Welcome back to hell. After last week’s gritty samplings of urban horror, I thought we could use some lighter fare. So I found a heart-warming horror tale about a boy and his dog. There’s just one catch– this dog walks on two legs, and he’s been dead a long time. So let’s laugh and scream at the zombie-comedy FIDO.

The Plot

FIDO exists in an alternate world where humanity fought ‘zombie wars’ instead of World Wars. The resulting world is a 50’s style utopia, where zombies have been domesticated and used as servants/pets. The Robinson family gets their first zombie (despite the protests of zombie-fearing husband Bill), who forms a bond with son Timmy. Timmy names the zombie Fido and develops a dog-and-master type relationship with him.

However, the duo must contend with the responsibilities of owning a zombie, Bill’s emotional problems, and the lurking security company Zomcon. When Fido is reclaimed by the company, Timmy, his mother, and the zombie-loving neighbor Mr. Theopolis must rescue the boy’s ‘best friend’.

A Boy And His Undead Dog

FIDO works by subverting the expectations of zombie films and combining them with OLD YELLER-type storytelling. In a standard film, the zombies would be flesh-eating maniacs; while that does happen at times, the majority of zombies in the film are docile and generally capable of a low level of thought. This plays perfectly into the boy-and-his-dog concept. as Fido comes off increasingly loyal and friendly to Timmy as the film goes on.

FIDO
Image courtesy of sTwity

The performances of the two actors involved work perfectly together. Since all Fido can is grunt, Billy Connolly puts all his emotion and motivations into gazes and movement. It’s a challenging position, but Connolly accomplishes it perfectly, creating a sympathetic zombie that’s easy to root for. K’Sun Ray does equally well with Timmy.

He perfectly encapsulates the lonely misfit character Timmy starts out as and becomes more determined as his bond with Fido grows. However, both of them still understand the base of their relationship as a boy and a dog. This brings out the comedy, such as when Timmy chastises Fido for eating their neighbor, or when Fido uses the LASSIE method to get Timmy’s mother to follow him.

“Is it Timmy?”

“UGGHHH.”

“Is Timmy in trouble?”

“UUUGGGGHHHH!!!”

Meet The Neighbors

While Timmy and Fido drive the story, it’s the supporting cast that helps push the film’s ideas about growth and change. Their performances help draw humor from the contrasts in their world. For example, the bright 50’s world is filled with gray zombie workers. It’s a visual gag, but it adds to the contrast.

There’s also some light satire in Zomcon and their security chief Jonathan Bottoms (who would likely be the hero in a standard zombie film). Both act friendly and neighborly despite one being a monopoly that enslaved the dead and the other a war vet that can’ t change his old-school views. Both are lampooned by their speeches (“If there was no Zomcon, we’d be dead. And then where would we be?”) and their commercials (“The elderly. Can you really trust them?”). They are morally opposed by Mr. Theopolis, who has fallen in love with his zombie Tammy, treating her as his wife.

However, the themes of contrast and change really hit with Timmy’s parents. His mother Helen starts out only concerned with social status and appearance. However as the film goes on, she realizes that zombies can be a threat, but also how important emotional connections are. She also begins to rebel against social norms, especially as she builds a connection with Fido. It’s a real sign of growth, unlike her husband.

Daddy Issues

FIDO
Image courtesy of rhandawatches.wordpress.com

Timmy’s father, Bill Robinson, is arguably the most complex character in the story. Bill experienced the horrors of zombies at a young age when he was forced to kill his zombified father. As a result, Bill has serious emotional problems. He suffers from zombie-phobia, but also struggles to make real, emotional connections. He’s quoted as having no friends, only shows surface emotion to his son, and drags his family to a funeral each week as if to reassure himself people still die normally.

Bill’s issues are a vital part of the film. His role comes to a head when he tries to bond with Timmy by giving him a gun. He tells the boy that feelings don’t matter, and staying alive is all important. In those few sentences, Bill defines his own ironic station in life. His obsession with staying alive and showing no emotion make him a living zombie, unable to form deep connections with those around him. Fido is actually capable of forming stronger human relationships than his living master. It’s a stark reminder of what makes life truly life and makes Bill both sad and laughable at the same time.

Take A Bite With FIDO

FIDO stands as a unique horror-comedy and a surprising zombie film. The designs create a vibrant world, and dull zombies to fill it. The characters manage to be funny, but also show real emotional depth without losing the humor of the situation. The story echoes the importance of change and emotional growth, warning against a static life. It’s a smart, funny film that manages to entertain, scare, and enlighten viewers.

Well, we’ve seen we can laugh at zombies. Come back next time, when we see how much humor we can get from visitors from the stars…

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