All flesh-eaters, all the time

Oct 24, 2007 at 12:00 am


A zombie movie that takes place when George Romero was still going through puberty? Imagine the postwar 1950s, but instead of the Germans, our nation was busy defeating the zombies. Fido opens with a newsreel that explains how the undead were brainwashed into doing our menial chores thus freeing the Eisenhower era for more leisure time than instant cakes and TV dinners allowed. While that scenario seems copped from the last five minutes of Shaun of the Dead, don't hold it against the rest of Fido, which is probably the first "boy and his zombie" movie of its kind. The best reason this movie got made is the hilarious scene when Fido the zombie (played with an uncharacteristically silent and inarticulate Billy Connolly) goes to Timmy's mother to get help for her son. "What, Fido? Timmy's in trouble?" she exclaims like it's the last five minutes of every Lassie episode.

Like Pleasantville, the '50s here is strictly Ward and June Cleaver territory, smoldering with sexual repression coming from Timmy's mom (Carrie Anne Moss from the Matrix series) and dad (Dylan Baker, who'll probably be the go-to guy when casting directors say "we need a young William Macy" in years to come). Aping the era's "better dead than red" mentality, schoolchildren are taught to bear arms against the flesh-eaters and to sing songs like "In the brain and not the chest. Head shots are the very best." The entire cast plays it straight down the middle, adding extra bite to cheerfully warped dialogue like Timmy telling Fido "I knew you wouldn't eat me, boy!" As zombie movies go, you won't find one more fetching than Fido. —Serene Dominic

Night the Living Dead 3D

I know, I know, of all the movies that needn't have been remade, this one has even less of a reason to exist, what with the hundreds of zombie movies crashing through the walls and cupboards and chewing our ears off. But this one's in 3-D, you say? What starts out looking like it might be a frame-by-frame reconstruction like Gus Van Sant's Psycho is actually a clever melding of the 1968 Night of the Living Dead opening sequence being watched on a TV with modern establishing shots. Now see it in glorious red, white and blue 3-D!

Since no zombie movie can play it deadpan like the original did, this one comes up with a ridiculous premise ripped from today's headlines — a mortician who's let his work pile up — he hasn't buried the (un)dead and lets the situation get out of hand. (He's played with supreme sniveling by B-movie great Sid Haig.) And emphasizing that it's a modern retelling, Johnny and Barbara arrive to the cemetery in a Mini Cooper, Johnny gets attacked by the living deadheads first and instead of trying save his sister, he drives off and lets thoroughly modern Barbara handle the unhappy undead herself. And when the zombies come for Barbara in the cemetery, they actually text message her!

How does she escape? The old fashioned way — by tearing her skirt so she could run faster and show more leg for the rest of the movie. (The DVD comes bundled with four pair of 3-D glasses to insure you don't watch this admittedly unscary scary movie alone. Enjoyable, even though there's nothing here to indicate that this was purposefully made to be seen with added depth perception. So as 3-D entertainment, not as irritating as Robot Monster, not as accomplished as Jaws 3.) —Serene Dominic

Raiders of the Damned
Image Entertainment

Things to look forward to after World War III, a biochemical weapon that will turn Earth into a wasteland filled with cannibalistic zombies who'll maintain their taste buds and sexual urges, while "survivors" will be forced to live under a mountain. And if you tune in long enough, you'll see Johnny Depp's one-time 21 Jump Street co-star providing the only real spark in this listless D-list flick, courtesy of the Horror Channel. Weirdly enough, Richard Grieco plays a Johnny Depp-styled character — a nervous, effeminate, chain-smoking scientist who continually pets what seems like a dead tribble from the old Star Trek series and acts if he's auditioning for the role of next Bond villain. Too bad the military team sent to rescue two captured scientists didn't see a way of dragging Grieco on the mission. When he's not around to chew scenery and bitch his fellow scientists out, it's all too apparent that every explosion and bit of gunfire is cheap-looking animation, the hideous flesh rotting makeup looks like a combination of novelty store rubber masks and the nighttime cold cream that women over 40 wear to bed to ward off wrinkles. Wait, that is scary! —Serene Dominic

The Black Sheep
The Weinstein Company

Remember when horror moviemakers bent on emulating Hitchcock's The Birds got more and more absurd as they went up the food chain of potential predators and came up with nervous laugh-riots like the ribbet-ing Frogs and Food of the Gods, which featured scenes of actual-sized hamsters "attacking" miniature sets? This import from New Zealand mixes the comedic horror of Monty Python's "killer sheep" sketch with genuine gross-out sequences concerning the fetuses of genetically engineered sheep, courtesy of the Lord of the Rings special effects team.

Helping to raise the fear count is Henry, a grown man traumatized as a young boy when his brother Angus killed his pet sheep Dudley and taunted him with the dead carcass' skin. Now with a paralytic fear of everything from shearing equipment to down comforters, he returns to the farm as part of his therapy. But brother Angus has teamed with run-amuck scientists who manage to pull the wool over everyone's eyes with their genetic tampering. Before they're through, the sheep will go on several killing rampages, leaving the quiet farming town completely lamb-basted. Especially fun sequences abound: House cook Mrs. Mac gets attacked but still manages to get upset when her stove-top pot of haggis gets knocked over; an animal rights activist kills sheep in self-defense; and, in a cinematic first, fart jokes concerning sheep and the methane gas they emit which harm our environment! Those baaa-stards! —Serene Dominic