The 6th Annual Toronto After Dark Film Festival, 8 Nights of Horror, Sci-Fi, Action, and Cult Movies runs Oct 20-27, 2011 at the Toronto Underground Cinema. For complete festival info visit www.torontoafterdark.com.
Play Dead was the short that preceded DeadHeads and was the first film I have seen to tackle the zombie\pet adventure genre. Directors Andres & Diego Meza-Valdes introduce us to a familiar story, zombies are quickly taking over the city, however the heroes of the film are a group of dogs. The dogs band together into a team that is bizarrely reminiscent of Homeward Bound. The furry group avoids danger at every turn in an attempt to make it to the Dog Bar, the only safe-haven left in the city. Will they reach doggie paradise or does a terrifying reality await them? Funny and cute, Play Dead is certainly entertaining.
Last night at Toronto After Dark, the zombies were out in hordes. Some zombies were clearly bite victims, some the result of evil experiments, and others were nothing short of maimed cadavers that were inexplicably still capable of locomotion. If you are confused or worried, don’t be, these weren’t real undead, rather participants of the Toronto Zombie Walk and recipients of Toronto After Dark’s undead friendly ticket price breaks (only on zombie appreciation night). I think I even saw zombie Colonel Sanders with a severed hand in a cardboard bucket normally reserved for his delicious chicken. Most of the crowd was in attendance for a zombie double bill, the comedic DeadHeads followed by the WWII action themed War of the Dead.
Zombie movies are in serious danger of becoming overdone. I’m sure there are vehement fans on both sides of the debate, some who would argue that they have been played out for a few years now, and others who would argue that zombies are the backbone of the horror genre and will never become tiring. In my opinion, filmmakers need to be very careful to put an interesting spin on current zombie movies, unoriginality and mediocrity will most likely not result in a winner at the box office or on the DVD\Blu-Ray market. Fortunately, the Pierce brothers have breathed some new life into the the zombie genre with a buddy, road-trip comedy, from the perspective of the zombies. Say what?
DeadHeads is about two newly acquainted members of the undead, Mike (Michael McKiddy) and Brent (Ross Kidder), who for some reason are not as stiff and mindless as the other zombies that have recently appeared in their hometown. Brent seems accustomed to the undead gig and tries to break the reluctant Mike in. The new friends are completely safe from their brain hungry cohorts, but the living prove to be quite dangerous. Over time Mike’s hazy memories come back to him piece by piece and the friends set out on a road trip to find Mike’s past girlfriend, his only reason to go on living, if you can call it that.
DeadHeads is a very entertaining adventure\comedy. The Pierce brothers have done a remarkable job emulating the charm of a Joe Dante film, like Gremlins or The Burbs (one of my personal under-appreciated favourites), while still managing to create something that feels original. Michael McKiddy does a great job as a main character that the audience will truly feel for, however, Ross Kidder really steals the show as a quick-witted and cooler version of Shaggy (Scooby-Doo). A particular gag in the woods, when nature calls for Kidder, was an absolute riot.
The laughs may not come a mile-a-minute, and many of them are not of the side-splitting variety, but they are appropriate for a comforting and feel-good movie like DeadHeads. Horror comedies are one of the toughest genres to pull off, but the Pierce brothers have done it. Check this one out if you are in the mood for the less serious and lighter side of the undead world.