Friday 13 April 2012

I am Bish (2009)

Director: Dave Bishop
Stars: Dave Bishop and Siobhan Dow-Hall

You have to love a feature which begins by openly admitting that it was made by an idiot. It may be that writer/director Dave Bishop made the film entirely as a pitch to land the lead role in a remake of Magnum, PI, but he has fun doing it. He sees himself as the love child of Han Solo and Mad Max, because the spirit of Jimi Hendrix told him that in a peyote trance, and it's tantamount to the man's skill that he manages to get all this out without cracking up. He's seen Uncommon Valor 17 times but he's never seen Dirty Dancing. He's a romantic who has phone sex over VOIP with foreign women in foreign languages. He's a philosopher with night vision, weapons and an internet connection that never fails, even after the zombie apocalypse arrives. Yes, this is another zombie movie but it's unlike any other zombie movie out there. By the time we wonder where the actual zombies are and when they're going to arrive in Perth, the film introduces a countdown to arrival.

Initially this is a documentary about Bishop's life, shot as his graduating project at the Perth Film School. He wouldn't have done too well, given that he devotes quite a bit of time to chatting up his lecturer, Miss Carson, rather than actually revealing anything of substance. We listen to a host of comedic ramblings about science, religion and Star Wars, because Bishop's most obvious influence is Kevin Smith. To be frank, I much prefer Bish, as much as he often loses the plot and he labours a few points for too long. Sure, Smith's gore effects and animation work are far superior but Bish is willing to take on zombies with a weedeater and a leafblower. He fights flying zombie fish with a machine gun. He has fun with an autographed cricket bat. He even takes out the living dead with a silencer on his rifle because he's finally found a living woman (on an MMORPG) and he doesn't want to wake her up. He's dying for some but she's not going to put out because he's an idiot.

It's thoroughly refreshing to watch a movie in which the comedic element is more than happy to put himself down. Kevin Smith just stands there and looks cool while Jason Mewes acts like an idiot. Bish gets to play both parts at once and he's so much more fun to watch. His pop culture monologues are wide ranging and often clever, right down to the 'image not available' when he talks about Allah. He illustrates how small Perth is by explaining how few skyscrapers Spider-Man has to swing between. He sets up less than professional animations that include Sean Connery playing Gandalf, Stephen Hawking doing his nurse in the closet and the Millennium Falcon failing to reverse park. After pointing out that TIE fighters have wings made of solar panels he explains, 'You can say what you like about the Empire but at least they're environmently friendly.' I loved the enhanced attacks the screen announces he receives after reaching a hundred zombie kills.

The story leaps around all over the place. From a Project Greenlight documentary, an exercise in storytelling and character, it turns into a zombie flick, courtesy of some sort of neutron emissions, partly found footage and partly more documentary style, given that after 99.9% of the populace turns into the living dead, he realises that now his life is finally almost worth documenting. We still leap around, through footage obviously shot at completely different times, along with animations, fake newspapers and an apparent video date tape in which Bish talks about being afflicted with a romantic nature while interrupting his monologues to click at Mkotkobekee, his Kalahari Bush Angel. He can fake foreign languages pretty well. For a while it's just him, but eventually he finds Sarah with whom he can share the film and hopefully a sexual encounter or six. Throughout he keeps poking fun at himself. One fake newspaper has a headline reading 'I am Bish sucks ass.'

This is far from highbrow culture but it's a fun flick, a cross between a zombie picture, a stand up comedy routine and an opportunity for Bish to expound on anything he likes. Beyond auditioning for Magnum, PI, he serves as a tourist commercial for the western Australian coast and bitches at the government bodies who concern themselves with Aussie cinema. Given the eighties animation and the obviously added on gun and blood effects, the budget can't have been huge, especially as almost the entire film rests on the shoulders of Bish and Siobhan Dow-Hall, who plays Sarah. 'No way I'm doing the sequel,' she mutters at one point. Yet I'd rather watch this any day than the big budget zombie movies that seem to be everywhere nowadays. Most of the imaginative takes are coming from indie filmmakers, from Gay Zombie through Cupcake: A Zombie Lesbian Musical to Rising Up! The Story of the Zombie Rights Movement. This is likely to become a favourite.

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