Fido

Fido (2006): Canada – directed by Andrew Currie

Rated R by the MPAA – contains violence, most of it zombie-related

Fido is a pleasant zombie film, one of the most peaceful ones in recent memory.  There is little frantic scurrying around to escape zombie teeth and no one freaks out when their first shot hits a zombie in the chest instead of the head.  This is because Fido exists in an alternate history, one where the zombie apocalypse has come and gone.  The humans have won, and zombies are now slaves.

The setting feels like mid-1950’s suburbia.  A visionary scientist has crafted a collar that allows zombies to exist and serve humans; their appetites dulled, they are still receptive to a small amount of corrective training.  This has led to the existence of a lower class, the zombies.  They are for sale, and the more affluent citizens sometimes have several of them in the house.  They serve as butlers, maids, “friends,” and crossing guards.

The memories of the zombie war are not far gone, however, particularly for Bill Robinson (Dylan Baker).  Tragic occurrences made him fear zombies, and as a result he, his wife Helen (Carrie-Anne Moss) and son Timmy (K’Sun Ray) live without any zombie servants.  This is disgraceful for Helen, who is ashamed at their apparent poverty.  Much of their income is spent on expensive funerals, granted to ensure that those who don’t wish to come back as zombies are properly disposed, heads separated from bodies.

While Helen is ashamed that the family has no zombie, Timmy is worried with problems of zombie logistics (how far under were dead people buried before the zombie war, and can they come back?) and ethics.  But then Mr. Bottoms (Henry Czerny) moves in next door.  He is a decorated war hero and head of security for Zomcon, the local zombie paraphernalia manufacturer, and is somewhat distrustful of those without zombies.

Naturally, Helen decides to buy herself a zombie one day, whom Timmy names Fido (Billy Connolly).  Timmy soon befriends Fido, as his dad won’t spare any time to play catch.  Things go slightly awry when Fido eats a neighbor and a new zombie outbreak threatens the safety of the Robinson family and the entire neighborhood.

Fido’s charm lies in how seriously it takes its primary concept.  This is a serious world the Robinson’s inhabit, filled with necessary precautions of the dangers of un-collared zombies.  There are PSA’s in the style of Cold War nuclear warnings.  And, just like in the 1950’s Cold War United States, many people were eager to escape from reality.  Helen and Bill are prime examples, doing everything they can to act like the world couldn’t be turned upside down by as little as one zombie escape.

Fido fills the hole in their lives.  Timmy learns what it can be like to have a father figure who spends time with him, teaches him to play catch and listens to him.  Bill is a lousy father and husband, and even Helen is swayed by the odd charms Fido casts on the household.  In many ways, Fido is more similar to a real person than Helen or Bill.  However, as Fido slowly steals the hearts of Helen and Timmy her outlook changes and she learns to confront some of the disastrous areas of her life.

The world of the Robinson’s and Fido is a colorful one, with fully saturated grass and skies.  The zombie slaves, however, are dull and gray no matter the weather.  The film looks very pretty much of the time, almost like David Lynch’s perfect suburbs pre-ear in Blue Velvet.  For those afraid that the plot description lacks the necessary zombie chops and chomps, never fear.  There are a good number of zombie attacks, though nothing as gruesome as the Living Dead films (or any other zombie movie, for that matter).  But in spite of the lack of viscera there is a fair amount of blood and chomping, and little children aren’t even immune.

This is part of Fido’s problem, too.  It is almost too pleasant to be taken seriously as a zombie movie, and when madness breaks loose towards the end there is a severe and jarring change in mood.  The acting and the script conspire to not quite solidify the setting as they are occasionally uneven.  But there are enough interesting themes in Fido, both familial and cultural, to keep it interesting for anyone with a love of zombie films.

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