From Dawn of the Dead to Shaun of the Dead, it's "never say die" when it comes to zombie movies, but Fido may be the last nail in the coffin, and I mean that in a good way. Set in the '50s, that Cinerama screen upon which we project all our thoughts about the so-called American Century, this delightful genre parody imagines a state of affairs where zombies have been domesticated and turned into a servant class. They mow the lawns, they deliver the newspapers, they serve the drinks and, should the red lights on their electronic dog collars ever go out, they feast on human flesh. But even those rare outbursts have been normalized, part of the Duck and Cover routines that allow people to live with the constant fear of being taken over by...well, Communists, I suppose. That certainly appears to be the subtext.
Better dead than red, and better dead than undead, because as the movie's title implies, the zombies are treated like dogs - exactly like a dog in the case of Fido (Billy Connolly, barely recognizable under all that makeup), who's chained up in the backyard when he's not doing his chores. Fido has just been acquired by Bill (Dylan Baker) and Helen (Carrie-Ann Moss), the Ward and June of our Leave It to Beaver spinoff, but it's their son, Timmy (K'Sun Ray), who takes a shine to the new family pet, teaching it to play fetch. And when Fido returns with Mrs. Henderson's blood all over him, it's as if Lassie came home with a rabbit dangling from her mouth. Over and over again, the movie captures the weird schizophrenia of life in the '50s, the complacency shot through with paranoia - backyard barbecues next to bomb shelters.
And director Andrew Currie has summoned up that whole world of BB guns and hula hoops, Dad's DeSoto and Mom waiting at the door with a three-olive martini. The color scheme is out of some old Douglas Sirk movie, the hues so rich and saturated they nearly blind you. And the plot owes something to Sirk, what with Mom entertaining thoughts about Fido that are not only against the law, they're against human nature. Or are they? Sirk would tell her to go for All That Heaven Allows. And it's not that hard to see what attracts her to Fido, thanks to Connolly's brilliant performance, which consists entirely of grunts, growls and facial expressions. Moss has some nice moments of her own as one of those women for whom Betty Friedan would soon write The Feminine Mystique. By bringing one into her home, she starts to realize that she's a zombie, too.