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Monday, 10 December 2012

Fido (2006 Andrew Currie)

Fido is a fantastically funny zombie comedy that is set in suburban America (or Canada, its a Canadian film) set in an alternate 50's in which the humans won the zombie wars and enslave zombies with domestication collars. I didn't expect comedy at all, Fido was not what I was expecting but I was pleasantly surprised.

The film opens with a news informmercial with footage not unlike Night of the Living Dead (1968 Romro) however it quickly deviates, educating the audience in the universe of the film in which radiation created zombies and the founder of omnipotent Zomcon Dr Geiger (which I hope is a reference to H R Giger) created domestication collar's to enslave them. The oversaturated colour palette and white picket fences of the setting immediately signify the American dream and the idealised suburban America that comes along with it. This is a strong theme throughout the film and has many signifiers including the typical atomic family.

The child of the atomic family is our main character, Timmy, a young "weird" boy, bullied by Zomcon cadets and shunned by his parents. As he travels home one of many funny subtle zombie situations occurs, its as simple as a zombie being a lollipop man with a "slow" sign.

Also evident is a subtext of slavery and racism, there is no attempt to hide it, Timmy's mother comes out with some brilliant lines such as "Now we're not the only ones on the street without one" which clearly show the ownership and possession of zombies and how they are a commodity, an accessory to signify wealth and status much like black slaves would have been in America in the 1800's.

The basic storyline of the film is about a typical 50's American atomic family complete with emotional repression and now a zombie! The father is specifically written as a slight antagonist, this leaves the real role of a father open. He is afraid of zombies, god forbid, and dislikes the new family slave/ pet who they chain in the garden. He openly shocks the zombie with a remote, for negative re-enforcement and for fun, his fear turns into anger in a classic display of male emotional repression. This is again apparent in the multiple times he says things like "why are we talking about this? I thought we didn't need to talk about this!". His treatment of his son is awful, funny and over the top, so when the Zomcon bullies attack Timmy again his pet zombie saves him and begins to fill the space of father for Timmy giving his "son" the game of catch he wanted. Well almost, he's not very good. It is at this point he gets a name, I think its extremely important for the audience to have a name for the zombie as it gives him an identity and the name Fido (much like a dogs name) removes element of horror from his character.

Another important factor in the audiences sympathy for Fido is that he remembers what he was before, at least a little. When his collar malfunctions Timmy takes him to Mr Theopolis an ex Zomcon scientist with a questionable relationship with his zombie Tammy, who fixes his collar thus quenching his hunger, this means he wont get taken away. When there Fido grabs a cigarette and shows that he sort of remembers how to smoke, this shows he isn't all gone, he isnt a complete monster.

The next big step for Fido is to win the mother of the family over to his side, again this doesn't take too much effort as the relationship between Timmy's mother and father isn't exactly loving and emotional, its barely even there. The father doesn't even notice his wife is pregnant and they clearly sleep in separate beds, and so when Fido shows emotion by smelling Timmy's mothers perfume she is naturally flattered, it is of course the animalistic part of humans that remain but perhaps thats a thought better left for Mr Theopolis. Timmy and his mothers support of Zombies and Fido is cemented when at a funeral, many of which Timmy's father frequents to his pleasure, Timmy's mother announces to him that when they die "Timmy and I are going Zombie". A simple line that shows the main protagonists are on the side of Fido and the audience should be too, funerals after all are only liked by the cruel and weird father and nobody wants to be on his side.

The emotional high point of the film is on the way, as Timmy and Fido are out playing he is captured by the Zomcon cadet bullies who plan to kill Fido and act as though they saved Timmy from Fido and caught the Zombie that ate Mrs Henderson and sparked a small outbreak. It inevitably goes wrong as one of the cadets shoots the other and Fido attacks the final bully. Fido cant untie Timmy, his fingers aren't dexterous enough so he goes to get Timmy's mother in a hilarious parallel to Lassie as his mother asks "Where is Timmy?" and after being lead the correct way remarks "You wonderful crazy wonderful zombie". This act of complete heroism is a little inrealistic for a classic zombie but what a hero it makes of Fido, if the audience aren't on his side by now they never will be. Fido is definitely on Timmy's mothers side, when her husband refuses to relax and dance with her she dances with Fido instead, establishing a personal, maybe romantic relationship with Fido and Timmy's mother.

This is followed by Fido being taken away for eating Mrs Henderson returning the families life to normal. Timmy's father attempts to fix the relationship with his son by giving him a gun, bfore the legal carrying age of 12 and in an emotionally stunted scene explains "You have to get over feelings. being alive is what counts". Timmy inevitably goes back to save his surrogate father Fido from a Zomcom factory with the help of Mr Theopolis. He is followed by his parents and all carnage ensues as a breakout occurs. The real antagonist of the film Mr Bottoms is a security man, a big wig in the Zomcon company and a Zombie war hero, the strong figure head style man of the 40's, a symbol of power and oppression, and he is there to stop Timmy rescuing Fido. For his disobedience Mr Bottom locks Timmy out of the fence that keeps everyone safe, and into the "wild zone" where zombies roam free. At this point the Timmys fathers want the same thing, his actual father has taken control he enlightening tells his wife "Im a good father, my father tried to eat me, I nevr tried to eat Timmy" and when she asks for the gun, as she has proven she is gun competent he says "no U want to, I am a good father". Teaming up with Fido he saves Timmy but Timmy's father and Mr Bottom die.

The film ends with Timmy's fathers funeral, his mother happily points out "its what he wanted" before settling into family life with Fido. Finally even Mr Bottom turns into a zombie which his daughter is "just calling him daddy", even the worst of fathers and the most strict of people can be nice once zombified.

Whilst Fido wasn't what I was expecting I thoroughly enjoyed it, the spoofing of traditional idealogical America with zombie inserts is genius and the performance Billy Connoly gives as Fido is inspiring. Fido is a different genre to most zombie films but the character development or at least the audience development from thinking of zombies as brainless slaves to characters and is a narrative I would love to emulate.

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