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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Sit Fido, Sit…Good Zombie

fido_27x40_rev2.indd No matter how many times I had heard great things about the 2006 Canadian zombie film, Fido, I still, for whatever reason fronted on it. Finally sitting down to watch it recently, I found myself far from disappointed, and while there are many ways to handle a horror comedy, Fido does so with the sharpest of wit and a double dash of social commentary, avoiding the over-the-top route that many of the genre seem to take.

Directed by Andrew Currie, Fido is set sometime in the 50's where - due to some cosmic space dust the Earth passed through - all of the dead have come back to life, fittingly, with a taste for human flesh. A massive war against the zombies ensued and with the end of that war came the birth of ZomCom (short for Zombie Comedy?), a government funded corporation that found a way to domesticate the living dead so they could be used as servants. Special collars were created to control the zombies, and every household in America has one of their own. These tamed un-dead do everything from laundry and mowing the lawn, to even being used for tasks like delivering the newspaper and working as crossing guards for school children.

fido Fido focuses on the Robinson's, a seemingly normal family consisting of Bill, his wife Helen and their son, Timmy. While they seem as normal as anyone else does in their fido1perfect little suburb, they lack one thing, a zombie. This is something of an embarrassment for Helen, as it's all about appearance in their snotty neighborhood and being without a zombie is less than the best. Due to a childhood trauma during the "Zombie Wars," (as they're referred to) Bill has always been against getting a zombie, but to fit in with the rest of their neighbors, Helen gets one anyways and Bill begrudgingly goes along with it.

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Timmy Robinson, who is sort of a loner and is picked on by his peers, befriends the zombie when he saves Timmy from some bullies. Timmy aptly names his new best friend and pet, Fido, and they form a strong bond much like a boy and his dog would. However, when Fido's control collar malfunctions, he eats one of the neighbors, resulting in a small zombie outbreak and the possibility of the Robinson's being held accountable and being sent to the forbidden zone by the ZomCom corporation. If you can't tell by the name, the forbidden zone is bad news.

fido3Fido relies less on outrageous jokes and goes for the comedy jugular in a much smarter and more subtle way. While there are some very funny moments, Fido is not a laugh riot, but fido9more of a cleverly thought out comedy with a heavy splash of satire on American culture. There's peer pressure to be like everyone else as seen with Helen feeling the need to own a fido7zombie like her neighbors as well as Timmy being bullied for, essentially, not supporting ZomCom. There are moral questions about the enslavement of these flesh eating creatures for personal use and whether or not they really are nothing more than just monsters, or is it fear projected on society that makes these zombie more monstrous than they might be. Are the zombies a product of fear themselves and they react violently due to how the human population reacts to them? With this situation also comes the subject of racism with the zombies taking the place of minorities in this perfect little white bread American setting.

fido4 Many of these social issues are as fitting then as they are even in our modern times. Setting the film in the 50's works as that is a time when America is perceived as cookie cutter fido5and easily influenced with the use of fear tactics (Fido fittingly starts off with a propaganda film about the zombies, which is shown to kids in school). It's a perfect contrast to the world we live in today and while some would look back on that time and think how ignorant people were, really, nothing much has changed outside of the country being more cynical and somewhat more informed due to technology. More informed doesn't equate to less ignorant, however.

fido8The 50's setting is perfectly captured and the look of Fido is spot on to that time period but through the eyes of a TV sitcom as opposed to real life. There are great little touches like the edges of the movie being slightly rounded, to make it look as if it's playing on an old styled television or the clearly fake background when characters are driving their cars. There are many elements that are akin to an episode of Lassie, complete with "Timmy" asking Fido to go and find help when stuck in a bad situation. Funny enough, instead of barking to get help, Fido growls and grunts.

All of the portrayals are fantastic with a great cast that consists of Dylan Baker, Carrie-Anne Moss, and K'Sun Ray making up the Robinson's and Billy Connolly playing the titular role of Fido. Carrie-Anne Moss actually stood out the most, as I would never had pictured her being able to play the role of 50's housewife, but she pulls it off incredibly and looks quite nice doing so, which was an even bigger surprise.  

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Fido is not an in your face comedy like Zombieland, or even to an extant, Shaun of the Dead. With it's setting and how the humor is handled, it is more along the lines of the Tim Burton classic, Edward Scissorhands, than anything else. Even with all of the social commentary throughout the film, it never feels forced, instead, it comes to the viewer naturally during the movie and when further thought is provoked. Even in the oversaturated zombie and horror comedy markets, Fido finds a way to breathe some fresh air into both genres, and I can only suggest you take a whiff of these un-dead flowers for yourself.

11 comments:

  1. Well said, sir. While it wasn't that funny, it was certainly amusing. Carrie-Ann Moss, this might be the only thing I like her in, and it was pretty entertaining, yeah.

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  2. Great review Matt!

    I saw this at the Sundance Film Festival a few years ago and I laughed my pants off. They don't do too many horror type films at Sundance (Last year they did have Frozen and the Blair Witch Project came from Sundance years ago), but this one was a nice treat.

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  3. Loved this one. I love anything that puts a new twist on the zombie genre. Plus this was Canadian! hooray!

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  4. Simon: She's okay in the Matrix films, but nothing memorable in my opinion, and I like her in Memento. In Fido, however, she really stands out and plays cookie cutter 50's house wife perfectly, and she looked pretty hot too!

    Etsy: Thanks, and I am quite jealous that you got to see this in theaters, let alone go to Sundance! It is such a smartly humored movie that I think there is a lot to find laugh wise in future viewings.

    Angie: Yes, Canada produces the funny as good, if not better than anywhere else. Kids in the Hall would be argument number one for that fact!

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  5. Matt this is one of those that I used to see on the shelf and just keep going. Seemed kinda goofy but not in a good way. Matrix or not, I'm not a Moss fan so that put it in the hole with two strikes already. Now your review might soften my stance on it, being that I know a little more about it. Nice review as always!

    Word verification: Mingymen Sounds like a new Adult Swim joint.

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  6. Thanks! You should give this one a shot, Geof. It's incredibly smart, and in many ways it can be compared to early Romero ala Dawn of the Dead. Not near the classic that Dawn is, but it stands on its own two and takes a different approach to a tired genre.

    And Moss is almost unrecognizable in the role, and there may even be the slight chance that she could win you over I think.

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  7. Great review and I completely agree here Matt, this is a modern classic that will find its way to a larger audience in the coming years. So smartly arranged and just an overall blast to watch!

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  8. I'll admit, I've fronted on this one too. But you make it sound like a diamond in the rough so I must make time to see it, especially with all the layers it promises.

    Great write-up!

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  9. Carl: Thanks man, and I hope that's the case, Carl. Fido is certainly deserving of a much bigger audience. It's funny and smart, but never feels like it's trying too hard to be either.

    Ashlee: Thanks! You would enjoy it I think, and it's on instant watch too, so it's easy on the pockets!

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  10. I put off watching Fido forever. Then when I finally did see it, wondered why I kept putting it off. Silly me to avoid such a smart, funny film.

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  11. Yeah, I heard a lot of great things about it, but was still weary, or needed to be in the right mood. Turns out to be good enough to not require any certain mood, and I am happy that I finally watched it. I hope more people give it a shot.

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