(2006) Directed by Andrew Currie; Written by Andrew Currie, Robert Chomiak and Dennis Heaton; Starring: K’Sun Ray, Billy Connolly, Carrie-Anne Moss, Dylan Baker and Henry Czerny; Available on DVD.
“I know when you’re a kid, you feel things. A lot of…things. But you have to get over that.” – Bill Robinson (Dylan Baker)
Don’t get me wrong. I love zombie movies, but even the most die-hard enthusiast of the genre would probably concede the market’s become oversaturated over the past decade. With this in mind, it’s easy to get jaded by (ho-hum), yet another zombie flick, but Fido brings something new to the mix. While it won’t win any awards for gore, or the most carnage-filled scenes, it’s aiming for something a little more insidious. Director/co-writer Andrew Currie’s film is a clever satire, viewed through the lens of 1950s Americana. Under the guise of a simple, heartwarming tale of a boy and his zombie, Currie and co-writers Robert Chomiak and Dennis Heaton (who is also credited with the original story), skewer social conservatism, unswerving fealty to authority, and sexism.
In the black-and-white prologue, presented in the style of a vintage school film, we’re brought up to speed about the alternate-reality 1950s depicted in the film. After a space-borne pathogen caused the dead to rise, the nations of Earth banded together to prevent a worldwide zombie apocalypse. Thanks to special collars (which have an unfortunate tendency to malfunction) developed by the omnipresent Zomcon, the zombies’ desire for human flesh has been suppressed. Relegated to a sort of socially acceptable slavery, the zombies are used to perform menial tasks. Owning one, or several, has become a status symbol.
Elementary school student Timmy Robinson (K’Sun Ray, aka: Kesun Loder) isn’t so sure about this new paradigm. He’s the only one in his school who seems to question anything, not the least of which is: are the zombies alive or dead? Timmy’s mother Helen (Carrie-Anne Moss) maintains a picture-perfect home in the suburbs for his oblivious,* emotionally distant father Bill (Dylan Baker), who’s obsessed with arranging funerals for his family, and golfing with his buddies. Their life is thrown into turmoil when Helen, in her attempt to keep up with the neighbors, brings home a zombie servant. Zombie-phobic Bill is less than enthused about the new arrangement.
* Moss’ real-life pregnancy was written into the story, which only helps underscore Bill’s refusal to notice anything that occurs around him. When she finally reveals her condition to him, the only thing he can think to say is, “I just don’t think on my salary I can afford another funeral.”
The family zombie, whom Timmy names Fido, is played by Scottish comedian Billy Connolly (in a brilliant comic performance analogous to Peter Boyle in Young Frankenstein). Instead of dialogue, he relies on body language, groans and facial contortions to get his point across. One of the film’s ironies is that Fido pays more attention to Helen and Timmy, and displays more genuine emotion. In one key scene, when Bill can’t be bothered to dance with Helen, Fido assumes his place as her partner. In another scene, reminiscent of Lassie, Fido runs for help when Timmy is in danger.
Currie extends the zombie metaphor in various ways. In the Technicolor 50s apple pie society of Fido, it’s more important to be concerned about what others think and maintaining conformity above all else, than being an individual. Humans prevailed over the undead, but not without a cost. Amidst the idyllic setting, a cold war is raging. Society must remain ever-vigilant for the next batch of zombies, with citizens patrolling the streets.* In exchange for our new-found creature comforts, we’ve given up our freedom. The only cost is our identity. There’s little difference between the cold husbands, dutiful wives and their undead counterparts. The new norm is a death-obsessed society, living in fear, exemplified by Bill and the authoritarian Zomcon representative Mr. Bottoms (Henry Czerny). Instead of cowboys and Indians, Timmy’s bed sheets and curtains are decorated with soldiers and zombies.
* Currie modeled the Zombie Scouts after a combination of boy scouts and Hitler youth.
Fido strikes just the right comic tone, while retaining the integrity of the zombie films that precede it. The filmmakers insert liberal doses of social commentary, but keep it from getting heavy handed by subverting the darker elements under a kitschy luster. Like a clean shot to the brain, the film’s themes hit the intended target. If you can forgive my pun, Fido proves the zombie genre still has a lot of life left in it.