Fido

Fido is a fun zombie comedy with a bit more going on underneath the surface than you might expect. It opens with an educational film at an elementary school in what feels like the 1950s, which establishes most of the background. Zombies follow the usual rules, eating the living (and turning them to zombies), and can only be killed in the head. But in this variant, a company called ZomCon has invented a collar that controls zombies, and so they are turned into servants for those who can afford them.

Timmy Robinson is in that class, and he’s not a big fan of ZomCon. Neither is his father Bill (Dylan Baker), who is afraid of zombies, and of life in general. But his mother Helen (Carrie-Anne Moss) really wants a zombie to keep up with the neighbors, so she gets one. He (almost all of the zombie servants seem to be men, with one slightly icky exception) is eventually named Fido by Timmy, and he is played by an unrecognizable (to me anyway) Billy Connolly. The other key characters are Mr. Bottoms (Henry Czerny), the new ZomCon executive who just moved to town, and Mr. Theopolis (Tim Blake Nelson), the next door neighbor.

The film can be compared to “Leave It to Beaver,” a variety of 1950’s movies, and Pleasantville. It’s perhaps most similar to that last one since it’s a big twist on the 1950’s that we know. I found it quite entertaining, especially early and late (it dragged a bit in the middle), and I was very impressed by Connolly’s performance as a high-functioning zombie. And I also liked the social commentary on the politics of fear as well as undocumented workers.

I saw the film at the Camera Cinema Club in Campbell, CA. Director Andrew Currie was there to answer questions. Here are a few things I wrote down (there are some minor spoilers here):

  • The first draft of the script was written in 1994, which is way before Shaun of the Dead
  • ZomCon builds fear to justify its existence, like today’s government
  • The heart of the movie is what it means to be alive, with the father as the counterpoint (all fear and no feelings) – despite technically being dead, Fido is more alive
  • Casting: the director wanted someone for Fido who could convey feelings well without a voice, and Connolly’s work in Mrs. Brown demonstrated that – Tim Blake Nelson’s part was written with him in mind
  • The film was made in British Columbia, in a sunny area known for wine
  • The songs really are from the 1950s, but relatively unknown ones were intentionally chosen
  • The film got some funding in 1996, but creative differences slowed it down
  • “Peyton Place,” some Douglas Sirk films, and The Night of the Hunter were inspirations
  • The director didn’t want to show a lot of gore, so he used silhouettes
  • When looking at color, the director chose to never have all 3 primaries in the same frame
  • The score was recorded in Prague with 40-50 musicians
  • The script originally included flashbacks to Fido’s (pre-zombie) life
  • The film had a bigger budget than the director was used to, so he created detailed drawings, and also Photoshopped 1950s pictures with zombie faces inserted

Spoiler alert! Skip this paragraph! Carrie Ann Moss was in fact pregnant, and the script was rewritten for that.

I give it a strong 3 stars out of 4 stars.

Seen 4/15/2007.

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