Sunday, September 22, 2013

Horror Film Review

Harold's Going Stiff (2011):  I've seen a hell of a lot of zombie flicks in my life.  Some made me laugh, some grossed me out, some tried my patience with cinema in general, and a choice few left me breathless from an adrenaline high.  This offering from the U.K., however, is the first zombie movie that depressed me.  I'm fairly certain it wouldn't have, at least not to the degree it did, if it hadn't been marketed as a comedy.  It's not a comedy.  Well, maybe a half-hearted attempt at black comedy.  Didn't work.  Mostly, it's just black.

A strange illness is afflicting the menfolk of Britain.  They're slowly entering rigor mortis.  No one knows why...initially.  Their minds begin slipping and finally, they go all Hannibal Lector.  Hospitals and cops are overwhelmed which gives rise to volunteers, some of which are simply vigilantes roaming the countryside with baseball bats and delusions of grandeur.  The biggest delusion is Harold.  You see, Harold Gimble (Stan Rowe) is patient zero, so he's their white whale.  Problem is, Harold may have been the first, but the affliction is progressing more slowly in him than in anyone else.  Penny Rudge (Sarah Spencer) is an upbeat volunteer nurse asked to check in on Harold.  Despite the age gap, the two become close friends.  Doesn't hurt that he's a nostalgic widower and she's unlucky in love.  A misery-loves-company thing.  Eventually, Harold is asked back to the institute to have more tests performed and to try an experimental drug.  After a brief remission, Harold begins to decline.  Penny drives him to a special place where he proposed to his wife.  Three vigilantes we've followed off and on during the film turn up as Harold turns aggressive.  Of course they do.  It's that kind of movie.  Friggin' pathos.

Annoying bits:  one of the vigilantes is bitten by one of the afflicted but he doesn't become infected.  So why bother showing it?  In certain scenes, Penny and/or Harold will be talking to the camera (as if they're being interviewed) but the next second, it's back to normal, non-documentary shooting.  Make up your mind, already.  Not so annoying are the few spots of humor (Harold puts dish soap in his tea and the vigilantes are morons who are way too full of themselves).  I also liked how committed Rowe was to playing Harold.  Almost felt like I was going into rigor with him.


Acting:  Rowe is a revelation, Spencer is a joy, and the three morons could stand a bit of remedial training..
Story:  Can't argue that's it's a new take on the genre.  Just wish it wasn't so predictable.  And heavy.
Direction:  As mentioned before, the part mockumentary/part normal horror is frustrating for the viewer. 
Production Values:  We're not talking millions of pounds here, but I have no specific complaints.  It looks like most horror flicks out of the U.K. 
Gore/FX:  No gore, no CGI, and the only blood we see is when the vigilante morons are whacking the zombies with their baseball bats.  No zombie make-up to speak of, so I won't.
Scares:  I don't think it was a priority.
Ending:  Friggin' pathos.
Verdict:  Should you see Harold's Going Stiff?  For all my bitching, it's worth watching.  As long as you know going in not to expect another Shaun of the Dead.

Rating:  3 out of 5

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