As with all film genres, horror is not immune from trends that eventually reach the point of maddening oversaturation. Since "Twilight"s assault on the box office and the public at large in 2008, vampire mania has permeated every aspect of popular culture, attracting tweens and PTA moms alike to a sub-genre that is rooted in horror. Although the era of sparkling, brooding, and blood sucking models will likely pass, the one sub-genre of horror that never seems to die (pun likely intended) is the zombie film. As more and more films are added to the undead cache year after year, it becomes harder to dig up the true gems among the pile of severed limbs and entrails. Sometimes, it takes a film that's not quite what we expect from a given genre to stand out, and Andrew Currie's "Fido" is certainly an example of such a film.
After a major zombie outbreak post-mysterious-cosmic-event, something needs to be done to deal with the epidemic. Rather than resorting to your traditional nuclear wipeout to solve the problem, hulking corporation Zomcon sells containment collars that turn the flesh eating monsters into docile servants of man. In no time at all, every family on the block has one or more zombie servants, except for the the Robinsons. In typical Stepford Wife fashion, Helen Robinson (Carrie-Anne Moss, "Matrix"), jealous of her neighbors' festering companions, decides to spring for a servant of her own. This decision is met with considerable disdain from her husband Bill Robinson (Dylan Baker, "Spiderman"), who lost his father in "The Great Zombie War," but after his son Timmy (K'Sun Ray) takes a liking to their zombie companion and gives him his titular name, Mr. Robinson reluctantly decides to keep Fido around under certain conditions. Those conditions are soon thrown out the window as Timmy takes Fido out into the real world to help him deal with problems with bullies and nasty neighbors, zombie style.
Set in a color saturated suburb in the 1950's, "Fido" is more similar in story and setting to something like "Edward Scissorhands" rather than "Day of the Dead," despite Fido's resemblance to the semi-sentient Bub from the latter. All of the trappings of post-WWII satire are there, hitting most of the common themes of female competition, male inadequacy, and corporate greed that defined the era. Thankfully, "Fido" manages to introduce a fair amount of zombie action into the familiar setting, generally to hilarious effect. It isn't as gory and over the top as one might expect, but the contrast between the Utopian setting and the presence of severed heads and lopped off limbs is strong enough that there's little need to embellish.
What really makes "Fido" stand out from its undead contemporaries is the dark humor that is built into the character relationships. Great care is given to the portrayal of the Robinson family dynamic, which ultimately lends significant emotional and comedic heft to their inevitable fate. Currie even manages to also make you care about secondary characters such as Mr Theopolis (Tim Blake Nelson, "O' Brother Where Art Thou") who has a very "special" relationship with his female zombie companion. Characters in zombie films are usually paper thin, but then again, "Fido" is far from a typical zombie film.
To it's detriment, "Fido" has often been compared thematically to "Shaun of the Dead." Personally, I don't see too many similarities between the two besides the fact that they are both zombie comedies, but there is a wide gap in production values that explains why "Shaun..." really hit a chord with the mainstream whereas "Fido" did not. That's not to say that "Fido" is lacking in style and flair, but there are times where it feels like a much smaller, almost made-for-tv film. That feeling imparts a certain degree of additional charm to an already charming package, but I do get the feeling that some horror fans may be put off by the cheekiness. Unfortunately, the zombie element of "Fido" sets off a number of preconceived notions of what kind of film it should be, which likely ensures that it may not receive the number of unbiased eyeballs that it deserves.
Although "Fido" finds itself in the unenviable position of being "just another zombie comedy" on the surface, it truly is a fun, funny, and smart film. You really get the feeling that this film is a stylish labor of love, and discerning viewers that choose to view it on its own merits will ultimately find a deep and rewarding experience. I don't know whether "Fido" will end up becoming a cult favorite in time, but I certainly hope that it does.