Thursday, November 01, 2007

Horrorfest 2007 Report #9: Zombies ‘R’ Us

Zombies have recently become one of the most popular subgenres of horror. And the great thing about zombies is that proliferation is one of their primary attributes. You can keep on killin’ ‘em and we’ll make more!

George A. Romero has carved an entire career out of manufacturing zombies in mass quantities. And with a new remake of “Day of the Dead” and an original Romero sequel “Diary of the Dead” on the way to theaters next year it seems old age isn’t slowing him down any more than death will slow down his victims.

Another zombie franchise that just keeps on truckin’ — although not nearly as gracefully as Romero’s “Dead” series ― is the video game-based “Resident Evil” series. I suppose it keeps Milla Jovovich employed, and that isn’t an entirely bad thing.

In the third and most recent installment in the series “Resident Evil: Extinction”, Jovovich finds herself rescuing a caravan of survivors of the zombie apocalypse in a Las Vegas that has been reclaimed by the desert. She seems to have developed some psionic powers over the course of three films, and the Umbrella Corporation responsible for the zombie outbreak continues to use her character to develop a serum to control the zombies.

I find it interesting that the doctor in charge of developing a “cure” is not the slightest bit interested in finding an outright cure for the infected zombie victims, but is developing a serum the will “domesticate” the ferocious flesh eaters to be used as menial laborers. I suppose since this mega corporation has effectively destroyed the human race, they need someone to do their laundry and care for their children while they toil away in their underground bunkers ruling what’s left of the world.

Or perhaps they are thinking along capitalistic lines of product development. “Buy our new and improved Zombie 3000, and make your life even better than it was before you lost everything in the zombie holocaust!”

But the makers of the Canadian zombie satire “Fido” really beat the “Resident Evil” team to that particular punch line with what is perhaps the strangest and funniest zombie flicks to ever come along.

The set up is hard to describe briefly, but I will do my best. “Fido” takes place in a 1950s Americana type of Cold War environment where instead of the threat of nuclear war, the world has been overrun by zombies. Taking place a generation removed from the “Zombie Revolution”, people live idealistic suburban existences in fenced in communities where the citizens are content to pretend the threat of zombie attacks are a thing of the past and even keep zombies as live-in servants. Owning a zombie is a sign of higher social status. If one family has six zombies and another has one, it is easy to tell which one is more important to the community’s existence.

The whole thing is a critique on American society and our dependence on conveniences. In our theoretically classless society, where somehow everyone is included in the middle class from our underpaid teachers all the way up to our oil tycoons, we are increasingly becoming more defined by the varying amounts of conveniences we can acquire. Lawn services, automatic lighting, cars that can parallel park themselves, these things are becoming what we define ourselves by, rather than the pure family values we claim are the heart of what made this country great.

What’s more, we are playing with fire with how dependent we have become on these conveniences. It is more important to us that they exist than what the consequences are in utilizing them. The impact of fossil fuels on our environment is the easiest parallel to draw to the zombies of “Fido”. Why does our dependence continue so insistently when there is such danger to the environment and so many alternatives out there?

And then there is immigration. Who would cut our grass if we got rid of our zombies? Sound familiar? “Fido” dives into many issues that are being discussed in our society and many that are not. Consider the flirting that goes on between the hero family’s mother and zombie. Fidelity. Interracial couples. Gay marriage. Subversive sexual habits. Will these topics ever be resolved in a society so obsessed with the family values it so clearly lacks?

But the best part of “Fido” is that it is genuinely funny. Some people might find that “Resident Evil: Extinction” makes them laugh as well, but “Fido” is supposed to.

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