Movie Review – Fido (2006)
“Another Pleasant Valley Sunday
Here in status symbol land
Mothers complain about how hard life is
And the kids just don’t understand”
– “Pleasant Valley Sunday” (1967) by The Monkees
Fido (2006), directed by Andrew Currie and written by Currie, Robert Chomiak, and Dennis Heaton, is a Canadian satire which mixes George Romero’s zombie motifs, Lassie, and 1950s American sitcom television tropes.
The film takes place in an alternative universe where the “Zombie War” has wiped out most of the population and people now live in 1950s-esque communities run by a corporation called Zomcon, who monitor, enforce, and expel undesirables (undead or not). The community is enclosed in a Zomcon fence and beyond is the zombie-infested wilds. Some zombies have been caught and domesticated through the use of collars that inhibit their devouring impulse, making them fit for manual labor and menial tasks. One such zombie, played by Scottish comedian Billy Connolly, is dubbed Fido by his boy owner and bonds with him in a manner typical of “a boy and his dog” films, and we get tongue-in-cheek scenes of them roaming through open fields with the kid yelling, “Come here, boy!” and trying to play fetch with him.
The strong cast, particularly Carrie-Anne Moss and Dylan Baker who play the boy’s parents, Helen and Bill Robinson, are great, mixing complex character emotions with impeccable comedic timing. Their character arcs are the real heart of the film and they embody them perfectly. Connolly gives Fido just enough cognizance to make him sympathetic, no doubt garnering inspiration from Day of the Dead’s (1985) Bub. Henry Czerny provides a charmingly conservative menace as the Zomcon security chief Jonathan Bottoms. However, it is the Robinsons’ neighbor Mr. Theopolis (Tim Blake Nelson) and his zombie girlfriend Tammy who threaten to steal the show in the end.
Overall, he characters kill with a developed casualness, the kids practicing their shooting during recess while singing the mantra: “In the brain and not the chest. Head shots are the very best.” The juxtaposition between the supposedly idyllic and the gory is hilarious. Much of the humor comes from 1950s television call-backs including the I Love Lucy’s his-and-hers beds, the invocation of Lassie with the boy being named Timmy, and the use of rear-screen projections to add scenery while the characters are driving. Instead of Life magazine they read Death, and we get the schlocky sensationalism of educational videos of the time.
However, the film calls back that era in theme as well. The culture is defined by its commodities and consumerism, and neighbors are judged by the numbers of zombies they own. Appearance is everything and suppression of various kinds is a well-honed skill. When a zombie outbreak threatens, Mr. Bottom tells Bill that “These little problems are all about containment.” This was, of course, America’s Cold War policy, and like the zombies and undesirables in Fido that must be eradicated for the betterment of society, McCarthyism and Red paranoia sought to eliminate their ideological enemies from within. In the 1950s artists, especially Hollywood filmmakers, were blacklisted; in Fido, undesirable families are exiled into the wilds. Conform… or else. This goes with sexual politics as well. Helen is expected and willing to play the dutiful housewife to her aloof and insecure husband who fears intimacy, but gradually finds her own strength and independence while he reexamines his efforts as a husband and father.
However, these 1950s trappings are merely a smokescreen to satirize the American policies of the mid-2000s. As Currie told Rotten Tomatoes in 2007, “On a deeper level, [Fido is] also about homeland security. Mr. Bottoms comes in at the start, they’re building the fences higher, there are security vehicles on every street and ‘We’re gonna take everybody’s picture just in case one of you gets lost.’ That idea of playing with a corporation that’s also the government, Zomcon, and how they push fear as a way of controlling the masses.” Xenophobia reigns supreme and we even see reflections of the immigration debate as zombies are collared and relegated to the tasks that no other characters – all of whom are white – want to do.
The overall theme, though, is not as strictly political, and it is that love is a far better basis for humanity than fear. Fido is light on horror but heavy on charm, and it is a film that uses satire and gore to say something about the world in which we live, and the world in which we want to live.