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Thursday, 1 January 2015

Happy Birthday, Mr Zombie (2012)

Director: David Leclercq
Stars: Marc De Roy and Christel Pedrinelli
This film was an official selection at the 10th annual International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival in Phoenix in 2014. Here's an index to my reviews of 2014 films.
As the IMDb synopsis states, 'Mr Zombie comes back home after a hard day's work.' Clearly we're in the sort of world where zombies aren't just brain dead shamblers, but this doesn't aim at the social comment that might suggest. It's not remotely serious, its goals being half to make us laugh and half to show us a set of agreeably gory special effects, but, like Liebe, it does so with a surprising technical panache. What that synopsis doesn't tell us is that Mr Zombie gets home to find five zombie friends waiting for him, with a birthday cake and suitably mumbling birthday wishes. Yes, it's Mr Zombie's birthday and the finger the cake substitutes for a candle points the way to a riot of gory situation comedy, revolving around his firm inability to blow out the finger. Brighter than the average zombie, he improvises, rolling up a newspaper and waving it over the flame, but it promptly leaves the building, still gripped by his now severed hand. It only gets worse from there, through the delightfully twisted imagination of writer/director David Leclercq.

Happy Birthday, Mr Zombie runs a short seven minutes, never outstaying its welcome and never showing that it's Belgian because it's entirely wordless (Mr Zombie's guests are never intelligible and the closest they get is their approximation of the tune to Happy Birthday). It manages to keep us engaged through strong character design (in addition to Ms Zombie, the party is made up of Half Brain Zombie, Infected Zombie, Smoking Neck Zombie and Face Nailed Zombie) and a host of great little touches as Mr Zombie escalates his battle with the finger candle. My favourite has to be the split screen we get when shown Ms Zombie's point of view; one of her eyeballs is dangling on her cheek, so her vision is notably inconsistent until she lifts it up and pops it back in the eyesocket. There's enough here for everyone in the family to pick their own favourite though, right down to the minor twist at the end and the capable use of the standard way for zombies to respond to any problem. They eat it.
The overriding successes of the short are surely its imagination, its wild riffs on a deliciously demented concept and the little details that serve to emphasise them, but there's more to praise. I was particularly impressed with the ability of all the actors to let their characters shine through their heavy zombie make up, especially Marc De Roy as Mr Zombie, the character on screen for the majority of the running time. I was surprised to discover that this is his only credit and none of the other actors have many more, as it feels like accomplished work from seasoned professionals. Even Leclercq is far from experienced, at least as a writer/director (or producer, editor, compositor or creator of prosthetics, each of which roles he also handled here), as he's more often an actor. If the film has a downside, it's that the pace is off, being slow to get going but quicker to wrap things up. I could argue that the cartoon insanity of it explodes to cue, as, after all, that's what this is: a live action cartoon, full of outrageous violence but no actual death.

1 comment:

David Leclercq said...

Thank you, man!