Two nights ago, I watched Fido, a 2006 Canadian zombie film, with my housemate John. This post is about narrative and exposition in that movie, which is definitively the best Canadian movie I’ve ever seen (if you ignore the bilingualism of Bon Cop Bad Cop). Here’s the trailer:
If you’re going to see the movie, stop reading now! There isn’t a twist as part of the central plot, but I’m going to talk about some of the narrative choices that the director made that I thought were interesting.
The movie takes place in an alternate 1950s era where, a few decades before, the Earth passed through a “radiation cloud”, so that now any human that dies becomes reanimated as a flesh-hungry zombie. This is an important difference from styles of zombies seen in other films – when you die, everyone becomes a zombie. In fact, during a funeral the deceased’s heads are buried seperately (in “headcoffins”) from their bodies so they don’t reanimate. The second major difference is that a corporation, ZomCon, has invented a collar that, when activated, can control a zombie’s urges. So, a menial labour force of zombies exists, with “normal” families having anywhere from one to six. As you can guess, its a comedy.
The main story starts when a single-child family gets a zombie servant. The young boy, Timmy, is generally neglected by his parents, especially his emotionally distant farther, and bullied at school. It’s the commonly seen lonely-young-boy syndrome. He befriends the new zombie quickly, who he names Fido. Naturally, shit starts going wrong. The collars are hilariously prone to being knocked off or deactivated, and quickly the old creepy lady in the neighbourhood, Mrs. Henderson, is killed by the zombie when he gets loose. Timmy has to kill her when she reanimates, and he buries her in the public garden. Again, hilarious. Later, bullies kidnap Timmy and tie him to a tree. They then deactivate Fido’s collar, hoping that he will eat Timmy. Contrary to their plan, Fido actually shows self-control and goes after the bullies. With the bullies dead, but not for long, Fido tries to untie Timmy’s rope but lacks the motor control. He runs (limps) to fetchs Timmy’s mom, who gets there just in time to shoot the zombified bullies. Yet again, hilarious. The comedy of Fido, played by Billy Connolly, showing his restraint from eating Timmy’s mom, played by Carrie-Anne Moss, is subtle and delicious.
Anyway, eventually the emotionless father gets shot by accident and Fido becomes the more emotionally-engaged father figure at the end of the movie.
What I was getting to is that the movie makes several narrative jumps and large chunks of the story are evidently missing. First, there is a certain tension between the father and Fido, but suddenly one day the zombie is sent away. Later, Fido and Timmy are together in a field (just before the bullies scene) with no reason for them being there. I found myself asking things like “What? When was the decision made to send the zombie away?” and “Where did they go? Why are they there?” Maybe I’m slightly more harsh than your average film watcher, but I found the jumps a little surprising. It turns out later when I was watching the deleted scenes on the DVD that the lead up to these important moments is explained in full. However, the director, Andrew Currie, said in the commentary that he felt that these parts were boring and didn’t add to the narrative. Well, you know what, I watched the scenes and they were boring. Had I the choice of including them in the film and having a well-explained plot versus the film as-is with the more punchy narrative flow, I would take the latter. The two events that I mentioned weren’t out of the ordinary with the film’s universe at that point at all. So, miniature revelation for myself. Film is about expositing interactions between people, it’s not about fact-checking.
And games get in trouble for having no plot. Pffft. (I had to bring it back to that)