In a cross between the social commentary of Pleasantville and any number of zombie thrillers such as Dawn of the Dead comes a satire that wants to remind viewers those we loathe may be better people than ourselves. A 1950’s idyllic setting paints a stark contrast between death and life. While colors burst off the screen in costuming and set design, the mottled gray of “those among us” clearly marks the enemy. Skin pigmentation (light versus dark) is a reminder of the need for ethnic equality.
In fact, there are so many jabs at western American culture “tongue in cheek” is a label worn thin. Large corporations and the military are exposed for the awful products they supposedly produce. Advertising through names (“Death” magazine instead of “Life”), Zomcom’s tagline (“life through containment”), and statuary (the creator of zombie collars is replicated in every public place) is a statement of veiled contempt. Firearms are everywhere; users are shown to be inept. The black and white movie-within-the movie montage to open the film is vintage (anti-)war propaganda. A cold husband-father figure (played brilliantly by Dylan Baker) suggests the usual Hollywood statement about uncaring white males: in this case, a man who even had no clue he had impregnated his wife. Beautiful Carrie-Ann Moss portrays the classic housewife who is trying to find love (with a zombie!) while trying to fit in with the pressures of suburban culture. But it is the overbearing vision of fear-mongering that is the supposed villain. “Why can’t we all just get along?” seeps into one’s subconscious.
Now, don’t get me wrong—I LOVED this movie! What fun! Connections to my childhood (I was born in 1957) were constantly revisited. Even a classic bow to the television show Lassie appears! The writing (screenplay by Robert Chomiak and Dennis Heaton) is sharp and witty. The direction (Andrew Currie) plays along a perfect storyline. The actors expertly carried each role. What “child” in us would not love a “boy and his dog” movie?! K’Sun Ray reminded me of Timmy and his collie. And Billy Connolly expertly drew in the audience after we withdrew from his original acts of zombie carnage. So well did Fido display a sense of caring and love, we ultimately drop every guard to welcome him into our family.
Would that it could be true. I would love to live in a world where we could trust without reserve. I would love to call everyone my brother and rip “enemy” from the dictionary. I would long for the day where the need to protect oneself from those who want to kill me is no longer necessary. I would love to think that tolerance could overcome all totalitarian dictatorships. I would love to live in the movies rather than this world.
Yet, with all my concerns over plot assumptions and liberal caricatures of the West, I would recommend this comedy to anyone who enjoys life and the possibility that in the next life love truly conquers all.
Rated R for gore (zombie violence and bloodletting)
Dr. Mark Eckel is Professor of Old Testament at Crossroads Bible College