Shaun of the Dead taught us all that when there’s no more room in Hell, hilarity walks the Earth. As Shaun walked the sacred ground sewn by George Romero, the new Canadian movie Fido follows in Shaun’s example of mining the zombie genre for social commentary in concert with gross-out gags and belly-tickling laughs. From the twisted mind of filmmaker Andrew Currie comes an amalgamation of Romero zombies and classic Lassie, in a Leave it to Beaver setting that ensures a good time at the cinema.
In a newsreel at the beginning of the film, it’s explained that a radioactive space gas turned the dead into flesh-eating zombies, spawning the Zombie Wars, which ended when a brilliant scientist invented a collar that makes zombies docile. Now years later, there’s a zombie servant in every home; zombie gardeners tend the parks and a zombie brings you your morning milk and paper. All this wonderful bliss is brought to you by the people of Zomcom, a corporation that not only puts the zombies to work but keeps them out of what are essentially gated communities sealed off from the “Wild zone” where the zombies run free and collarless.
This is where the men are separated from the boys, or rather where the truly inspired are separated from the copycat artists. The vividness of Currie’s world is what sells the film, despite the fact that it’s a heightened alternate reality, there’s a certain kind of truth to it; it feels real that is to say. The zombies as domestics theme resonates in this topical age of illegal immigration and the backwards momentum of the rich and poor divide; some families have six zombies, others barely have one. Currie also wickedly turns dystopia into black comedy. Families don’t save for college anymore, they save for funerals. The elderly are treated with suspicion as if they were zombie sleeper cells lying in wait, ticking time bombs of flesh consumption. In school for PE, kids go outside to an ad hoc rifle range where they practice taking out the undead while reciting, “In the brain and not the chest. Head shots are the very best.”
The title of the film refers to the name given to the zombie bought by the Robinson family. Young Timmy (K’Sun Ray) bonds with the newly interned flesh-eater and gives him a name despite the oddness of giving your zombie a name. Fido (Billy Connolly) is an excellent friend to Timmy so long as his collar is functional, otherwise, he falls off the meat (eating) wagon and chomps down on grumpy old Mrs. Henderson or the rotten apple bullies that pick on Timmy. Carrie Anne Moss and Dylan Baker play “June” and “Ward” to Timmy’s “Beaver”; the mom is always concerned with status and appearance while the dad has a morbid though giddy fascination with funerals, especially the kind that buries heads separately.
Moss, Baker and Henry Czerny, who plays the “villain” Bottoms, are not typically what I’d consider comedic actors, but never doubt that they are seriously funny in this film. They all play their part so earnestly, so straight-faced, the movie works because they’re completely dedicated to the reality of the world made easy by zombies. This is not a gag and pratfall movie, but instead relies on bone dry wit and performance to sell the comedy. Connolly, the Scottish comedian known for his hyperactive delivery, would do the silent era proud with a performance that creates an endearing character through body language and facial expressions. Tim Blake Nelson also sneaks into the film as a kind of neighbourhood Glen Quagmire figure and he delivers the funny without shame or pity.
Do yourself a favour and seek out Fido because not only are you treating yourself to another great zom-com (that is zombie-comedy), you’re supporting Canadian film. With equal parts wit and inspiration, Currie delivers a one of kind Canadian comedy product that should be seen all over. With minimal blood and guts, Currie has created a zombie that should be as endearing as any other to the fans of that particular genre and even the ordinarily squeamish as well.