October 18, 2007

DVD Review: Fido

Zombies have been a horror standard ever since George A. Romero gave a new definition to the genre with 1968's Night of the Living Dead. While there have been good, sometimes great, zombie films since then few are able to match what Romero was able to achieve. In the near forty years since we have had zombies in a mall, zombies in the forest, zombies in the city, we have even gotten zombies on a plane. In my experience, which is a small sampling of zombie flicks, before Fido I do not believe we have ever had a zombie movie quite like this. Fido is a movie that is pretty easy to describe but it is impossible to convey just how well it works without actually showing the movie. Simply put, Fido is a truly original zombie film that deserves a place in the upper echelon of zombie filmography.

Picture this, rather than the Allied Powers versus the Axis Powers in World War II picture a worldwide epidemic of the dead coming back to life. Some sort of radioactive space dust descends upon the world resurrecting the dead. The resurrected immediately turned their attentions towards the nearest living person and proceeded to chow down. This was the dawn of the Zombie War. In the 1940s the world banded together, and with the scientific know-how of Dr. Geiger, were able to repel the zombie menace.

Sounds like a good movie, right? Well, that is just some of the set-up for this world.

Fido picks up with life in the 1950's. Following the war a company called Zomcon rose to prominence with their method of zombie domestication that employs a brain munching defeating collar (complete with electric shock capability). In the wake of the war, zombies are being used to fill jobs, delivering papers and milk, walking dogs, and being a cheap workforce for the general populace.

At its heart, Fido is the story of a boy and his dog. Or course, instead of a dog our boy has a zombie. Take the look of Pleasantville, the relationships of Lassie, the modern zombie feel of Shaun of the Dead, and mix in a little Edward Scissorhands-era Tim Burton and you get an idea of all of the positive things that this has going for it.

Anyway, the Robinson family is made up of young Timmy (K'Sun Ray), a picked on youth who only wants a friend, his father Bill (Dylan Baker), an emotionally distant fellow with a funeral fetish, and Helen (Carrie-Anne Moss), always dressed in perfect 50's fashion ala Leave it to Beaver. It is a sadly distant family dynamic that needs a little shakeup. The change comes in the form of Fido, the family zombie. Due to Bill's fear, they are the last family to get a zombie of their own. As soon as they take the plunge, the family begins to change. Timmy smiles more with a friend, Helen loosens up a bit, and Bill realizes his distance from his wife and son.

Timmy becomes fast friends with the new zombie, dubbing him Fido. However, and you all see this coming, Fido's collar malfunctions and before he can get it fixed, Fido has taken a bite out of an elderly neighbor lady unleashing a new uncontrolled zombie menace moves through the town.

And then... Nope, not going to share anymore. I fear I have gone too far already.

Fido is a delightful movie that has a very sweet undercurrent to a healthy dose of black humor regarding how this society functions. It has a slick look that is very much like watching an old sitcom. The humor is not uproarious, but is sure to put a smile on your face and a chuckle in your heart.

The way Fido subverts old sitcoms and the zombie horror is really quite clever. The world that is created feels completely authentic. The opening "newsreel" so perfectly sets up what this world is, I never feel the need to question it. Then there are the performances that completely sell all that happens.

K'Sun Ray stars as Timmy and the youngster does a fine job as, essentially, the person through whose eyes you see everything else. The strength lies in the supporting performances. Carrie-Anne Moss displays some nice comic timing as she is cast against type. Dylan Baker delivers some priceless expressions and has the perfect look for the role. However, it has to be Billy Connolly as the titular zombie that brings everything together. His body language and facial expressions are priceless. Just watch him as he affects all around him while never saying a word.

Audio/Video. The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and sounds quite good. It does a fine job of presnting the whimsical sound design. Video is 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and looks very nice, sharp colors and no hint of video noise.

Extras. This disk has a decent selection of bonus material.

  • Commentary. Track features Director Andrew Currie, Producer Mary-Anne Waterhouse, and Carrie-Anne Moss. The track is very good, there are no dead spots and there is plenty of anecdotes and info about the shooting of scenes and how different elements came to be.
  • Fido Family Portraits. This section is comprised of a conceptual art gallery comparing the artwork to the final sets (3:46), Billy Connolly's Transformation shows the application of the zombie make up through a series of stills (3:17), and Fido's Storybook which tells the story through animated artwork (4:22). All three of these are nice inclusions, particularly the narrated storybook.
  • Making of Fido. This includes interviews with the primaries and includes some behind the scenes footage, but it is essentially a fluffy EPK. (4:42)
  • Blooper Reel. Your standard collection of set crack ups, flubbed lines, and other goofs. (1.57)
  • Select Scene Commentary with Don MacDonald.
  • Deleted Scenes. These can be viewed with optional commentary from Andrew Currie. Unfortunately, there is no "Play All" function. Alternate Opening Credits (:29), Woman Behind the Wheel (1:57), Chewing the Fat (1:05), Like Father Like Son (1:01), After Her (:26), Hiding Out (11:08). I liked the alternate credits, the other scenes are pretty good too, but are probably best left out of the film.
  • Theatrical Trailer. This is a good trailer, beginning with the classic class presentation. (1:49)

Bottomline. What a fun movie. It wasn't quite what I expected, but it still delivered a fresh zombie experience. From the nice cinematography to the mild humor to the fine performances Fido is a highly enjoyable movie. Sit back and enjoy.



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