Movies From the Black Lagoon: Fido
Movies From the Black Lagoon
Fido - 2006, Rated R
Zombie movies are a dime a dozen these days so it was refreshing to finally scope out this effort which turns the genre on its head by setting its story in the 1950's and adding liberal amounts of humor to tell the tale of a boy coming of age in a world still reeling from a war with the undead.
It begins with a newsreel that sets the stage by informing us that the country has recovered from a war with its own undead, who were reanimated by "space particles". Now people live in cities and communities that are surrounded by enormous fences, which keep the zombies outside and have forever solved the problem of illegal immigration. It's a brave new world where children are encouraged to pack handguns upon age 12 and marksmanship is covered in phys-ed class. Funerals are now a great expense (someone always has to profit from the misfortune of others) and most people, who can afford one, opt to have a separate casket prepared for their head so there's no chance that they'll need to be buried again. If one can't afford a funeral there's always the option of "going zombie" since those space particles are still around. The government has tapped into this option, as well, by teaming with "Zomcon" (a private company which has patented a shock collar to domesticate zombies effectively turning them into a cheap labor force). The result being that anyone who can't afford a proper burial must serve the government as cheap labor until they fall apart.
The story settles on a young boy named Timmy Robinson and he's finding life to be pretty challenging. He's tormented by bullies, ignored by his dad who'd rather play a few holes in his off hours than bond with his son, and he doesn't even have a pet. The latter problem gets remedied when mom breaks down and buys a zombie domestic. Turns out she's suffering from that age old "keeping up with the Jones'" syndrome and it rattles dad whose fear of zombies dates back to his having to shoot his own father when a heart attack made the man go zombie.
Timmy finds a friend in his undead servant and opts to name him Fido. Their relationship is sealed when Fido saves Timmy from an attack by his tormentors.
The happy time extends to mom who also comes to appreciate Fido as a friend but there's trouble brewing in paradise. Fido's collar goes on the fritz and he mauls a nosy neighbor, which leads to an uncontrolled zombie outbreak. His family fall sunder suspicion when their new neighbor, and Zomcon CEO, Mr. Bottoms begins to suspect that Fido has gone off his leash. It all leads to a tense showdown at Zomcon headquarters with Timmy out to rescue Fido and his father in hot pursuit. It's a good payoff that sees dad set aside his fears to protect his son while Mr. Bottoms gets a ruthless, yet appropriate comeuppance.
This one's a real treat and can be appreciated on many levels. I found that it is best appreciated as a mishmash of zombie films and the adventures of "Lassie". It's no coincidence that the son is named Timmy and there's even a scene where the mute Fido must convince mom to follow him to a spot where Timmy lies in peril. The 50's setting is well evoked through costumes and soft lighting and the whole enterprise benefits from a solid cast that includes Carrie-Anne Moss and Dylan Baker as the parents and a breakout turn by K'Sun Ray as young Timmy. Tim Blake Nelson also turns up as a neighbor whose affection for his zombie maid crosses some boundaries but the real scene-stealer is comedian Billy Connolly who resists the urge to play Fido as a shuffling doofus and manages to impart a dose of humanity to the walking dead.
Best Line: "Grandpa's fallen, and he's getting up."
Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: firstname.lastname@example.org.