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A SIERRA NEVADA
(MICHAEL MADSEN & JOHN SAVAGE).
Are you kidding me? Yet ANOTHER zombie comedy? Aren't these dregs of a rotting concept on their last legs? Well, I'll make an exception in this case.
See that poster up there? Kind of a garage band, underground, old-school Punk Rock ethos, eh? The movie couldn't take you farther from that concept if it physically held you down and shot you up with Demerol.
Visually, FIDO couldn't be more colorful, more happy, more wholesome and sane. Visually it's about as far from stark Punk nihilism as you can get. The bright happy colors fairly extrude from the screen. After, of course, a somber black and white newsreel about the horrible zombie uprising that changed our world forever. Or at least, this alternate world in an alternate universe where the zombie apocalypse took place in the 1930s and 40s instead of the Nazis, Facists, and WWII. There was this pesky radioactive cloud from outerspace, see? And it engulfed the earth and brought the dead back to life, see? And everyone was infected and affected by it so that the living die only briefly and come back as cannibal zombies, see? Nobody knows why they only want to eat people.
What we DO know is that a wonderful scientist named Dr. Hrothgar Giger discovered the way to kill those zombies in a more permanent gesture - Shoot 'em in the head!
Then he invented a collar that would turn them into our servants, or appliances if you will. Slavery isn't quite the right word for a varmint that wants to mindlessly kill us.
Yes, wonderful Dr. Giger saved humanity from total destruction! And at the same time, launched the beloved corporation, ZomCom, which protects us by turning our cities into happy totalitarian city states controlled by highly favored Martial Law. If you don't like it, no problem, feel free to go outside of the enclosed city and live in the Wild zone! Let's see how you like ZomCom then!
Yes, ZomCom provides us with everything we can afford on our regimented salary. They not only protect us from zombies, they've turned them into our servants. Ah the status of having a zombie in the house.
Well, except for Timmy's father. Seems Timmy Robinson (*actor K'Sun Ray) is pretty smart, which gets him beat up by the scout uniformed bullies at school.
Some new neighbors have moved in next door and the man of the house is a hero from the Zombie Wars, and certainly a big wig in ZomCom. What's more, they own six zombies! In the consumer driven lifestyle of the era, Helen simply MUST have at least one zombie in the house or she will just DIE of embarrassment! To be the only family on the block without even ONE zombie?
To put the best face on this, she springs the surprise purchase on her husband, Bill (Dylan Baker: THE CELL, SPIDER-MAN 2, SPIDER-MAN 3) when he comes home from work. Bill is surprised all right. Bill hates zombies and the "surprise" creeps him right the hell out. Which Helen thought would be the case but, Come ON Bill! We HAVE to own at least one zombie! What will the neighbors think?
Nobody really warms up to the new zombie at first, but Timmy forms a bond with the varmint like a kid with a dog, eventually calling him Fido.
Fido (Billy Connolly: LEMONY SNICKET'S A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS, X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE) is one of the less fresh zombies that was collared into obedience. As such, he can't bleed fresh red blood.
Not like Tammy (Sonja Bennet: THE FOG , Masters of Horror: DEER WOMAN), the sexily dressed, collared fresh at the moment of death, barely legal zombie girl - owned by neighbor Mr. Theopolis (Tim Blake Nelson: MINORITY REPORT, THE INCREDIBLE HULK). Yeah, something unsavory is going on with Mr. Theopolis and his zombie. But as discrete as Mr. Theopolis is, he is nowhere near as scary as war hero (500 zombie kills) and ZomCom executive, Mr. Bottoms (Henry Czerny: THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE).
If brains were hands, Mr. Bottom's would be a fist clenched so tight psychosis would be squeezing out between the fingers. Too bad Timmy has such a crush on his daughter, Cindy (Alexia Fast: Masters of Horror: WE ALL SCREAM FOR ICE CREAM). The feelings seem to be mutual as Cindy realizes that Timmy is possibly her only intellectual equal and that, for different reasons, both of them have emotionally distant fathers and Mothers living in denial. Sooner or later something is going to crack, and that crack comes VERY expectedly in the form of the mean old busy body neighbor, Mrs. Henderson (Mary Black: THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE, THE FOG , SLITHER).
Director and co-writer, Andrew Currie sets up the 1950 cliches (many of which unfortunately are still in use in Hollywood today), just to knock them down and leave us wondering where this movie is really going. We expect Timmy to have problems with the two school bullies all the way through the movie. We expect Timmy to bashfully fall in love and ask Cindy out on a date. We expect Timmy to get in trouble thanks to some conspiracy brought about by the bullies. We expect zombies to run amok and eat people. Currie leads us through the memes, then blows them out of the water as if saying, "No, my movie is going to be better than that!"
Nearly a decade before making FIDO, Currie made a short film called NIGHT OF THE LIVING where a boy appears to see his alcoholic father change into a zombie. There are echoes of that idea here even though the story to FIDO was originally written by Dennis Heaton, and further co-wrote by Robert Chomiak.
At the heart of FIDO though, is not a tale of zombies and a goofy alternate history, but of Timmy's father, Bill, who wears the scar of a wound so deep that he can't bear emotional attachement, not to his family or friends. Actually, Bill has no friends. Where other people plan for life, Bill plans for death. Every weekend Bill takes his family out to watch the funerals of strangers being buried proper - the ZomCom way. In fact, Bill has ponied up the hefty money to be buried (it's cheaper just to go zombie and be recycled) along with his family. When Bill's wife, Helen, announces that she is pregnant, Bill says, "I don't think I can afford another funeral on my salary."
FIDO is wickedly witty, occasionally uproarious and it plays out like a Tim Burton movie a la EDWARD SCISSORHANDS or BEETLE JUICE. Sometimes it goes too long on the 1950s style North American ethos and I wish it had developed the relationship between Timmy and Cindy more, since they figure so prominently in the last third with hardly any bond between them. Billy Connolly is silent sidekick droll as Fido: an undead ADDAMS FAMILY style "Lurch", that follows, obeys, and even protects Billy in his hour(s) of need.
Helen: "Fido! What's wrong boy? Did something happen to Timmy?"
As hilarious as FIDO can be, it recognizes its one note punch and goes for deeper territory. There was too much back story and scenes with Bill for it to be an accident. Actor Dylan Baker infused Bill Robinson with a tragic complexity. He's a wounded man-child who, at turns, runs from his family as if they were the monsters, and attempts to reach out to them in a reluctant fearful manner. At turns plastic happy with a forced grin, at other times sadistic (mostly toward Fido), Bill buys his wife and son presents to stand-in for the love he feels but fears to express. It's a wonderfully, artfully subdued piece on Dylan's part and Currie wisely feeds it out in small doses, unlike the aforementioned Tim Burton, who would hammer it over our heads until we shout "Uncle!"
FIDO is fun and funny, yet deeper and more complex than it needed to be. With an emotional undertone that will stay with you long after the laughter aftershocks have died down, FIDO is high satire with a heart. Andrew Currie just might be a rising star.
Four Shriek Girls.
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