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FIDO, 2006
Movie Reviews!

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FIDO MOVIEFIDO, 2006
Movie Reviews

Directed by Andrew Currie

Starring: Carrie-Ann Moss, Billy Connolly, Dylan Baker & K’Sun Ray
Review by Ben Lupinetti


SYNOPSIS:

The story of a young boy and his best friend, a flesh-eating zombie, mercilessly skewers 1950s American society and pays homage to the wonderfully crummy horror movies from the golden age of Hollywood.

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REVIEW:

“Don’t make a zombie movie,” a certain cult movie legend once told a diehard fan in a crowd of aspiring cult filmmakers (okay, it was Bruce Campbell). His apparent rationale being that the concept of zombie movies has been so often mined that it’s impossible to come at it with a new angle. True, it’s only so many times we’re really thrilled by irresponsible teenagers being engulfed in swarms of the undead. But even though zombie movies are no more fresh than the walking corpses which populate them, the makers of Fido have managed to juxtapose the old concept against the pristine background of 1950s America with amusing, at times disarming effect.

An old-timey newsreel introduces us to the premise of the film; years ago, a cloud of radiation engulfed the Earth and had the typically 50s-horror-movie result of reanimating all the dead people on the planet and turning them into flesh-hungry zombies (and you thought global warming was bad). Even after the Zombie Wars are won—this alternate reality’s answer to World War II—lingering radiation still causes anyone who dies to almost instantly come back as a zombie. Such affronts to the peace and quiet of suburban life are addressed by the machinations of Zomcon, a multi-national corporation which has effectively insinuated itself into every facet of everyday life (cough, cough, Disney, cough) by providing the only means of controlling the walking dead, namely fences enclosing every town in America, and “domestication collars” which wrap around zombies’ necks rendering them completely docile and useful as servants. The idealized, “Leave It To Beaver” veneer of the middle of last century is permeated by zombies employed as slaves by the affluent who collect them as status symbols like cars.

The story takes place in the friendly small town of Willard (and one gets the sense that America is now comprised solely of friendly small towns), centering on the Robinson family. Timmy Robinson, age eleven, finds himself frequently at odds with a society that is all too comfortable enslaving the undead, but as everyone has bought into this newfound prosperity, Timmy’s protestations fall on deaf ears, not unlike Invasion of the Body Snatchers, except instead of being replaced by aliens, everyone is just self involved and lacks empathy. Timmy’s father, Bill is constantly preoccupied with death, we learn from having to kill his own zombiefied father when he was a boy, and has no relationship to speak of with his own son. Meanwhile, Timmy’s mother Helen is absorbed in trying to make her husband happy while challenging the traditional female roles. Here, the movie struggles a bit. Helen and Bill’s troubled relationship frequently takes center stage in the movie, and it often feels as though their personal problems are intruding on the more fun zombiecentric plot of the film. Consequently the film slows down whenever it takes a departure to turn into Revolutionary Road for several minutes.

Helen first strikes a blow to male authority when she explicitly ignores her husband’s protests and buys a zombie to help around the house. Bill of course hates the thing because it brings to mind his own father, while Timmy finds in him a much-needed friend. Timmy names his mindless ally Fido, and the two bond, but it’s not long before a freak accident temporarily disables Fido’s control collar and he does what zombies do best to a little old lady. Leading the charge to find the cause of the incident is the local head of security for Zomcon and the patriarch of the Robinson’s new neighbors, Mr. Bottoms.

Timmy does his best to keep a lid on Fido’s transgression, but a scheme by a pair of bullies from Timmy’s school only leads to more carnage, and soon Timmy has his mother helping him with the cover-up. It should say something about the empowering feminist theme of the film that in this world, homemakers can include “burning evidence” in their skill sets. A sort of love triangle starts to develop when Fido displays attraction to Helen, and Helen finds in Fido someone interested in her, and not solely in planning for her inevitable death. The implied attraction between Helen and Fido is sweet, but inescapably disquieting, not unlike carnival food; some viewers will undoubtedly be repulsed by this element of the plot, but if you can avoid picturing too much in your head, it should go down just fine, also like carnival food.

The rest of the film features constant skewering of obsolete social mores. Timmy’s parents are relentlessly concerned with “what people will think.” The boy scouts have been replaced with “Zomcon cadets.” School children don’t go out to recess, they go out to a firing range where they sing what sounds like a skip rope rhyme about shooting zombies in the head. At times the pacing feels sluggish; the dialogue is often over-written and a number of scenes should have been cut down, but they’re always filled with spirited acting and the delightfully bizarre “Nick at Nite” set design. Billy Connolly deserves kudos for portraying the lovable monster, Fido speaking only in pained moans and moving convincingly like a walking corpse. Really, this film has too many clever ideas to count, but not every one has time to be fully developed so the final product lacks cohesion. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with making a zombie movie, as long as you’re not trying to make several other movies at the same time. But ultimately, it does succeed as a satire, striking with the satisfying smack of blood and brains being splattered on an immaculate, white picket fence.

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