Welcome to Zombieville U.S.A.

By Kevin de Vlaming

Shoot the brain and not the chest, head shots are the very best!”

So chants a chorus of schoolchildren merrily, as they go about their daily ‘outdoor training’–hands-on lessons in fending off zombie attacks. The scene is a sunny American school field, sometime in the ’50s. The image of the politically-correct nuclear family is on the rise, and everything perpetually gives off a false sense of wellness. Except, of course, for the flesh-hungry living dead.

“It’s structured like a boy-and-his-dog movie,” says Fido director Andrew Currie. “But on a deeper level there’s a socio-political satire about homeland security, like Bush wanting to add a massive fence extension to the Mexican border. On a broader level, it was meant to be about xenophobia.”

As could be deduced, Fido is not a regurgitation of Shaun of the Dead‘s zombie-flick satire. On the contrary, Fido presents a refreshing approach to those pasty brain-dead cannibals who seem to gravitate toward areas stocked with conveniently-located shotguns. In the world of Fido, gigantic fences protect the population-centres in the States from roaming hoards of wild undead. Within the cities, technology has been developed to domesticate the zombies. Electric collars suppress the desire for flesh and city zombies are kept as slaves, servants and pets.

Enter the Robinsons, a dysfunctional suburban family struggling to keep up appearances as a conformist, normal family. To keep up with the other families on the block, the Robinsons purchase their own pet zombie, much to the distaste of the undead-fearful dad Bill. In his film debut, K’Sun Ray plays Bill’s neglected son Timmy, and sells the role of an innocently objective youth who raises some uncomfortable questions perfectly.

Billy Connolly plays an uncharacteristically mute role as Timmy’s household zombie. His charm, however, still manages to shine through the blue-grey makeup and prosthetic signs of decay. Even as he gnaws an elderly lady’s arm off, Connolly as Fido is somehow cute and endearing.

“I’d seen his stand-up, and thought he was very funny,” says Currie. “He’s such a great physical actor, and can express so much with his eyes. He read the script and loved it, and was just a natural choice for the role.”

Connolly shows surprising on-screen chemistry with Carrie-Anne Moss, who plays Timmy’s mom Helen. The chemistry comes through in Helen’s budding affection for a post-mortem stiff who seems more capable of compassion than her husband. It’s surprising only because Helen passes her time subserviently cooking and baking treats for her husband, while Fido prefers growling gutturally at the sky. This depiction of something usually portrayed as ‘scary’ fitting in with the familiar and mundane is a device frequently employed throughout the film.

“It’s very much in the vein of something like Edward Scissorhands,” says Currie. “The violence in the film is really done with the intent of humor, rather than with the intent to actually frighten.”

Fido is what would happen if Lassie humped a monochromatic dog-corpse in Pleasantville, and the resulting Technicolor offspring replaced Reese Witherspoon’s character as a catalyst for social change. If this sounds intriguing, it’s because it is; this extremely witty film is not to be missed by zombie-lovers and fans of offbeat, quirky comedy alike.

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