Sunday, December 1, 2013

Horror Film Review

Stalled (2013):  This may be a first.  Zombies, Christmas, and a toilet stall.  Honestly, only the Brits could make this work.  It's a dark comedy, of course, where 99% of the action occurs in a women's loo.  I still can't decide if it's low brow or high concept.  A bit of both, I think.  It's not in the same league as Shaun of the Dead; but then again, what is?

Recently fired janitor W.C. (Dan Palmer) returns to the office building where he worked during a Christmas party in order to steal the money from a charity drive.  Toolbox full of cash, he pops into the ladies' room for reasons that still elude me.  A couple of party-goers intrude.  W.C. hides in a stall.  Before engaging in some impromptu lesbian shenanigans, one of the women mentions in passing to the other that an overzealous delivery man bit her.  She turns, feasts on her friend, then goes after W.C. who pins her head to the inside of the stall door with a screwdriver.  By this time, other zombies have piled in and W.C. discovers someone else is trapped in the stall farthest from his.  Her name's Heather.  We don't see her, just hear her voice as she and W.C. talk.  It's almost like Tom Hanks and Wilson in Castaway.  What do they talk about?  Mostly Christmas and W.C.'s relationship with his mother.  Not exactly what I expected.

There is silliness.  An old-fashioned, break-glass fire alarm is on the far wall by the door.  Operating under the assumption that triggering the alarm will result in rescue, W.C. uses severed zombie fingers as ammo and a bra as a slingshot in an effort to break the glass.  Doesn't work, although we are treated to a hilarious and physics-defying ricochet.  Eventually, W.C. remembers there's a crawlspace behind the stall wall, breaks through but encounters more zombies.  He does break through Heather's stall wall and learns she's not who she pretended to be.  That scene comes close to real drama if not tears.  In the end, W.C. wraps himself in multiple layers of toilet paper and makes a dash for the bathroom door through a mob of very grabby zombies...while The Little Drummer Boy plays in the background.  Surreal.  And a tiny bit groovy.

The Skinny

Acting:  The only performance worth discussing is Palmer's, and while it's loopy at times, it's not so much bad acting as the dialogue.  Of course, since Palmer also wrote the movie, it's his own fault.
Story:  A full-length zombie flick that takes place in a public bathroom?  That's a first for me and a good thing.
Direction:  You'd think this set up would make things easier for a director.  It's actually more difficult, but Christian James pulls it off.
Production Values:  With a budget of 450,000 pounds sterling, the quality is about what you'd expect.  Not awful but not Hollywood by any means.
Gore/FX:  The blood gushes and spurts with abandon.  And W.C. pukes a lot.  Interestingly, they didn't bother with zombie make-up.  No CGI.
Scares:  There's a thing with a rat.  Bastards.
Ending:  Palmer calls his estranged mother from a call box...which is promptly surrounded by about a hundred zombies. 
Verdict:  Should you see Stalled?  I was intrigued and surprised.  It's goofy without being stupid and dramatic without being lame.  A must for zombie fans or fans of British horror.  And in case you didn't know, in Brit lingo, W.C. means toilet.  Water closet.  That wacky British humor...

Rating:  3 out of 5

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