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Friday, 14 December 2012

DECEMBER 10, 2012

GENRE: COMEDIC, ZOMBIE
SOURCE: DVD (SCREENER)

As with many a zom-com, George's Intervention (aka George: A Zombie Intervention) would probably work better as a 10-15 minute short, as there are a number of repetitive gags and "shit we're only at 45 minutes quick let's introduce new characters and then kill them to buy us some time" plotting. But I was mostly entertained, thanks to the game performances from all of the central cast and a number of inspired jokes that kept me amused more often than not.

But before I get into that, I want to make another plea to filmmakers for them to STOP USING "FANGORIA" TO COME UP WITH CHARACTER NAMES. Usually it's director names ("Officer Craven, go find Chief Carpenter and tell him Mayor Cronenberg is dead!"), but George's Intervention's inspiration is obvious just from the title. Not content with honoring the legend by naming their main zombie character "George" (as in Romero - if you needed that explained I don't know what to say), every. single. character in this movie is named after a principal character from his first four Dead films. From Night we have Ben, Judith, and Barbra, for Dawn we have all four of the leads (Steven, Roger, Francine, and Peter), John, Sarah, Bub, and Miguel represent Day, and even Land gets some love thanks to Foxy and Mouse. Of course, if you're unaware of his films (or only saw them once and don't remember any character names off the top of your head), this won't bother you, but once you catch on to the gag, it becomes a major distraction. With each new character, I found myself trying to remember who "John" or "Foxy" was, zoning out to my memories of those classic films (well, three classics and a fairly decent fourth - sorry, Land) and not giving my full attention to the movie. It's like putting a Sudoku in the corner of the screen for the entire movie or something - you can't help but try to figure it out instead of focusing on what actually matters.

I was also distracted by the odd coincidence that the movie had the same weird floaty camerawork that yesterday's Jack Frost had, as well as the curious opposition to cutaways from its director. It's almost like director J.T. Seaton (who also co-wrote the script) didn't realize he could move his camera to get a new angle on certain scenes, like when we stare awkwardly at two character's (clothed) asses for a sizable chunk of a dialogue exchange, only for the shot to make sense when one of them sits down and thus has her face in the frame for the rest of the shot, which doesn't go on as long as the ass part. Editing can also be off-kilter, killing the rhythm of a few jokes - comedy lives and dies based on the editing. You can have the best joke in the world, but if there's too much of a pause between shot 1 (the setup) and shot 2 (the punchline), it's dead. Then again, Seaton often has both setup/payoff in the same shot, which means he has no real way of fixing it if an actor's response is a bit off time.

The ending also runs forever; there's an epilogue to the epilogue, a credits gag, jokes in the credits... I swear, I DID enjoy the movie, but Seaton and co. didn't make it easy at times, opting for a full 93 minute runtime that probably should have been 75-80. I mean, the plot is right there in the title: some pals are having an intervention for George, a zombie (this is a Fido type world where zombies are just something that people deal with), and like pretty much everyone who has ever been intervent-ed, George is annoyed about the "betrayal". So there are arguments, side-choosing, misunderstandings, etc, exacerbated by the fact that the woman leading the intervention (Lynn Lowry) has never actually done one before and is thus useless.

The zombie action comes courtesy of an endless series of visitors: Jehovah's Witnesses, a pal who was planning a surprise birthday party, some strippers he hired, etc. Someone kills just about everyone that happens by, but the murderer's identity is obscured (we're meant to think it was George, but it's obvious it wasn't because a zombie wouldn't use a claw hammer to kill someone, and a director wouldn't hide his "monster" during such bits unless he wasn't actually the one holding the weapon), which gives the film a bit of a mystery/slasher angle to go along with the zombie stuff. No one seems capable of leaving, so the third act has a surprising amount of zombie violence, with the remaining living battling the suddenly large zombie population of the house, and George (who eats humans but is otherwise pretty laid-back and not a threat to them) caught in the middle.

Interestingly, I was reminded of the early (read: watchable) films of Kevin Smith, but not in the same way I was for Necroville, which aped the Randal/Dante bromance nearly to the point of plagiarism. No, here it was more in line with Clerks/Mallrats' relationship issues, with love triangles and heart to hearts providing the bulk of the topics of discussion. George's ex is among the folks in the intervention, and she has brought her new fella along, so there's tension there, and even the endless series of latecomers and randoms sort of provide the same narrative function that the customers at the Quick Stop did in Clerks: distractions and inadvertent insight to the problems at hand. Not only did it work for the movie (I genuinely liked just about everyone, even the dick new boyfriend had some merit), but it was nice to remember back when Smith knew/worked within his limitations and played to his strengths, instead of attempting things best left to those who know what the fuck they are doing and aren't perpetually stoned.

I also enjoyed the practical FX work, with real blood and guts being tossed around and the occasional prosthetic effect to appreciate as well. With even big budget productions like The Walking Dead stooping to awful digital blood and a practical/CG ratio for gags that skews heavily to the latter, it's nice to see a micro-budget piece like this do it the right way. It also helps make up for the rather bland zombie makeup itself; for someone who loves Romero so much, he sure didn't try to live up to the look of his ghouls from Dawn and up - basically just some simple green/brown paint splotches on the face and arms.

Basically, it's "cute". I don't like to settle for such a weak term to describe a film, but nothing better is coming to mind. There's a good-natured vibe to it, and a steady stream of minor laughs instead of the occasional big one, so it's just pleasant to watch and admirably breezy and low-key. Some better editing and a "quit while we're ahead" attitude would have made it even better, but since I've largely grown tired of the zom-com genre, that I even enjoyed it as much as I did means they must have been on the right track, so it's forgiven.

What say you?

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