Fido is a fun little comedy that slipped under the radar when it came out back in 2006. I loved it when I finally saw it on DVD but haven’t seen it again in a few years and figured it was worth rewatching and reviewing. If you’re a fan of quirky zombie comedies à la Shaun of the Dead or love those 1950s parody films like The Iron Giant, then Fido is right up your alley. The film has heart, warmth, and an interesting discussion about the idea of containment and domesticity that transcends the rote story of a boy and his
The 1950s look very different after the Zombie War. When the war ended the corporation Zomcon created perimeter fences around all the towns and put special collars on the undead that made them docile; the perfect servants for America’s families. In the small town of Willard, Timmy Robinson (Kesun Loder) is an outcast whose father Bill (Dylan Baker) doesn’t spend enough time with him. When Timmy’s mother Helen (Carrie-Ann Moss) decides to get a zombie servant for the home, Timmy and the undead man, named Fido by Timmy, become fast friends.
There’s been several lampoons of 50s movies from the aforementioned Iron Giant (one of the best animated films in my opinion), Alien Trespass and The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra. Where Fido is different in the lengthy alternative history that’s created and revealed through an opening newsreel. We see the Zombie War and how Zomcon came in to separate each town with a fence, leaving the “Wild Zone” the lone area where zombies run free. Not only are zombies given domestic jobs like maids but they also deliver the milk and newspaper leaving me to wonder how the economy works there. I mean either everyone works at Zomcon or is some other type of field where deliveryman aren’t needed. Dying completely, complete with having one’s head separated from their body, is now the privilege of the wealthy. All of this sets up themes centered around containment and the family extending out to gender roles and the raising of children.
Screenwriters Robert Chomiak, Dennis Heaton and Andrew Currie (who directed the film) create a fairly comprehensive world here. Various fake television commercials play to show how old people are feared because of their ability to die and turn zombie (in this world anyone who dies turns into a zombie but being bitten by one can also turn you). Instead of the famous “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” the fake ad’s logo is “Grandpa’s fallen. And he’s getting up!” To avoid issue the elderly are simply shipped off to a “home” that once was a prison. Horror stories run rampant about homeowners with errant zombies like the Johnson’s whose zombie “ate those Christmas carolers.” If you can’t tell the script is incredibly quotable and hilarious. If it’s not making fun of zombies it’s poking fun at the 1950s and all the jokes land. The 1950s are also recreated via film techniques. The colors are bright and rich to mimic Technicolor but they aren’t garish as they could look in original films of the 1950s. You also see a little rear projection used.
You also have the tender, and predictable, story of a little neglected boy and the zombie who loves him. I adore Kesun Loder in this film as Timmy Robinson. Child actors are iffy as the scripts they get generally place them in the category of crying nuisance/idiot or wise beyond their years. In the case of Timmy, he’s not a child genius. He’s precocious and wants to be good and have friends yet fails at every turn. When he’s tasked with asking a question to the new head of Zomcon, Mr. Bottoms (Henry Czerny), he asks if zombies are really dead. To the children in his class he’s a moron but the implications of his question aren’t that simple. Timmy is a child who feels and has a heart in a world where feelings are cast aside in favor of fear and preparedness. It’s Timmy’s natural curiosity that gets him in trouble and Loder is so amazing in the role. It could have been easy to have a child play the role as if he knew everything and make the character arrogant and unlikable.
In fact the children appear to suffer the worst in this film. Their taught to shoot first and ask questions later as evidenced by “outdoor education” teaching children how to shoot complete with a handy rhyme to remember (“In the brain and not the chest. Head shots are the very best”). Children can also join the Zomcon Cadets like the Fraser boys who are tiny sociopaths in the making. At one point they hate Fido and Timmy so much they tie the two to a tree and wait for the zombie to attack so they can kill it. Suffice it to say you’re not too unhappy to see them killed. Oh yes this film doesn’t shy away from giving these two jerks their comeuppance. It starts out funny as one of the boys accidentally shoots his own brother while trying to shoot Fido only to have Fido eat the other. That sounds heartless on the page but trust me, it’s funny on film.
The zombies blend into the other areas that are usually showcased in fifties film including questions of women’s liberation and man’s place in the home. The character of Bill, Timmy’s dad, is not particularly masculine. He fears zombies after he killed his own father and finds himself losing his family to Fido because of his neglect. Poor Fido doesn’t understand why Bill hates him and as the film progresses it becomes apparent that Bill doesn’t hate the zombie because he’s dead but because he’s a threat to him as a man. One scene where Fido is sitting in Bill’s easy chair is hilarious because of how clueless Fido is to the whole thing. Billy Connelly (Il Duce!) is amazing as Fido. His facial expressions convey so much particularly in this scene where with just his eyes you can tell he’s saying “What did I do?” Oddly enough he combines all the elements of man and animal into one making any expression play from either seeing him as a zombie man or a puppy dog. Mr. Bottoms starts to plant the seed in Bill’s head that Fido is getting too comfortable and it’s apparent that Bottoms’ attempts to keep things “contained” spread out to keeping women contained in the home, zombies contained to being servants, etc. The line between safety and control become blurred.
I’ve praised Connelly and Loder already but the rest of the cast is equally fantastic. I’ve seen Carrie-Ann Moss in several independent films that I like and she’s not only gorgeous (she’d have thrived in the 50s) but she’s got such a good heart. Helen is a loving mother who knows when to put her foot down. Her “secret” pregnancy is a hilarious joke (meant to explain Moss’ real-life pregnancy at the time) that sadly hits home to show how estranged couples were in the 1950s and her forbidden romance with Fido is subtle and sweet although what would you call it…necrophilia? Interspecies? Dylan Baker is also great as Bill Robinson. The sheer glee he gets out of zapping Fido with electricity is worth watching because it’s the only way he feels strong. Bill is such a coward and yet there’s a method to his madness. He fears loving his family because love didn’t save his father. To him feelings have become unimportant, “being alive, that’s what counts.” Czerny is a smarmy villain and excellent and I adore Tim Blake Nelson as Timmy’s neighbor Mr. Theopolis who loves his zombie Tammy (Sonja Bennett).
I do think Fido deserved better when it came out and hopefully it continues to gain an audience on DVD. It’s a fun movie, right up there with The Iron Giant in terms of smartly parodying the 1950s. The zombie story provides a strong balance of horror and laughs, never becoming too silly or too horrific. If you’re hoping to have a fun Halloween and want to mix in some horror-comedies, you can’t go wrong with Fido!
Type of Horror: Zombie, Parody, Comedy
Fright Meter: 4
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