Fido (US - DVD R1)
Gabe's new best friend plays fetch with severed limbs and intestinal tracks...
“Bill, just because your father tried to eat you, does that mean we all have to be unhappy… forever?”
Timmy Robinson (K'Sun Ray) is a social outcast living in the post Zombie War 1950s. One day Timmy’s mother Helen (Carrie-Anne Moss) purchases a tamed zombie, a social status symbol, against Timmy’s father’s (Dylan Baker) wishes. Timmy names his new friend, who is kept in check by a special radio collar, Fido (Billy Connolly). Timmy’s real father isn’t very attentive to his son’s needs, and the new pet/servant becomes Timmy’s surrogate father. Then, one sad day, Fido’s control collar malfunctions, and he accidentally eats the gossipy next-door neighbor. Will Timmy’s new best friend have to be put down, or can Timmy successfully hide the evidence?
Zombies and comedy are nothing new, and neither are zombies and politics. When George Romero created living dead flesheaters he used them as social metaphors, and his second stab at the genre was a dark comedy. Thirty years and hundreds of zombie movies later chubby Kiwi Peter Jackson made a gory goofball comedy called Braindead, followed by Edgar Wright’s feature debut Shaun of the Dead another decade later.
Shaun of the Dead was a critically and financially successful picture, but didn’t feature a whole lot of social or political commentary. Enter Fido, a Canadian production with socially conscious zombedy in mind. Rather than taking too many of its cues from Romero’s comic model, Fido treats comedy with a feather touch, and since Edgar Wright’s film had already spoofed the genre so impeccably, director and co-writer Andrew Currie doesn’t waste too much time reaffirming the obvious. Fido is a spoof of the classic ‘boy and his dog’ model made popular in the 1950s by the classic Lassie television series. By that model, Currie’s film also takes place in an alternate reality 1950s.
Fido uses the veneer of ‘50s suburbia as a smokescreen to comment on current politics - a clever ploy employed by successful satirists for centuries. The idealistic candy coloured glow of the pseudo-‘50s is also an aesthetically pleasing choice, and not a place the zombie genre has visited too many times before. There is heavy Romero homage throughout, of course, and to the Lassie and Timmy conventions (just look at the lead character's name) are thick, but the setting and themes are equally reminiscent of other lonely boy cultural throwbacks like E.T. and The Iron Giant. Fans of zombie films will enjoy the film, obviously, but this genuine sentiment and retro feel will probably suck in plenty of non-genre fans as well.
The zombies evidently represent minimum wage and immigrant workers (modern slavery), something Romero already covered in his latest leftist zombie crusade, Land of the Dead (according to various interviews conducted before Romero wrote Land, the dead were initially suppose to play the role of the homeless in his Day of the Dead follow up). It's not particularly clever or original, but Fido targets plenty of less obvious, and occasionally less pertinent satire too.
Everyone in Willard owns a gun, as is their second amendment right, but not one of them (save a little girl) can shoot worth a damn. Take that N.R.A.! Old people are not to be trusted, and are rounded up like the Japanese in the wake of Pearl Harbor. Social Security crisis: averted. Fido’s love brings out Helen’s inner Esther Hobart Morris, citizens are fenced into their own cities, and a single conglomerate owns the rights to the technology that keeps the zombies in check. This ribbing is all very light hearted, and all in good fun, so it’s likely that no one will take any heavy offense.
Occasionally the film tries a little too hard, and not every joke is a hit, but even the flat moments look fantastic, and the cast is nothing but standouts. K'Sun Ray is a skilled little actor who embodies the period without overplaying Timmy or acting too arch. Carrie-Anne Moss does her best June Cleaver spoof with real dimension, and a fully believable arc. Dylan Baker’s done this particular character before, so his performance isn’t any kind of revelation, but his easy to hate character is genuinely sympathetic. Stealing this show, not surprisingly, is comedian Billy Connolly as Fido, the only zombie in film history with a bigger heart than Day of the Dead’s Bub. And the guy doesn’t say a word the whole feature.
Director Andrew Currie emulates the Technicolor era, but blows it out in a sort of Tim Burton meets Walt Disney fashion, with a hint of John Waters. He also emulates the Cinemascope widescreen that had come about in the ‘50s to combat television. This DVD is bright, and the colours are wonderfully vibrant. Only certain yellows appear inaccurate. The black levels suffer the colour’s wrath, unfortunately, and are never quite ‘black’. The film’s many silhouette shots look about perfect, but detailed dark shots are a little dull. The off-black blacks also throb with noise in a handful of shots. Currie also shoots for a sort of dreamy atmosphere, which softens the edges a bit, but doesn’t dull details too much.
Fido has a fantastic soundtrack filled with spot on, feel good ‘50s television music. Composer Don MacDonald often does the obvious, but he always adds a twist of originality, and Currie chooses popular music items that haven’t been overused by similar films already. Sound effects often have an artificial quality, which goes nicely with the plasticized visual world. The 5.1 Dolby Digital track is clean and clear, with a nice depth of feel, but it’s not particularly aggressive. Stylistically the sound design is perfect, and the DVD gets the intended point across.
Director Andrew Currie, Producer Mary Anne Waterhouse and Actress Carrie-Anne Moss start the extras with a commentary track. All three participants are consistent and lively. In the absence of a solid making-of documentary this commentary is all we have to tell us the behind the scenes story, and our commentators don’t disappoint. Waterhouse is a good interviewer, and opens Moss up quite a bit, and Currie is great about explaining his methods and meanings without giving everything away. As a big jerk I was also amused by Waterhouse and Currie’s use of the Canadian ‘ou’ sound.
Composer Don MacDonald supplies a select scene commentary as well, which is informative, but very technical and a little dry. It’s too bad this wasn’t part of a music only track, as heard on some Tim Burton/Danny Elfman releases.
Six deleted scenes, each of which features a director commentary, are up next. These particular castaways are good scenes, but would’ve slowed the film’s breezy pace. One scene, where Timmy tries to get Fido out of the city before he’s terminated, goes on for quite a while, and pushes the ‘boy and his dog’ spoof to almost annoying extremes.
The making-of featurette is very brief (not even five minutes), and obviously meant as an EPK for sales. The commentary track is a much more valuable source of information. The three image galleries are all slide show based, with parts of the film’s score, and are reminiscent of a computer’s photo screen saver, except the third gallery, which is a shortened and narrated moving storybook version of the film. The disc is finished off with a blooper reel, a trailer, and trailers for other LionsGate releases.
If one were to stick the disc in their DVDROM they’d get to use the Zomcon 'Zombie Me' Creator. ‘Zombie Me’ is a cute little program that turns you into a zombie. Simply load a picture of yourself, select your eyes and mouth, and they select the amount of zombie damage you’d like done onto you. It actually works pretty well, here’s my first attempt, which took me a total of maybe 30 seconds to create:
There are a few choices for zomficionados this October. Those that want to be frightened should go with 28 Weeks Later. Those that hate themselves should go with Night of the Living Dead 3D. Everyone looking for a buoyant laugh and a little mild social commentary will want to catch Fido. It’s not a classic, but it’s a warm slice of suburban nostalgia, and a genre-crossing feature that will actually work for fans of various genres.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 23rd October 2007
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Extras: Director/Producer/Actor Commentary, Composer Select Commentary, Deleted Scenes, Bloopers, Making-Of, Trailers, Still Galleries, 'Zombie Me' DVDROM
Easter Egg: No
Director: Andrew Currie
Cast: Carrie-Anne Moss, Billy Connolly, Dylan Baker, K'Sun Ray, Tim Blake Nelson
Length: 92 minutes
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