Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Christian James and Dan Palmer's witty STALLED offers fabulous fun by co-joining the contained-space and zombie genres

Surely by now it must be clear -- what with those AMC Walking Dead zombies having slo-moed their way into the mainstream and the [REC] series offering its best and also funniest of its film via number 3 -- that the zombie genre is now mainly fit for (mostly) fun. When a so-so example like World War Z is greeted with critical hosannas and big box-office, it is sadly certain that no real reinvention (other than making zombies funny) is in the cards anytime soon. All of which is to say that the British and very low-budget movie STALLED comes on like a breath of fresh air in this increasingly stale genre. (It even -- see alternate poster below -- has the audacity to make fun of the only really good effect in all of World War Z.)

As directed by Christian James and written by Dan Palmer (who also portrays the lead character), Stalled has the very smart idea of joining two genres: the zombie movie and the confined-space thriller (Brake, Devil, Buried, etc.). This combination works amazingly well -- mostly because Stalled is much more a comedy than a horror film (although the blood and gore rise to a rather high level). The title itself should bring a smile to your face, as it refers to the hero of the film, a maintenance man in a hi-rise building who gets stuck in a toilet stall in the women's lavatory during an office Christmas party, just at the moment when -- and isn't it always like this -- the zombie apocalypse breaks out.

Mr. James, shown at left, and his lovely cast have a lot of fun initially toying with the intellectual level of these zombie -- which is probably no more or less than in most other films, but here is played for some terrific, low-key laughter. There's a subplot about a tool box stuffed with money, which we realize will figure in during the course of things. Having the Christmas-party guests in costume is yet another inspired choice for some further humor. Mr. James also knows how to pace a Zombie movie very well. But mostly, it's the genuinely funny and often surprising writing from Mr. Palmer that keeps the movie rolling fast, along with his ability to fill the screen-play with numerous and pointed events, even though we're confined to a toilet. (Better yet, these events are not poop/pee-related, but rather help move the story along and keep us giggling.)

The dialog is pretty funny, too. ("Come and get it!" has perhaps never taken on such disgusting delight.) Along the way, Mr. Palmer (above and below) also dishes up one of the dirtiest jokes ever to grace a movie -- involving ear-piercing, parents, and a computer.

Around the time we get to disco dancing in the toilet -- and a cream-of-the-crop fantasy sequence that follows it -- you will have not simply suspended your disbelief but gleefully stomped all over it. The one caveat I have is that some of the dialog, with its thick British accent, got by me. (We could have used English subtitles, but the movie offers none.)

The use of Christmas carols on the soundtrack is done with utmost charm and care and there are some lovely little touches along the way that are actually rather sweet. Get ready for a couple of ace surprises here, too. And when the end credits roll, don't click off, as there's a smart post-credit sequence in store for those who wait.

Really: What can any halfway intelligent filmmaker do with the zombie genre any longer -- except play it for laughs? That said, there's unlikely to be anything much funnier for quite some time than Stalled. (The film initially appears to have been titled "Cubicle Hero," which ain't a bad name, either.)

The movie, running a brisk 85 minutes, is available now via Netflix streaming and Amazon Instant Video.


Anonymous said...

Can not wait for this film.

signed up for both netflix and amazon prime to watch this.

Unfortunately does not work with UK ip atm

James van Maanen said...

Thanks for the comment, Anonymous.

I really hope you manage to see this one. (And lemme know, if and when you do, what you thought of it....)