TIFF Report: FIDO Review

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Fido is a charming addition to the ever increasing number of ways to put zombies on celluloid. While the phrase RomZomCom immediately comes to mind, here Canadian director Andrew Currie has made the first Douglas Sirk inspired zombie film. Not only does the film exude the faux-technicolor look from Todd Haynes "Far From Heaven" but also features a no-touch romance between a suburban housewife (Carrie-Anne Moss doing Jane Wyman as good as Jullianne Moore) and a hired gardener (Billy Connolly). The gardener in question here however just happens to be an undead "pet" purchased for the family from Zomcon, the gigantic corporation who domesticates zombies after the space dust starting the dead rising back from the grave. The great Zombie War of the 1940s was won and safe-zones, fenced in communities were established while the wild zombies roam free in the wilderness. Fido takes place in the in the 1950s which are, er, well, a gleefully subverted notion of that decades stereotypes: children are trained how to deliver head shots to their pets if their controlling collars (a Zomcon invention) get out of control.

Not surprisingly, Fido is also a boy-and-his-dog type of movie. Lassie and Spielberg's ET are referenced more than once. And yes, there is a scene where little Timmy runs through a green meadow with his zombie shambling afterwards. The comedy ranges from over-the-top to deadpan. Tim Blake Nelson keeps a sexy zombie mistress and dresses quite a bit like Hugh Hefner. And background details range from the youth squads for Zomcon that are a cross between the boyscouts and the Nazi SS to and guns being everywhere from schoolroom coat rack to rifle practice for recess, and in the white purses of the housewives. The zombie labour-force does not seem to do their service-industry jobs very well, but are docile enough to allow folks to read magazines while supervising them. Keeping up with the Joneses in this world is being the family on the block having the most zombie servants. Indeed, Fido does go for a fair bit of social commentary a la the George Romero films. While the satire is a bit lightweight, going more for belly laughs over deadly barbs, the inspired touch of contrasting the undead and the living in post 911 Patriot Act security paranoia and consumer conformity all filtered through a 1950s aesthetic is an original enough take for Fido to stand on its own.

The movie is handsomely shot as well. The suburban production design is every bit as good as Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands. The adult acting is top notch. When the WASP-ness of Greg Kinnear is not creepy enough, you have to go to Dylan Baker (Happiness) who turns the 50s dad stereotype on its head with a funeral fetish (the phrase "head coffin" is inspired) and a willingness to arm little Timmy well before the recommended age of 12. Baker steals every scene he is in. A very subdued Billy Connolly nails his Bub-like character by subtle expressions and body language, as he does not have a single line of dialogue in the film. The only real weakness of Fido is the child actors, none of which are particular stand-out, and K'Sun Ray, who plays Timmy is awkward in several scenes. If you like satirical nostalgia of Pleasantville dollopped with equal parts Dead Alive and Shaun of the Dead, Fido is a nice primer on the many avenues a zombie film can wander down. It is certainly a pleasant little surprise waiting for cult DVD status.

(Release Note: the producer of Fido in the Q&A following the TIFF Screening indicated that Lionsgate in the States, and TVA in Canada are releasing the film around March 2007).

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