Monday, October 19, 2009

12 Days: Fido (2006)

This is what would happen if Bub (Day of the Dead) continued to evolve and then got sent back in time to the 50s. Radiation from space (where else?) has contaminated the entire planet Earth, causing anyone that dies, post contamination, to turn into a zombie. This leads to world war, as depicted in an amusing send up of old news reels. Eventually, the humans win out when they learn the secret to taking out the zombies ("get 'em in the brain"). Unfortunately, the radiation lingers so new zombies are popping up all the time. In steps Zomcom, a corporation that constructs collars that attach to the zombies and curb their desire for human flesh. It makes them placid, able to be controlled. They also construct walls around the cities and towns, dumping "bad" zombies and, perhaps, "bad" non-zombies as well into what's known as the "wild zone".

Against this backdrop is set a sweet "boy and his dog" story involving a boy and his zombie. Little Timmy (K'Sun Ray) lives with his Mom, Helen (Carrie Ann Moss) and his Dad, Bill (Dylan Baker). Owning a zombie on their particular block becomes a sort of status symbol. Their wacky neighbor Mr. Theopolis (Tim Blake Nelson) even has a zombie called Tammy. He doesn't really use her for chores though, she's more of a wife type. We don't want to know what they do behind closed doors. Anyway, being concerned with what others think is a common trait amongst 50s housewives, so Helen goes ahead and orders the family a zombie without telling her husband who, it turns out, is zombie-phobic. This might lead to some problems.

Not for Timmy though. The two of them bond almost immediately. Well, after his zombie defends him from a couple of schoolyard bullies, they do. Timmy decides his zombie needs a people name. What about Fido? Later, Fido wanders off, his collar malfunctions, and he chomps into old lady Henderson. She becomes a zombie and Timmy is forced to kill her, but thankfully Fido's collar is working again.

While at school, Timmy meets a cool girl whose Dad (Henry Czerny) is the new security chief at ZomCom. Also, he was a hero of the zombie wars. Also, he's sort of a slimy son of a bitch who will do anything to protect his corporation, including throwing Timmy and family into the "wild zone." Yes, this is a zombie movie, but Czerny is the villain of this picture.

Basically, what we got here is a kid's picture which happens to have some gore. The relationship between Timmy and Fido is something we've seen before; Timmy and Lassie, Hogarth and Vin Diesel, Victor and Frankenweenie, etc. There are scenes where Timmy is in trouble and Fido goes to Helen for help that are ripped right from the annals of Lassie ("Is Timmy in trouble? Where is he boy?"). Sure, Timmy takes off Mrs. Henderson's head with a shovel and yes, the violence is treated lightly. Several people die during this one. Some of them come back. Others have their head separated from their bodies so they can't come back (per their dying wishes). I'm saying this is a kid's movie but I'm also suggesting maybe watch it with your kids.

Eventually, Fido gets recalled to Zomcom where he's going to be terminated, but Timmy learns from Czerny's daughter that he's just been enslaved. A rescue attempt follows involving Mr. Theopolis, Tammy, Mom, and, yes, even Dad comes around.

This one's a lot of fun. We got some sunny 50s type atmosphere on the surface. Some 50s radiation cloud and zombie atmosphere underneath. The performances are all note perfect, especially Carrie Ann Moss and Dylan Baker. Baker, in particular, is good at playing a man who projects satisfaction while beneath it all he's crumbling (also, see Happiness). He's the kind of man who can't really communicate with his son, would rather ignore him, but shows a little bit of tenderness in the scene where he presents him with a gift ("Now, I know you're not supposed to have a hand gun until you're twelve, but it can come in real handy").

Of course, I can't talk about Fido without mentioning Billy Connolly's performance. Completely believable, sweet, funny, etc. He's more than just a dog. The family grows to love him, well....still not sure about Dad. This picture is more optimistic than your typical zombie shit. More than anything, it's a love letter to George Romero and the glimmer of hope he provided via the character of Bub in Day of the Dead. If a zombie can find enjoyment in something simple, other than the devouring of flesh, then it's hard to argue they've lost all their humanity. Fido is an affirmation of that. Except they had to go and name him after a fucking dog.

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