Tall, Dark, and Dead – 23 – Zombies Anonymous / Last Rites of the Dead
Title: Zombies Anonymous / Last Rites of the Dead
Director: Mark Fratto
Leads: Gina Ramsden, Christa McNamee, Mary Jo Verruto
Favorite quote: “Nothing sickens me more than a zombie with no character. It’s so…Fulci.”
Thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. I’m always intrigued by movies that give the undead a chance to verbalize their experiences. (Better still would be a film that gave the non-verbal undead a chance to construct meaning about their experiences…hmm. Time to start after that grant money.)
Ultimately, Zombies Anonymous is about the problems and issues surrounding emergent and/or newly assertive communities. It appears to work from the Romero model, in that the dead simply wake up with no greater explanation offered. This is something more modern zombie films should look into emulating, as it would allow them to leap straight into the action. (But then again, I do collect genesis theories, so keep ‘em coming.)
And man, do they have it rough. The zombies in this film are forced to make decisions concerning such things as voluntary euthanasia and whether to buy products that will allow them to “pass” as living (cue discussions about predatory/discriminatory marketing!), all the while dealing with anti-zombie zealotry, discrimination, and the fact that they have no rights whatsoever.
The movie also tackles zombie religion, philosophy, and inter-zombie politics. Essentially, while the zombies in ZA do hanker after flesh, it doesn’t seem to immediately occur to them that human flesh is what they want – instead, they head to the store and eye the plastic-wrapped red meat there. Once they’ve tasted human flesh, however, it seems to have a drug-like effect on them that leads to them becoming cannibalistic junkies. One quasi-religious cult in particular pushes human meat on its members, and its leaders come off as genuinely creepy. (Although I found it amusing that they put the Dexter plastic down before digging in.)
Perhaps where ZA shines most brightly is in its depiction of anti-zombie bigots. The scenes where zombies are targets for violence and discrimination are realistic, and very well acted. While their support groups are telling them to “Choose life!” and carry on in the wake of their deaths, the dead also have to worry about their safety and face workplace and relationship pressures (including domestic violence). This would lead to anyone becoming a tad cynical, I think it’s fair to say.
The film also gets bonus points for the Watchmen reference in the midst of one of the final, heart-rending bloodbaths. All around, kudos.