Local filmmaker Andrew Currie’s new film Fido opens nationally this weekend. This beautifully shot melodrama plays with our expectations of a conventional zombie movie and has the smart comedy of a social satire. And yes, there’s blood. In a small town lush with the colours of a ’50s suburban dystopia, the people own zombies. The zombs are kept docile with control-collars and are used as household helpers. But like any zombie movie worth it’s weight in brains, things go wrong. We got Andrew on the phone while he was waiting to get on a plane to Austin, Texas for SXSW.
ONLY: Right from the very first shot I remember thinking that the look of the colours and the film are so Douglas-Sirk-melodrama-meets-Blue Velvet.
AC: Blue Velvet is actually my favourite film. And I put in a few specific references to the movie that I usually never tell anyone about. Like the white picket fence where the dog walks by and gets his head blown off. There’s a shot of the white picket fence and then it gets hit with blood. I tried to sort of duplicate the shot from the opening of Blue Velvet just as a little reference to how much I admire Lynch.
ONLY: There’s something about the outward beauty hiding the social oppression that comes through really well in the film. It’s all pretty to look at but…
AC: What I was really trying to do was capture the superficial beauty of a small town in the ’50s and then juxtapose that with what really is going on in terms the violence and social decay. How the family and society is coming unglued. Contrasting those two things was really a lot of fun.
ONLY: In ’97 you made Night of the Living. What’s the appeal of zombie movies for you?
AC: I think zombies are kind of fascinating because they are, in a sense, us. They make us think about, at the very least, our own mortality and the idea of decay and disease, even if it’s hitting you subconsciously. I think that’s why zombies freak people out but also why we are drawn to them. It’s the metaphor. When I made Night of the Living I used zombi-ism as a metaphor for alcoholism. In Fido the whole concept of this small town surrounded by this fence that’s keeping out all the un-collared zombies works as a commentary on xenophobia and the fear of the other. That came through after 9/11 with the direction Homeland Security was going and this idea of fear and real terror of anything foreign, especially in America. But I think in a lot of places, including Canada there’s this falsely pushed fear that is spreading and it’s coming from governments that use fear to justify their own actions and military spending and everything that goes with that.
ONLY: It was interesting how the people in the movie know that zombies are mortally dangerous, but they still try to control them. There’s a culture of sanctioned fear that exists alongside the denial of the obvious dangers they surround themselves with.
AC: What we really enjoyed while writing and making Fido was that you can actually put a lot of depth in a movie and ultimately whether people get it or not almost doesn’t matter. Those who don’t can hopefully still enjoy it as a comedy. Because the comedy, in a sense, is still the most important thing. I didn’t want to make a slow, heavy zombie movie about politics. But if you can do that within the context of a comedy then it’s fun and hopefully thought-provoking as well.
ONLY: It’s a fine line, but you managed never to cross into “campy” territory. The movie has the superficial gloss of melodrama but you have character moments.
AC: In a way there was a lot of emphasis placed on character… The film, and even the story to a large degree, is driven by the characters. For example, the dad’s character [Bill] expresses the theme of the movie. The theme we were writing to was “love, not fear, makes us more alive,” and the idea of a society that pushes fear. The character of Bill really embodies that, I mean he’s terrified of zombies but he’s also a result of what fear does to people. He’s a man who is also afraid of intimacy, even with his own family. So it’s interesting when Fido comes into the family and is ironically more emotionally developed than Bill. That sort of plays to the humour of those characters.
ONLY: There’s a really interesting relationship between the mom [played by Carrie-Anne Moss] and Fido [played by Billy Connolly].
AC: Oh yeah there’s definitely a subtext of sexuality there. I mean you mentioned Douglas Sirk earlier and we definitely looked at his film All That Heaven Allows as a bit of a template, and interestingly, I haven’t actually said this before, but the relationship between Fido and Helen really deepened and changed a lot during the making of the movie. Partly I think because Carrie-Anne was actually pregnant, but we had this great discussion about how the pregnancy could be a wonderful strength in the movie. It really helped deepen her character but also helped define Bill’s character, because he’s completely oblivious… That’s the great thing about filmmaking: waiting for those happy accidents.