Zombie movies have enjoyed a surge in popularity over the past few years, I think in large part due to a cultural preoccupation with death, trauma and apocalyptic themes that comes with the uncertainty of life during wartime. For the most part, we've seen films that follow the familiar model of zombie survival horror laid out by George Romero's "Night of the Living Dead" almost 40 years ago. Not that there's anything wrong with that, and there's certainly been plenty of merit to be found in films like "28 Days Later," the remake of Romero's "Dawn of the Dead," and Romero's own "Land of the Dead." Edgar Wright's "Shaun of the Dead" take the familiar scenario and injects humor into it (very successfully, in my opinion), but it's still basically a zombie film in the Romero model, what with everybody just fighting to survive the zombie apocalypse.
Andrew Currie's "Fido" is something a little different. If "Shaun of the Dead" was a horror film that was also funny, "Fido" is a comedy that also has zombies in it. The film re-imagines the "Night of the Living Dead" scenario ("the Zombie War") as having taken place much earlier than the late-1960s, and presents an alternate-reality 1950s in which America has defeated the zombie menace (more or less). People live in fenced in communities and control zombie servants via mechanical collars devised by the somewhat ominous corporation ZomCom. This set up and having the film set in the 1950s could have gone either way, but Currie wisley keeps the kitsch-factor somewhat in check. There's certainly something kind of cute about the film, but it's also genuinely pretty funny.
The action revolves around a fairly disfunctional family that acquires one of these zombie servants (played by great Scottish comedian Billy Connolly). Son Timmy becomes quickly attached to the creature (he's the one who names him "Fido") and mom (Carrie-Anne Moss) seems like she might be a little attracted to him, but emotionally distant dad (Dylan Baker) is afraid of zombies ever since, as a child, he had to kill his own zombified father. Things get a little sticky when the ZomCom security head moves in next door, and Fido gets off his leash a few times and causes a bit of a zombie epidemic in town.
Some of the cleverer bits here re-imagine America cold war panic as zombie paranoia. Everybody carries guns, and children are taught shooting in school. The characterization is also especially strong, and well thought out. The father is obsessed with funerary practices and the idea of being buried instead of turning into a zombie after death. There's also a nice turn by Tim Blake Nelson as an eccentric neighbor (with a zombie girlfriend), and a Lassie parody scene in which the nonverbal Fido must convince the mom that Timmy is in trouble.
"Fido" had a brief theatrical run here in NYC but I think generally went overlooked. I suspect it will find more of a following now that it's out on DVD. I certainly enjoyed it, and I think one could really find alot to examine in a deeper reading of it than I feel up to at the moment.
Check back tomorrow for more comics and a new Halloween film review...