Pleasantville with Zombies

Even here in La-La Land, not every movie gets a shot in the theaters, and sometimes the ones that do get a shot get just a few days. And yet, I’m surprised when a good one slips through the cracks.

I’d never even heard of Fido until we watched it last night on cable, and that’s a shame. It’s a sort of alternate-history movie (which we don’t get much of) where a Night of the Living Dead scenario occurs in the ‘20s, leading to the Zombie War. The Zombie Wars are ended when a scientist discovers their weakness (i.e., destroying the brain kills them) and also how to curb their fleshlust through a collar, allowing for their domestication.

The movie itself takes place in a recognizable version of the ’50s, where housewife Helen Robinson (Carrie-Anne Moss, in a role far scarier than The Matrix) lives on the edge of hysterical concern about appearing strange and keeping up with the Joneses. Frazzled husband Bill (Dylan Baker) is having trouble keeping up, what with the costs of funerals these days.

Seems that if you don’t want to come back as a zombie, you have to have a separate head casket from your body. With the various economic incentives, most people opt for coming back as a zombie, but Bill–having had to kill his own father who tried to eat him–is adamant on spending the family’s money on funerals. He hates zombies.

Helen, on the other hand, can barely conceal her shame, as they’re the only one on the block without a zombie! The Bottomses, who’ve just moved in, have six! And so, Helen runs out and buys a family zombie (Billy Connolly, barely recognizable without his goatee and brogue).

And this is just the set-up.

The Robinsons have a son, Timmy. (Of course, he’d have to be named Timmy.) Timmy (played by the unlikely-named K’Sun Ray) is a bit of an oddball, picked on by bullies, but friendly with the new Bottoms girl (Alexia Fast), who finds in the family zombie the father Bill isn’t. And also sort of the family dog.

Thus, the zombie is christened is “Fido”.

Ultimately, this movie works out to be both dark and cute, as it veers away from the borderline camp at the beginning of the movie, veers through a Lassie movie (if Lassie, you know, were a zombie and not a collie), and ends up in a strange Pleasantville-ish location where humans and zombies reach new levels of understanding.

There are some Cold War undertones, if you want to look for them. The father’s obsession with funerals neatly parallels the money spent on bomb shelters. And whether zombies are actually dead comes up a lot, with the Helen and Timmy deciding they’d rather be zombies than dead which reminded me of the old “Better Dead Than Red” saying.

But ultimately, this is just a fun, dark little movie–good for Halloween–and worth a watch.

A few bonus points: Henry Czerny as the ZomCon security chief; Tim Blake Nelson as a the necrophiliac neighbor; and tons of gorgeous classic cars, all polished to a shine.

Check it out!

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