Tim Blake Nelson
Trivia Carrie-Anne Moss' mother, Barbara Moss, plays Helen Robinson's mom.
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29th Oct 07
Imagine that the events played out in Romero's original Night of the Living Dead are placed against a 1950's back-drop where, following a Zombie War, the walking dead have been tamed by a neck brace that curbs their carnivorous leanings and become domestic helps.
Young Timmy Robinson (K'Sun Ray) has never been convinced that the world is now a safer place and believes that a zombie outbreak is never far away. When his mum Helen (played by Carrie-Anne Moss) decides against her husband's wishes to buy a zombie to help out round the home, Timmy finds himself with a new friend, albeit one that's dead and likes to eat people.
Tim befriends the zombie help and nicknames him 'Fido'. Tim soon finds out that he was right to question whether the zombies are really under control when Fido's collar malfunctions and sets into motion another potential zombie outbreak.
For filmmakers, the art of mixing comedy with horror is a skill few have displayed with any measure of success. Director John Landis managed it with his lycanthrope flick An American Werewolf in London (1981) as did Peter Jackson with his early entries into the film world such as Bad Taste (1987), Meet the Feebles(1989) and more notably Braindead(1992). In fact the last time anyone matched both genres to a pleasing effect was Edgar Wright with his very engaging and repeat-viewing friendly Shaun of the Dead(2004). Since then the comedy/horror well has been barren with only the odd trickle of a giggle or shriek coming from the likes of the more recent Black Sheep(2006). Until now...
Meet Fido from writer/director Andrew Currie; a zombie flick that very rarely puts a decaying foot wrong when it comes to the laughs or pitching the odd dribble of gore. Playing out like the bastard child of Romero's original Night of the Living Dead(1968) and Gary Ross' 1998 Pleasantville Currie's movie is a delightful confection that on paper looks like it shouldn't work but plays out as one of the unexpected pleasures of this or any year. It begs the question that if the likes of the so-so Black Sheep can warrant a decent release then why not Fido?
Was it the movie's name? Fido hardly sells the concept does it? In a day and age when audiences have to be spoon-fed about the product on offer, it was likely that many shut the door thinking it was some silly dog flick. Or did the idea of another zombie movie that kept the moneymen from committing to a wider distribution? Romero's excellent Land of the Dead(2005) hardly had punters biting at the box office did it? Whatever the reason here's hoping that Fido picks up a deserved audience on the rental market and hooks that cult following it seems destined for.
The cast are pitch perfect never winking at the audience, instead playing the material straight and letting the gags breathe. Carrie-Anne Moss, as Timmy's mother Helen Robinson, proving that along with this and sensational support roles in Memento(2000) and more recently Snow Cake(2006), that she is more than just Neo's PVC-clad sidekick in The Matrix trilogy. Top honours go to Billy Connolly, whom whilst proving he can act up a storm in 1997's Mrs. Brown, tends to pretty much play to type. As the title character Mr. Connolly shows considerable restraint, reigning in his larger-than-life persona to considerable success. He is a joy to watch. Given that Connolly stepped in at the last minute to replace Peter Stormare, who left just shooting commenced to star in TV's Prison Break shows that given the right material there's no reason why he can't shine on the big screen more often. Dylan Baker as Timmy's zombie-phobic dad Bill and Tim Blake Nelson as their neighbour, the zombie loving Mr. Theopolis, also turn in solid support.
Drenched in a Douglas Sirk/Technicolour palette to match the 1950's back-drop, Fido is visually arresting. Filmed in the rather gorgeous and very green Okanagan valley, eastern British Columbia, Canada, the movie oozes colour. It helps too that the movie drags a number of impressive shots - check out that huge moon that accompanies part of the earlier action - this isn't just a comedy / horror. This baby is someone's labour of love and it shows that they cared too. With a meagre budget in the realm of 8-11 million dollars writer/director Currie's team have achieved a look that far outshines bigger budgeted fare.
The humour veers from situation based such as not knowing when an elderly person will cease to live and become one of the carnivorous un-dead, to the sneaky one-liner to the wonderful sight gigs - notice 'Life' magazine now entitled 'Death' and you don't necessarily have to be a fan of the zombie genre to get a rise out of the laughs on offer. With Todd Masters, the Emmy-award winning effects artist from 'Six Feet Under', responsible was for the zombies' look and other make-up effects, Fido plays as all-round polished entertainment and in this day and age of generic movie fodder it is pleasing to see something deliver the goods by twisting on a convention.