2007, Movie, R, 91 mins


Director and cowriter Andrew Currie's satirical Technicolor fantasy plays out in a small-town 1950s America that never was. One in which the living and the living dead reside side by side in economically segregated harmony, which is a nice way of saying that zombies are the household slaves of the upwardly mobile living, picking up trash, delivering newspapers and milk, and laboring in factories.

Willard is a picture-perfect small town: happy families, manicured lawns, ballet classes, cocktail parties, rose bushes and beautifully maintained single-family houses lined up along wide, tree-shaded streets. There is, of course, the small matter of the ravenous, ragged, flesh-eating zombies shuffling and moaning outside the town's perimeter fence, but that's why ZomCon exists: The "better living through containment" conglomerate keeps the zombies out and the law-abiding citizens in check — woe betide those who break the zombie laws.

Gracious, beautiful, secretly unhappy housewife Helen Robinson (Carrie-Anne Moss) longs for a house zombie of her own, but her husband, Bill (Dylan Baker), won't hear of it. A veteran of the Zombie Wars, he doesn't care how efficient the ZomCon zombie-pacifying collars are: He doesn't want one of those things in the house. But status-conscious Helen buys one anyway: They have to keep up with the neighbors, especially since ZomCon security czar Mr. Bottoms (Henry Czerny) and his family have moved in across the street. Their son, 11-year-old Timmy (K'Sun Ray), bonds instantly with the new arrival, whom he names Fido (Scottish comedian Billy Connolly). Fido proves the best friend a shy, constantly bullied kid could ever have, except for that nasty little slipup in the park: Fido's collar malfunctions and he mauls the neighborhood busybody. Not that anyone will miss old Mrs. Henderson (Mary Black)... it's just that her demise sets off a zombie outbreak and might be the Robinsons' ticket to the hellish "wild zones."

Currie's slily funny satire, cowritten with Dennis Heaton and Robert Chomiak, is a one-trick pony, but it's a pretty good trick. From the black-and-white classroom instructional film that fills in the backstory (based on Currie's 1997 short "Night of the Living") to Helen's glassy-eyed housewife, it's got its metaphors in a row and works them to perfection. It's not SHAUN OF THE DEAD (2004), but it's not trying to be: It's just a clever, pointed little fable about the price of complacent conformity, slavish worship of the status quo, and trading freedom for the illusion of safety, wrapped in a sugary-sweet, Jordan-almond-colored coating that looks good enough to eat. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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