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17 May, 2008

DVD Review: FIDO

Title: FIDO

Year of Release—Film: 2006


Year of Release—DVD: 2007

DVD Label: Lion’s Gate Home Entertainment





THE MOVIE

In the past 40 years since George Romero changed the world of Horror Films with NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, we’ve been treated to virtually every reanimated corpse—end of the world scenario possible, including the ZomCom (Zombie Comedy…). The best of these, 2004’s SHAUN OF THE DEAD, worked on multiple levels, combining truly first-class zombie action and gore with both a romantic comedy and a stoner buddy-pic. Now, Canadian director Andrew Currie brings us what might be the first Zombie coming-of-age tale, in FIDO.


Set in a bizarre world where life is locked in the 1950’s, Timmy Robinson is an average kid… picked on some, generally ignored by his parents, not too dissimilar from how many of us grew up. Until the day his mother purchases a domesticated zombie as a household servant.


That right, folks… thanks to the geniuses at ZomCon, you too can own your very own zombie slave. They don’t need to sleep, they don’t need to eat, and with their patented Domestication Collars in place, they’re as docile as kittens. At least, as long as the collars are activated, that is.
When the Robinson’s new zombie accidentally slips his electronic leash and eats the neighbor, it sets off a chain reaction that endangers the entire community of Willard; traumatizes Timmy’s death-obsessed father, who has a phobia of zombies; and leads his mother to question the meaning of her life.


Currie does a fairly convincing job selling the world as it is following the Zombie Wars, though the idea that the survivors of such a war would tolerate zombies in such close proximity is a little hard to accept. Still it works more often than not, thanks in large part to the excellent cast, led by Billy Connolly as Fido, the Robinson’s zombie. Carrie-Ann Moss, as Timmy’s mother, and Dylan Baker, as his father, are very well-cast, and do a splendid job with the material provided, which is at times very weak. In addition, Henry Czerny, as Mr. Bottoms, the Head of Security at ZomCon, turns in an excellent performance, with perhaps the best line in the film. (“I’d take Dee-Dee’s head off in a second if I had to.”)


While the premise is interesting, and what action there is is well done, far too much of the film is given over to long expository scenes where the family comes to terms with the realization that Fido’s not just some nameless monster; that there’s still a trace of his humanity left, and in one way or another, that humanity touches every member of the household.


While there are some humorous moments in the film, it’s hard for me to describe it as a Comedy; in fact, it really doesn’t lend itself to an easy categorization. Perhaps The Adventures of Lassie, as seen by Salvador Dali, would be the best way to describe it. Currie even spoofs this at one point, as Fido is sent running home to fetch help when Timmy is in trouble.


On the whole, while it is an entertaining movie, it’s not a particularly satisfying one. The ending is especially weak, with a contrived, cutesy tone that utterly fails the believability test.


THE DISC

Lion’s Gate Home Entertainment has yet to turn out a bad DVD release, and this one is no exception. A beautiful anamorphic widescreen print, crystal clear sound, subtitles… Lion’s Gate always gives you the most bang for your buck.



THE SPECIAL FEATURES

For a low-budget indie film that is probably known to less than ten percent of Horror fandom, Lion’s Gate Home Entertainment has given this one the royal treatment, loading it full of special features. Most however, aren’t quite worth the effort.


There’s the obligatory making-of segment; interesting, but hardly necessary. This isn’t a film with a lot of “How’d they do that?” moments. There’s also an enjoyable montage of Connolly’s transformation into the zombie Fido, though once again, it adds very little to the package overall.
For this Unimonster, the special features didn’t alter my opinion of the DVD in either direction. It’s better to have them there than to not, I suppose… there’s just nothing that grabs the viewer’s attention and adds value to the purchase.



IN CONCLUSION

I always applaud filmmakers pushing Horror in new directions, testing the boundaries of the genre. However, as with all such endeavors, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. With FIDO, it does work more often than not… barely. The premise, even in terms of Horror Films, is wildly implausible; the humor, what there is of it, is forced; and the lack of action, suspense, and horror kill it in the end.


I have seen comments on some of the boards that this movie was funnier than SHAUN OF THE DEAD. All I can say in reply is that I must have seen a different movie. Contrary to what other reviewers, and the producers themselves, might try to tell you, this isn’t a comedy. My problem with it is, I’m not quite sure what it is. And I doubt the filmmakers really know either. It’s not a bad movie; in fact, it’s occasionally very good. But for me to recommend a buy, ‘occasionally very good…’ just isn’t good enough.


But if weird, quirky, offbeat films are your cup of tea, then I would suggest you do what I did, and go the BlockBuster Bargain Bin route. When I’m paying a grand total of $21.40 (including tax…) for four recently released DVD’s, a movie has to be incredibly bad for me to feel like I’m being ripped off. Don’t get me wrong, it has happened… can we all say SNAKES ON A PLANE? Still, it’s a lot easier to shrug off $5.35 than $20.For most, though, I recommend renting it. It’s just unusual enough that a lot of viewers will be turned off by it. Find out if you’re in that group before you lay out any more of your hard-earned cash than necessary.










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