Brain candy

Andrew Currie brings the undead to life in the Canadian comedy Fido. Carsten Knox takes himself to zombie town.

Say “mrrghgh!” A picture-perfect zombie-human interaction in Fido.

Zombies. Love 'em or hate 'em, they're a reality of life. We're better off making them do what we want. It really is "a better life through containment."

Or, at least, that's what Fido, Andrew Currie's new film, suggests for the residents of Willard, USA. You gotta know how to kill 'em, too, in case your pet zombie goes on a flesh-eating rampage. As the town's children sing during the "outdoor education" portion of their school day: "In the brain, not the chest! Head shots are the very best!"

The picture is set in the 1950s, recreated in Kelowna, British Columbia, and stars Carrie-Anne Moss, Dylan Baker and K'Sun Ray as the nuclear family and Scottish comedian and actor Billy Connolly as the titular, non-verbal zombie star. Alien space dust reanimated all of our dead, but thankfully, a corporate entity called Zomcom—whose local rep is played by perennial bad guy Henry Czerny —stepped in, protecting urban centres by keeping all the flesh-eating corpses fenced out in the "Wild Zone" and inventing a collar for the local undead, making them pliable, docile and open to suggestion. An entire zombie working class is created; they can be very useful. The film even touches on kinky zombie sex, though doesn't dwell too much on the ramifications. (Is it really necrophilia?)

Fido is a Canadian independent film, released by TVA here and Lion's Gate in the US and internationally, with an unprecedented budget of $10.7 million. The filmmakers have made it look like every dollar is up there on the screen, with plenty of small details in the costumes, sets and props.

"I shot the film using almost entirely wide-angle lenses," says director Andrew Currie, 44, who worked in Halifax in 2003, shooting a made-for-TV picture with Jason Priestley called Sleep Murder. "Even when you're in a close-up of the character, you see a lot more of the background because of the lenses. And the detailed stuff, I credit the production designer Rob Gray. He was just tireless in that."

Fido isn't Currie's first foray into zombie movies. In 1997 he directed a short called Night of the Living—about an imaginative boy who equates his father's alcoholism with his being undead—at the Canadian Film Centre. Currie has had zombies on the brain for awhile, before even the first drafts for the Fido script, which date back to 1994. "I saw Night of the Living Dead when I was a little kid," he says. "It scared the crap out of me. Probably branded me for life."

It's a movie where the laughter comes in varying brands. Fido can be read as a broad comedy with its share of both bawdy and body humour, but it's also a satire on suburban middle-American values, and a play on the fear of social and ethnic minorities. You could see it as a twisted revisiting of wholesome family entertainment of the past—Zombie Come Home, if you will. And it deals with the issue of what happens in Zombietown when the aged shuffle off this mortal coil. A television ad asks: "The elderly, they seem friendly, but can you really trust them?"

Currie really liked the more outrageous dialogue in the script, even though some in the production suggested he should pull it out, fearing it was a bit over the top. For instance, in the world of Fido, zombie-ism is a lifestyle choice. At one point, Moss's character tells her husband that when she and their son die, they're "going zombie." "If you have great actors to pull them off, they really work," says Currie, chuckling. "They can really stick to the wall, otherwise."

Currie raves about his performers, many of whom work regularly in independent films, and all of whom were attracted by the Fido script. He calls Billy Connolly "a genuinely funny man.

"He can find humour in any situation," says Currie. He remembers the first day in the hair and make-up trailer. "He'd had his beard and moustache shaved off. They're halfway through hacking his hair off and he looks at me and goes, "You're taking away my freaking personality!'"

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