Wednesday 10 September 2008

Fido (2006)

A cloud of radiation engulfs Earth and brings with it particles that reanimate the dead and send them in search of human flesh to eat. Cue the Zombie Wars! Well that's been the source material for many movies but not this one. This one starts where they finish because the Zombie Wars are over, solved by Dr Hrothgar Geiger and Zomcon. Now zombies are everywhere but they're safe because they have domestication collars on. Now they don't crave human flesh any more but obey human commands.

This is a world where they've effectively replaced Mexicans in all the low paid jobs, though this is set in an alternate 1950s so there probably weren't that many back then anyway. Also because zombies are presumably completely unpaid, they get to do even less than low paid jobs, like standing next to town Welcome signs and waving. They walk dogs, pick up litter, hold up umbrellas, even lean over people like Mr Theopolis in short skirts so they look cool. They're all managed by Zomcon who have cornered the market on almost everything (not just the police force but milk delivery, gardening, paper delivery, you name it) and Johnny Bottoms, the new head of security at Zomcon, has just moved into Willard.

Willard is where young Timmy Robinson lives, with his parents and their new zombie that he calls Fido. Now this isn't a horror film, or even a spoof on fifties science fiction movies, it's a social commentary wrapped in a comedy. In this alternate universe having your own zombie is a status symbol. Sure, they're dumb and they have a lot of accidents, but Helen Robinson acquires Fido so that she doesn't have to tell Mrs Bottoms that they don't have a single zombie when the Bottoms have six. Fido, however, becomes Timmy's best friend and more. Given that Bill Robinson is hardly the best husband or father (not because he's actively bad but because he's never actively good), Fido becomes a surrogate for both.

This film is a joy to watch from beginning to end. It opens with an introductory Zomcon produced educational video shown to a school class, which is tone perfect. It runs through as much astute social commentary as Pleasantville, though in a very different way, and it has the benefit of a lot of very talented people on the screen: not just Carrie-Anne Moss (Trinity in The Matrix), Dylan Baker (Dr Connors in the Spider-Man movies) and Tim Blake Nelson (Delmar in O Brother, Where Art Thou?), but an almost unreconisable Billy Connolly as Fido. All of them shine (especially Nelson), along with many others such as K'Sun Ray as Timmy.

It's a unique picture, certainly very different to any other zombie film you've ever seen. There's a huge amount of zombie makeup but very little actual gore, and what it comments on goes well beyond what you'd expect. There's even a parallel in here to Lassie Come Home and I can't think of another zombie film that does anything like that. It's touching, telling and even quotable. The music is highly appropriate, the cinematography is good and even the colours are right. Anyone into classic cars would love it for that alone. This is the second independent Canadian film I've seen today and both are peaches.

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