect horror film for the whole family.

Well, it's not exactly horror. Somewhere along the line, the zombie comedy became it's own sub-genre. It's no Shaun of the Dead, but I don't think it was intended to be.

The opening scene lays out the premise in a fairly authentic looking news reel: In lieu of World War II, some sort of radioactive astronomical phenomenon swung right past the earth, reanimating the dead. Thus began the Zombie Wars, which ended with a mad scientist design a collar capable of suppressing the zombie's appetite for flesh.

The film is set in a small Main Street town, where a slave class of zombies has emerged. Zombies deliver milk, deliver papers, mow lawns, walk dogs, serve mint juleps ... and no one wants to be the last family on the block to have their very own house zombie. Breadwinners will put themselves deep in the red to ensure no-return funerals for their families. It's a world where old people are considered dangerous--"When the heart stops, ZomCom start," goes the jingle for the local anti-zombie corporation--and families who keep unregistered zombies risk being exiled to the zombie wasteland outside the city's gates.

Fido is Lassie, with a zombie in place of a collie. Young Timmy's the local friendless loner, who comes to find a friend and father figure in his family's new zombie, played by the disturbingly short-haired and beardless Scottish comedian Billy Connolly. Dylan Baker (the pedophile psychologist from Happiness) plays Timmy's milquetoast and largely absent Dad, while Carrie Anne Moss (The Matrix's Trinity) is Timmy's sexually unfulfilled, emerging feminist mother. Tim Blake Nelson (Delmar from O Brother) also cameos as the friendly neighborhood playboy--think Quagmire from Family Guy--who keeps a buxom blond zombie instead of a blow-up doll.

The plot follows that of any boy-meets-monster flick (Iron Giant, Harry & the Hendersons), where fear is gradually replaced by trust, then love, while the monster conquers its inherently destructive nature and learns to be a member of the family. Like all great zombie films, Fido is not without it's political edge: racism, sexism, political paranoia. The positions, though, are unobtrusive; you think about it for a second, and move on.

There's more homages to 50s-era television than there is Romero-class gore. So, all in all, Fido's a lightly dark comedy, and fairly family friendly film, that is, if you're grown up, and you need a Halloween film for your faint-of-heart parents.