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Fido   (released 3/29/2007)
By Neil Norman

"A Zombie is a Boy's Best Friend"

          Fido is a hoot, pure and simple.  Aside from its inevitable comparison to Edgar Wright's Shaun of the Dead (they're both quirky Zombie comedies), this movie could be one of the most originally creative interpretations of the genre to come out in some time.  Andrew Currie directs from a script he co-wrote with anime scribe Robert Chomiak and writer Dennis Heaton (screenwriter and original story).   The story idea is simple, if high concept.  What would happen if flesh eating zombies could be controlled?  The answer results in an idyllic world in which zombies are kept on the straight and narrow by a "domestication collar."  The safe Zombies act as waiters, do yard-work, walk dogs, and deliver the milk and paper.  Some even perform other necessary duties that it is hard to find good people to do.  What could be better right?  Cheap labor.  No backtalk.  The help doesn't go around screaming "Brainnsss" all day.  A perfect world... or is it?

          Fido could best be classified as a Zombie flick but in my opinion it is more of a 50's satire.  The Technicolor look, impeccable Production Design, and Leave It to Beaver presentation of the talent really help to set the period.  Carrie-Anne Moss (The Matrix trilogy) is wonderful in the role of the under-appreciated mother Helen Robinson.  Dylan Baker (Happiness, Kinsey) plays the father Bill who is more interested in playing golf with his buddies and climbing the corporate ladder than spending time with his family.  Fido introduces K'Sun Ray, in his first feature role as the son Timmy Robinson.  He is more than adequate for his age.  The screen chemistry between him and Billy Connolly's Fido is one of the tightest pairings in the film.  Connolly is FANTASTIC in portraying the family Zombie.  He has no lines, but does such a great job with guttural grunts and groans and facial expressions that you almost forget to listen for that Scottish brogue.

          As Fido begins, we see an oldschool sci-fi style intro that sets up the world for us.  It seems earth was covered by a radioactive cloud that turned humans into Zombies after they died.  Thankfully, Dr Reinhold Geiger invented the domestication collar, which makes the walking dead do our bidding (as long as it is not malfunctioning and the red light is not turned on!).  ZomCon mega-corporation is formed to take care of any nasty surprises due to faulty equipment (and to throw malcontent humans outside the secure gates that separate civility from "The Wild")

          Helen, the June Cleaver-esque mother of the Robinson family can't stand the fact that hers is the only household on the street that doesn't own a zombie.  Her neglectful husband Bill is scared of them due to a frightful experience when he had to kill his own father after he "turned."  He is against zombies and won't have one in the house.  But when the Head of Security of the local ZomCon plant (where fettered zombies slave in a factory making the company money) moves in next door with, count 'em, SIX undead servants, Helen can restrain herself no more.  She buys a Zombie on the sly and tries to use her feminine wiles to convince her hubby to keep the cadaverous fellow.

          Timmy helps her in this endeavor when he befriends the Zombie after it protects him from some bullies and plays catch with him, something his own father won't do.  Bill begrudgingly accepts the new household pet/slave/butler, although he shocks him over and over through the collar using a remote control.  He also keeps the Zombie chained up in the backyard at night.

          Timmy names his Zombie Fido and they become best friends, even after Fido's collar malfunctions and he accidentally eats a next door neighbor.  Through this event we learn that Fido has free will!  He loves Timmy so much that he chooses not to eat him.

          The plot thickens when Helen announces that she is pregnant.  Bill freaks because he can't afford to pay for another funeral, which are more expensive than zombification and require a lifelong payment plan.

          Lots of conflict with zombies roaming around everywhere brings in the feds (ZomCon) and Fido is taken away.   Will Timmy be able to save him?  All hell pretty much breaks loose from this point and you will have to see the film to find out what happens.

          Fido asks a number of interesting philosophical questions. Is it right to force any being into unwilling service (even if they are undead) for commercial gain and ease of life?  I mean wouldn't Zombies rather be chewing peoples heads off and spilling blood instead of serving martinis and mowing the lawn?  The Zombies indentured servitude could definitely be analogized with the current Immigration issues or even the dark specter of Slavery without reaching too far.  The Corporate/Government cover-ups of Zombie outbreaks with the assurance that everything is just peachy-keen feels eerily familiar when juxtaposed against the issues of the current day.  You don't have to read into the subtext, but it is there.  If you aren't in the mood to think, you can take it at face value for the hilariously horrific romp that it is.  It is a true sign of filmmaking talent when you can cover both bases.

          Believe it or not, this film is being distributed in the US under a PG-13 rating.  There is a decent amount of gore and effects shots, but generally there are more guffaws than gruesomeness.  Kudos to the filmmakers for crafting a well rounded film (and for cleverly slipping hints of "unspeakable acts" past the censors. ;).  Fido is sure to find a crossover audience and will probably become a cult hit!

Neil Norman is a freelance writer and a graduate of the University of Central Florida. Neil also works on independent film productions.

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