Thursday, September 27, 2007


Directed by Andrew Currie, 2006

Yes, yes, I know this opened in Canada a year ago or more. As you Canadian zombie enthusiasts of my acquaintance dressed for premieres and traded excited reviews, I watched jealously and awaited the day Fido would arrive in a nearby theater or mailbox.

Sundance beat Netflix, as it turns out, and I got to watch it in a clean new theater while noshing on pomegranate gummy pandas and Perrier. Hands down, Sundance was the nicest location from which I have ever watched a zombie film. It suited the movie — both Sundance Cinemas and Fido hide a typically grubby subject under a relentlessly clean and upbeat facade.

Fido presupposes a clean-scrubbed 1950s small town built on the back of post-war industry. The war was against zombies, and the industry is ZomCon. ZomCon's perimeter fences permit an idyllic lifestyle safe from the zombie wastelands. Their collars suppress flesh-eating instincts so zombies can be set to menial labor. And their military controls law and media. It's 1984 in 1954.

Billy Connolly (who isn't exactly restrained, but stuck without dialogue nevertheless seems underused) is the eponymous Fido, a zombie house servant to the socially self-conscious Robinsons. He slowly supercedes the head of the household, standing in passively but admirably as husband and father. Interspersed with the lukewarm lessons on family, of course, are occasional zombie rampages that bring ZomCon's attention to the Robinsons. This rare violence is gently comic. The movie wants to inspire laughter, not nausea.

The squeaky-clean setting is the movie's running gag and greatest strength. In a culture that emphasizes respect for one's elders, obedience, and etiquette above all else, a general mistrust of the elderly (who could die at any moment and come back as zombies) is pretty effective. In this world only the elite can afford funerals to ensure they don't return as docile undead laborers. I love the details that went into demonstrating this economic structure. It's one of the most thoughtful post-zombie societies I've seen in any movie.

It's a rare zombie movie that doesn't require suspension of disbelief. Even the best of them-- Dawn of the Dead, for example-- get to the part with the pie fight, you know? Enjoying Fido demands that you make peace with a hefty dose of senselessness. Do not ask why a healthy eleven-year-old cannot climb a fence. Do not question the wonky zombie collar. Events are frequently more improbable than the setting. But because it's such a stylized setting, these improbabilities rank closer to charming than irritating.

Oh, and Carrie-Anne Moss is absolutely radiant.

Contribution to the zombie canon: Fido is a pleasant continuation of the zombie romantic comedy (zomromcom) subgenre made famous by Shaun of the Dead, and it calls to mind that and other cinematic predecessors. The idea of a fantasyland fenced away from zombies was done very well in Land of the Dead, whose denizens also allowed authoritarian abuse in order to maintain an illusion of safety. Setting zombies to work was raised in Shaun of the Dead. And during an invasion of wild zombies, the mindless flood reminded me of some of Romero's notable zombie swarms, particularly Day of the Dead-- though, sadly, without the costumes that made those so funny and disturbing. And zombie-human love has popped up in several movies, most notably Zombie Honeymoon.

Favorite moment: "Helen! Propriety."

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