by Craig Thomas
It all started with The Super Mario Brothers. By which, I mean the idea that you could take a massively successful computer game and turn it into a movie, which would have a pre-established fan-base. Which is all well and good except for one thing. It was rubbish. Like Waterworld rubbish, apparently. I say “apparently” because having seen Waterworld recently the idea that anything could approach such levels of stupidity just seems incredibly unlikely. Plus, as a child I saw the Super Mario Brothers movie numerous times and thoroughly enjoyed it. But kids are stupid, so they can’t be trusted. Not even your younger self. Especially not your younger self. He was an idiot. At least, mine was.
Anyway, that was the film that kicked off the trend of movies based on computer games being rubbish and since then, not a lot has changed. The only major difference being that nowadays when one of these terrible movies is made, it is openly ridiculed for being terrible. Then it goes onto make millions of dollars. Then there is a sequel. Which is again ridiculed. Which then goes on to make millions more dollars. In the case of the god awful Resident Evil series, they are currently up to number five. All of which are unreservedly terrible. And horrendously successful, financially speaking.
And so it is with Silent Hill, which as a game is pretty damn good, or so I’m told. But they made a film and it wasn’t really any good, but it made a lot of money, so they made Silent Hill: Revelation.
It is set about seven years after the first trip to Silent Hill, and Sharon (now named Heather and played by Adelaide Clemens) is 18 years old, only she can’t remember anything of the first movie. Her mother, Rose, (played by Radha Mitchell), is missing, and for some reason (most likely, financial), Sean Penn resumes his role as her father, Christopher.
This is all explained at the start of the movie. Then a bunch of not very important stuff happens and she finds herself once again in Silent Hill.
What then happens is familiar to anyone who has seen the first one. There are the same deformed armless zombie things, and the same weirdly sexy, slutty nurse zombies and the same distinctly non-sexy sword-wielding giant with a over-sized cheese grater on his head. It might actually be his head, I’m not sure.
Anyway, as well as this there is also the introduction of a new bad guy (read: woman), who is the same as the old bad guy (woman). Then, there is probably the most unforgettably terrible demon creature of all time. If I said it was a zombie spider mannequin composed of mostly arms holding dummy heads it would sound about as frightening as it is (ie: not at all). It might even make you sigh with exasperation, but what it won’t do, and what is shouldn’t do, is make you laugh. Horror is the antithesis of comedy, in that if everyone laughs then you’ve not done your job properly. It was truly pathetic and the graphics of the “scary” screaming mannequin face looked like something out of a spoof.
But that was somewhat indicative of the whole film, it just wasn’t scary, or creepy or anything like that. For all the flaws of the first film, at least it did generate a sense of unease when essentially helpless characters are being chased by the relentless forces of evil. Sure, it wasn’t as intense as The Terminator, but at least it was something. That is missing from this film, not least of all due to the apparent uselessness of the evil characters this time around.
It seemed to me that one of the key problems of the film was that, like its predecessor, it was intended to be about two hours long. Instead, what we get in a film that clocks in at just under 90 minutes. This in itself is not a bad thing. The original certainly dragged in places and felt overly long. However, this one feels like test audiences said it felt too long so they just cut a bunch of stuff out. The issue then is one of pace. A lot of the scenes feel as if they were intended to be slow, drawn-out affairs which have been simply cut short, without any sort of reworking. Ideas then feel under-developed, which is particularly irritating as there are a lot of events in the film, none of which are given an opportunity to build to any sort of dramatic tension. This is a perfect example of a poorly paced film, or more precisely, of a decently paced film, poorly edited.
If you’re looking for a good horror film, this isn’t it. If you’re looking for that first good movie derived from a computer game, you’re out of luck again. It isn’t terrible, but it doesn’t fix the flaws of the overly-long original and in fact, makes matters worse with its brevity. But the acting is fine, so is the dialogue, though the plot could certainly have done with a few more revisions. Anyone who green-lights a film where the penultimate battle is a hug-to-the-death between two teenage girls on a horsey carousel deserves to be fired. But they won’t be. In fact, they’ll probably get a nice juicy bonus.
For all the problems of this film, of which there are many, it is still a better film than any of the Resident Evil monstrosities. And if that’s not damning with faint praise, then I don’t know what is.
Hopefully the lessons will be learnt and all the problems will be fixed for the third installment in the franchise. And there will be a third installment. Or at least, that’s what the ending promised. But then again, so did Super Mario Brothers.
by Steve Habrat
In the seemingly endless string of zombie films out there, 2007’s indie horror comedy Fido is one that is painfully overlooked and I can’t understand why. This gee-whiz hunk of Americana cheese mixed up in the gooey zombie genre is such a fun little flick that I can’t believe horror fans don’t make more of a fuss about it. A sunny little Canadian picture directed by Andrew Currie, Fido ambles along on its ironic joke that finds zombies shuffling about a cheery 50’s era suburb but the hilarity doesn’t stop at the basic premise. This film has some gut-busting jokes that are neatly embedded in all the comic book chaos as well as knee-slapping nods to the B-movies that were all the rage in the Eisenhower era. Fido also works due to the touching spark between K’Sun Ray’s Timmy and Billy Connolly’s Fido, the friendliest and smartest zombie to lurch across the screen since Bub in Day of the Dead. While you will be beaming through about eighty-five percent of the picture, Fido does stumble a little at the end, which is a shame because things were going so swimmingly. Even if it stumbles, you will still be giggling as a happy-go-lucky tune from the atomic era bops along the soundtrack as the living dead munch on the entrails of the living. How can you argue with THAT?
Fido takes place in an alternate 1950’s universe where a radiation cloud from space has drifted to Earth and awoken the flesh hungry undead. Just in the nick of time, a company called ZomCom have invented a collar that suppresses the undead’s hunger for warm human flesh. In addition to the collars, ZomCom have erected massive fences that keep the zombies out of the small, picturesque towns that dot the United States. It has also become all the rage to “own” a zombie servant, one who serves you dinner and performs other mundane tasks around the house. It is in one of these small towns that we meet Timmy Robinson (Played by K’Sun Ray), an inquisitive little boy who is bullied at school and largely ignored by his distracted father, Bill Robinson (Played by Dylan Baker). Timmy does find some affection and attention from his mother, Helen Robinson (Played by Carrie-Anne Moss). When one of ZomCom’s zombie control specialists moves in across the street from the Robinson’s, Helen notices that the family has six servant zombies. Embarrassed that she doesn’t have one, Helen goes out and gets Fido (Played by Billy Connolly), which enrages Bill but delights Timmy. Timmy and Fido begin bonding but after a nasty accident in the park, the safety of their peaceful community is threatened.
Cleverly using the conformist 50’s as the backdrop, when it was heavily encouraged ship off to the suburbs and start a family, Fido suggests that conformity turns us all into mindless lurching zombies. It would make zombie godfather George Romero proud while it keeps the rest of us in stitches. The implication is a bit obvious at times, never as subtle as something Romero would have produced in his heyday but it is easily forgivable. Fido is also all dressed up as a cute 50’s B-movies that echoes the atomic willies that came out of the detonation of the atom bomb. The beginning of the film is a newsreel that looks like it could have been borrowed from a drive-in of yesterday, only a touch funnier and without the whole duck-and-cover advise from the optimistic, reassuring narrator. While it can be warm and fuzzy, Currie doesn’t forget the finishing touch, a touch that consists of bucks of fake blood and guts. The gore isn’t always here for the hell of it and Currie uses it to add to the heavy doses of irony. One scene finds a zombie getting shot right in the head in the middle of a sunny suburban street, where kids play, cars trudge by, and sundress clad housewives eagerly await the arrival of their husbands after a long day at the office (martinis ARE included). After we hear the gunshot, Currie cuts to a shot of brains and blood splattering all over a white picket fence and a bunch of flowers. It was perhaps my favorite shot in all of Fido.
Fido is also a success due to the performances from Moss, Ray, and Connolly, all who do a marvelous job in this overlooked gem. Moss is wonderful as a housewife suffering from a severe case of ennui. She is a wonderful mother who is desperate to shake things up. Her lassitude with her money-obsessed husband is heartrending, mostly because she is filled with so much pent up warmth, warmth she transfers to both Timmy and Fido. Ray is also a joy as the curious Timmy, a target of neighborhood bullies who just longs for a buddy. Ray is so good as a quirky squirt that thinks outside the box and his chemistry with Fido is unbelievably strong. Thankfully, Connolly also picks up on the chemistry and plays off the young actor quite nicely. Fido is a cuddly ghoul who shrieks and moans over a thunderstorm and even rushes home to grab Helen when Timmy is in trouble. He’s like a cooler Lassie, with two legs, less hair, and more decaying flesh. Dylan Baker really gets into a groove as the cranky Bill, who hates to have his routine disrupted and loathes the shuffling Fido. Tim Blake Nelson shows up as Mr. Theopolis, an ex-employee of ZomCom who is romantically linked to his zombie servant Tammy (Played by Sonja Bennett). Henry Czerny also drops by as ZomCom’s security chief Mr. Bottoms, a nasty piece of work who suspects that Timmy and Fido may be up to no good.
The last fifteen minutes of Fido is where things really go south. The climax erupts into tons of zombie pandemonium with one main character biting the dust. There really isn’t any emotional weight to the sequence but the laughs allow the clunky final act to keep its head above water. Things are brushed over a little too quickly for my tastes and it feels like the filmmakers almost ran out of money and had to condense the final moments. I would have also liked to see Fido embrace a little bit of horror. Things do get a bit tense but it never gets particularly freaky which was slightly disappointing. Still, the first hour and fifteen minutes of Fido are extremely sharp, from the set design all the way to the rapid-fire script from Currie, Robert Chomiak, and Dennis Heaton. The laughs are solid and the relationship between a boy and his zombie will work its way into your heart. For fans of the zombie genre, Fido is a must. Fans of the comedy genre, make sure to move Fido up to the top of your list. You will walk away more than satisfied.
Fido is available on Blu-ray and DVD.