Fido

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Sundance Film Festival

PARK CITY -- In recent years, the 1950s as viewed and distorted in '50s movies has become a favorite target of contemporary filmmakers, most notably Todd Hayes' "Far From Heaven." So why not throw in zombies? After all, zombies were a staple of '50s horror movies. "Fido" is the cheerful horror/satire that results from this pleasantly twisted thinking.

It's about a boy and his pet Fido -- only Fido isn't a dog but rather a moldering corpse of an Undead male, rendered harmless by a collar manufactured by ZomCom. Isn't that the sweetest thing!

This Canadian film, when released by Lionsgate in mid-June, should reach out to bemused adult audience who enjoy wise-guy satires, so long as the marketing emphasizes that this movie is playing it for laughs not scares.

In an alternative '50s reality, Earth passes through a cloud of space dust that causes the dead to rise from the grave craving human flesh. The Zombie Wars put down this uprising -- you should excuse the expression -- and urban areas, here portrayed as a white, middle-class suburb, are cordoned off from the "wild zones" by security fences. Inside the fences, zombies domesticated by the patented ZomCom collar perform menial tasks for their owners.

Human relationships are made ever so delicate in a world in which a loved one can at the moment of dying turn into a flesh-eating ghoul. Thus, old people cannot be trusted, even a husband and wife maintain weapons for use against outside threats -- and each other -- and a major family expense is a layaway plan for funerals where heads are buried separately from bodies, this being "a funeral you can't come back from."

Trouble seems to find the Robinson household. Young Timmy (newcomer K'Sun Ray) has no friends but enough enemies that his dad Bill (Dylan Baker) views him as a security risk. His beautiful but ignored wife Helen (Carrie-Anne Moss) rebels against his wishes by bringing home a pacified zombie (Billy Connolly) to help with chores. She is embarrassed at being the only housewife on the block without her own zombie.

Timmy names the zombie Fido. The zombie rather likes the idea of having a name and a small playmate. But when Fido's collar malfunctions and he eats Mrs. Henderson across the street, trouble looms for the Robinsons. Especially now that the head of security for ZomCom, the overly macho Mr. Bottoms (Henry Czerny), has moved into the neighborhood.

The humor in Andrew Currie, Robert Chomiak and Dennis Heaton's script, which Currie directed, comes from its startling reversal of all rules of normalcy and conformity. Old people get arrested or shot. A pregnancy is greeted with a husband's plaintive cry, "I don't think I can afford another funeral." And the magazine of choice is not Life but Death.

The film also gets mileage out of the suggestion that some zombie owners find other ways to exploit the bodies of the Undead. For instance, Theopolis (Tim Blake Nelson) seems awfully pleased with his young and nubile zombie, domesticated only moments after her demise so she is hardly rotting at all. And because Bill seems more interested in golf than bedroom games, Helen wonders if Fido might not be a girl's best friend, too. This leads to such lines as "You crazy, wonderful zombie!" and "I wish I could have known you before you died."

For a one-joke movie, "Fido" does a fine job exploring every possible permutation of that joke. The actresses and young actors seem more in control of their characters than the older male actors, who deliver somewhat overblown performances. Sets, costumes, cinematography and score all ring delightfully true to the era under scrutiny.

FIDO
Lionsgate
TVA presents an Anagram Pictures production in association with Telefilm Canada
Credits:
Director: Andrew Currie
Screenwriters: Andrew Currie, Robert Chomiak, Dennis Heaton
Based on a story by: Dennis Heaton: Producers: Blake Corbet, Mary Anne Waterhouse
Executive producers: Peter Block, Jason Constantine, Patrick Cassavetti, Shelley Gillen, Daniel Iron
Director of photography: Jan Kiesser
Production designer: Rob Gray
Music: Don Macdonald
Co-producers: Trent Carlson, Kevin Eastwood
Costume designer: Mary E. McLeod
Editor: Roger Mattuissi
Cast:
Helen: Carrie-Anne Moss
Fido: Billy Connolly
Timmy: K'Sun Ray
Mr. Bottoms: Henry Czerny
Bill: Dylan Baker
Theopolis: Tim Blake Nelson
Running time -- 93 minutes
No MPAA rating
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