By Vic Holtreman
Short version: Just a really fun (and gory) movie about how zombies might fit into the (supposedly) idyllic 1950’s lifestyle.
This is the first movie I had the pleasure of viewing at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. It was preceded by the insane short film Goodbye Mr. Snuggles by Jonathan Hopkins, about a shootout between an insane clown and an elderly and refined British gentleman out in the countryside. It was a great warm up for the feature: Fido.
We learn the premise of the film in a 1950’s style black and white educational movie, the sort of which most of you reading this have only seen as a parody, but I actually watched as a kid. It describes a mysterious “radiation cloud” that came from outer space and re-animated corpses. Shortly thereafter came “the great zombie war”, and the rise of a huge corporation called ZomCon which at first took over protection of populated areas, but then introduced a method of domesticating zombies. This was done by means of an electronic collar which eliminated the zombies’ desire for human flesh, and rendered them quite docile. They’re used to mow lawns, pack groceries, deliver newspapers and most any other mundane job you can think of.
After the black and white introduction we find ourselves in an elementary school classroom, complete with perky teacher wearing a technicolor yellow dresss and well behaved students. The first clue as to the tone of the movie is given when the newly arrived Safety Director of ZomCon (who has a daughter in the classroom) arrives to fill the kids in on how much safer the town will now be with him around. The first question he asks the room filled with nine or ten year olds is: “So how many of you have killed a zombie?” To which the reply is about a half dozen little hands shooting up in an affirmative answer, all the while with smiles all around the class.
Our protagonist, Timmy Robinson (played by the oddly named K’Sun Ray, who is excellent in the role) is picked on by a couple of ZomCom “cadets” in his class and has a father who is strangely distant. His dad is more obsessed with death than he is with actually living his life with his family. His “keep up with the Joneses” mom is played by Carrie-Anne Moss (yes, from The Matrix). She has long complained that they’re the only family on the block without a zombie, but her husband is apparently terrified of them and wants nothing to do with them. She eventually gets her way (so the neighbors won’t think they’re strange) and he grudgingly gives in.
At first Timmy treats the zombie (played wonderfully by Billy Connolly) like, well, a zombie – until it begins to show characteristics much like a faithful dog. Shockingly, Timmy names his new pal “Fido” and all is well briefly until a malfunction in the restraining collar leads to a nosy neighbor’s grisly (but funny) death. Timmy covers this up as best as he can, but of course we know that eventually it will be found out.
I don’t want to give too much more away, but if you’re a fan of zombie movies, Fido really was a ton of fun. There was much laughter in the theater throughout the film, and the humor has a very sincere quality to it. It’s all played straight, but the bizarreness of the situations make them hysterical. We have everything from a next door neighbor whose relationship with his young female zombie is questionable at best, to Timmy sincerely apologizing to someone who is now a zombie as he does them in with a shovel by full moon. The real gut-buster (if you’ll pardon the pun) however was a scene pulled right out of the old “Lassie” TV show.
I didn’t give it a full five stars because I had a sense that it was trying to sell a message, but I’ll be damned if I know what it was. Of course I’m not a terribly deep guy, so maybe some other reviewer will be able to put his finger on it. It was either poking serious holes in the idea of the 1950’s being idyllic, the use of illegal immigrants for menial jobs, or maybe something else.
Either way, it was a super-fun ride.