Friday, 18 October 2013

STALLED - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2013 - Awful zombie comedy from Blighty not scary or funny.

Stalled (2013) *
Dir. Christian James
Starring: Dan Palmer, Antonia Bernath

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Three things are getting mighty lame, mighty fast. First of all, zombie comedies. Secondly, zilch-budgeted genre films set in one room. Thirdly, one-joke, one-note, one-trick-pony zilch-to-low budgeted movies that rely too heavily upon a gimmick or, God Help Us All, an ironic and/or stupid punchline.

To the first, there is, in my humble estimation, no such thing anymore as horror comedies - period - at least none that are any good. The last truly great horror comedy was Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein in 1948 and a handful of good ones sprinkled throughout the late 50s and early 60s (1955's Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy and Roger Corman's 1963 Poe-inspired knee-slapper The Raven). I don't consider Mel Brooks's 1974 Young Frankenstein as a horror comedy, per se. For me, it's a comedy that happens to have selected the genre of horror to spoof and pay homage to (particularly the James Whale Universal Frankenstein pictures from the 30s). There are good horror movies with humour in them - especially when the humour comes naturally out of the drama and, more often than not, intrinsically linked to a filmmaker's directorial style wherein he is blessed with a great sense of humour. I consider Shaun of the Dead to emanate from this category and most notably, almost everything by the likes of Sam Raimi, Brian DePalma and Dan O'Bannon's Return of the Living Dead. These are movies (and/or directors) that scare the shit out of you and make you laugh. As for my second and third gripes, the writing and/or filmmaking need to be exceptional. If not, the experience can be both interminable and annoying. The new no-budget British film, Stalled, is pretty dreadful. Ten minutes into the picture (after very little of interest has actually transpired), we get some decent lesbo action. Though this perks things up a tad and suggests we might be in for a treat after all, our hopes are dashed as the rest of the picture becomes as dull and incompetent as the pre-sapphic shenanigans.

What you're in for, should you dare see this movie, is a nebbish maintenance slob credited as only W.C. ("screenwriter" and "star" Dan Palmer) who retires to a ladies room to collect himself after robbing a whack of dough from an office Christmas Party raging on the floor above. Two hot babes enter. Our hero hides in a stall. He watches them make out until one of them turns into a zombie and attacks the other one. He eventually has to dispatch the zombie babe and does so by smashing her head open with a toilet bowl seat. More zombies wander in and more and even more and he's stuck in the stall (Stalled, get it?) with no way out. It turns out that a young woman (Antonia Bernath) had earlier hidden in the toilet prior to his arrival and she's locked in a couple of cubicles down from him. While zombies mill about, W.C. and the woman talk. And talk, and talk and talk. Two lonely people who can't even see each other make a strong emotional connection.

Can things possibly get anymore sickening than this?


It turns out, the woman is a porker who is always made fun of by her co-workers. W.C. could care less if she's a sow because she "sounds" really cool. Given that the woman is voiced by Antonia Bernath, a genuine babe (she's played Priscilla Presley in a TV movie, after all), it's a bit hard to swallow. Even harder to swallow is when the bovine miss sacrifices herself so our loser hero can escape.

This ia a good thing too, since the script has one ironic twist up its sleeve that will induce groans - especially since we've already been served up plenty of mawkish touches with Miss Piggy and we get one whopper of a sickeningly sentimental wrap-up as our hero makes a call to his Mommy on a pay phone whilst he's surrounded by hundreds of zombies before the final cut to black signifies the movie is over (and we've happily been put out of our misery).

I feel like I'm picking on a cripple here since these filmmakers had so little in the way of dollars to make the picture, but I ultimately can't feel too bad, because it was made and has been put out in the world for people to pay hard-earned dough to see it. The movie is sloppily directed - with no sense of comic timing (for the purported laughs) and absolutely no talent is on display in terms of generating suspense.

The movie is paced like a State Funeral, the writing is severely lacking humour or invention, the screenwriter is also the lead actor and as such he's bereft of anything resembling screen presence, nor is he even capable of rendering a comic performance. The entire affair is badly shot to boot with ugly lighting and uninspired compositions. The soundscape is especially egregious since there's no consistency to capturing the sounds beyond W.C.'s stall - it's hollow and full of echoes. The zombie makeup and gore is serviceable, but hardly makes up for how otherwise loathsome the movie is.

This picture stinks (I'll refrain from making any toilet jokes here), however it avoids my infamous pubic hair rating because of the lesbo action - a tender mercy if there ever was one. By the way, if you ever want to see a GREAT horror movie with offscreen zombies (or, if you will, infected and deadly mutants), take a look at Bruce McDonald's brilliant Pontypool, written superbly by Tony Burgess - a craggy old D.J. and a babe are locked in a remote radio station as hell breaks loose outdoors.

Now that's how you do it, kids.

"Stalled" is playing at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2013. Visit the website HERE.