Sometimes, things just work out. This weekend, 28 Weeks Later, the more-than-likely ill-conceived sequel to Danny Boyle's brilliant 28 Days Later, opens and is sure to deliver a screen-load of zombie cliches and studio-produced drivel. Looking at the trailer, I couldn't help but feel that 28 Weeks Later could potentially kill the new zombie-movie renaissance which was ignited by Boyle's film, Edgar Wright's Shaun of the Dead, Zack Snyder's remake of George Romero's Dawn of the Dead, and Romero's own Land of the Dead. So, amidst these depressions, it was a pleasure to quite unexpectedly run across a little Canadian zombie film called Fido.
Fido is the story of a relatively quiet, idyllic mid-west 1950's American suburb. This is classic white picket-fence America. The twist? WWII never happened; instead, there were the zombie wars. Apparently, a zombie holocaust swept across the world, tearing families apart and pushing humanity to the brink of extinction until ZomCon, a company led by one Dr. Geiger, developed a collar that could be put on zombies that would repress their more nasty, flesh-eating impulses. Now, in an act of deliriously capitalistic optimism, these "tamed" zombies have become prestigious commodities. If you can afford one, you can purchase zombies and have them cut your lawn, walk your dog or even, if you swing that way, even use them as kinky sex toys.
Like David Lynch's Blue Velvet, Fido deliberately sets up the juxtaposition of idyllic suburbia with the creeping, ever-present possibility of violence and death. While Blue Velvet violently and without warning plunges its characters into dark and deep waters, the characters of Fido live quite comfortably in the middle of a sea of death. The undead have been domesticated... sort of. Zombie violence routinely erupts in this little town and, tragically, friends and neighbors are routinely eaten. Part of the film's brilliance is the playful nihilism that runs throughout it. People are killed and eaten matter-of-factly, drawing little more than looks and comments of annoyance from other characters. School boys are nonchalantly massacred; the elderly are casually ripped apart. It's all a part of everyday post-zombie war life. In the midst of the just-barely controlled violence, though, classic '50's sensibilities still reign. Sex isn't talked about; couples sleep in separate beds; women diligently obey their husbands. It's this delirious combination of polite sensibility and gratuitous violence that makes Fido such a fun movie.
If Fido is trying to make a point or to comment upon society (a la Romero's Dawn of the Dead), it isn't very obvious about it. Beyond the very rudimentary"zombies are a metaphor for repressed human urges / for the ills of society made manifest" subtext that runs through almost every decent zombie movie, Fido refrains from saying much. This may be a flaw and may ultimately mean that the movie isn't as endearing as other zombie films. It's charm, however, is its simplicity. Several familiar zombie tropes and conventions are at work here but none of them feel forced or awkward; many of them feel fresh and innovative. What Fido really feels like is a short story, like a interesting idea developed as far as it can be developed, which isn't really a criticism so much as it is merely an observation. Fido isn't a grand comment upon humanity like Boyle's 28 Days Later or Romero's Dawn of the Dead, but it is as fun and as silly and as hilarious as Wright's Shaun of the Dead.
Fido is a refreshing take on the zombie sub-genre and anyone even remotely amused by zombies should find a way to see this film. While it may not have the gore or the violence that most people expect from a zombie film (it's quite tame by zombie-movie standards), its wit and its humour make it remarkably entertaining. While 28 Weeks Later will destroy Fido at the box office, Fido holds its own as a clever little flick that is sure to become a cult favourite in its own right.