Horror and comedy is a tricky formula to get right, many times there can be too much of one and not enough of the other. Recently I was able to check out the Ottawa premier of A Little Bit Zombie, a slickly written and well produced little-big Indie-horror, home grown (well my home) in Canada.
The film was directed by Thunder Bay, ON native Casey Walker, and brought to us by Cave Panting Pictures and the producers list is as long as my arm because the film was crowd funded which explained to me how it looks so good and managed to snag fantastic actors.
The story is about a soon-to-be-married couple named Steve (Kristopher Turner) and Tina (Crystal Lowe) Tina is the typical perky but overbearing control freak that is dreaming of the perfect wedding while Steve is the mild mannered HR representative that is just looking forward to a quiet and stable life. They head on up to a weekend vacation at the cottage with Steve’s sister (Kristen Hager) and her husband Craig (played by a very buff looking Shawn Roberts). Unknown to the foursome is that a short distance away two professional Zombie hunters, Max and Penelope (Stephen McHattie and Emilie Ullerup respectively), are taking down a small outbreak while one of the undead are bitten by a mosquito. The insect becomes infected and makes its way to the cottage that everyone is vacationing at.
Steve gets bitten by said insect and slowly starts to become infected. He retains his memories and personality, but starts to grow pale and lose the feeling in his body. Of course there is the unfortunate fact that he is unable to eat anything without projectile vomiting. With the hunters hot on his trail and his wedding just a week away, Steve and his family try to cope with the reality that in order to stay sane he’ll have to consume the brains of living humans.
The writing in this film is fantastic. Dialogue comes at you fast with several jokes firing off at once with a lot of added physical comedy. All of the actors play their parts well and it was a special treat to watch Stephen McHattie play out the grizzled zombie killer. Crystal Lowe also steals every scene she’s in as the bride to be trying to do right by her man. There is a scene where she tasers a potential victim and cheerfully remarks on how cute her pink stun gun which had me laughing pretty hard, but the best line comes out of Shawn Roberts: “Who brings hooker boots to a weekend at the cottage?”
I would say that on the horror versus comedy scale it’s leaning far more into the comedy area than anything else. The horror elements are there and, as a director, Casey Walker’s influences can be seen quite obviously (especially Evil Dead), but for the most part I would say the horror is pretty tame with nothing more or less grotesque than some of the mainstream comedies out these days. There are some great special effects though, and all in all, it was decent but I could have done with a bigger body count or a few more scenes with zombies.
A few story elements I found somewhat confusing. One of the hunters, for example, uses a seemingly magical orb to locate the undead but as far as I remember they don’t really go into any detail about where they got it or how it works. Emilie Ullerup’s character Penelope also seems to believe that Steve is somebody who could eventually find a cure for the zombie plague since he can resist the effects somewhat, yet they never really explain how he is able to. Also I couldn’t help notice that the plot had similar elements to that 90’s comedy My Boyfriends Back which was essentially about a fun-loving but zombie afflicted teenager who still retained his mental capacity. Now that I think about it, I might be the only one who remembers that dumb movie.
Walker said before his film started that this was his love letter to the Zombie genre and it’s apparent that he is a lover of the genre, but I would have to say this works far more as a comedy than it does a horror. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does go to show how precarious a balancing act horror-comedies are. Without the solid group of actors carrying this film it would have probably ended up being fairly forgettable with too much comedy and not enough gore. I say check it out when it hits DVD shelves this August