Hardcore fans of gore-driven zombie movies be warned: 2009’s Zombie Dearest is not of that ilk. This movie is best described as a quirky horror movie, but not one in the vein of Shaun of the Dead or even 2006’s FIDO. No, Zombie Dearest is an acquired taste, and although it is not a bad movie, it is not one that I would care to sit through ever again.
The focus of the film is not really on zombies. Oddly enough, the theme of the film is on a man’s manhood, which we learn is not only a great source of comedy but also is magical under the proper conditions. This lowbrow type of comedy, coupled with bad standup sketches and domestic situations, take up the bulk of the movie.
The storyline centers on Gus Lawton (David Kemper, who also co-wrote the screenplay and directed), who fancies himself a gifted comedian (he is not). Caught in a rut, he makes the mistake of going out and having drinks with his wife’s best friend, Gwen (Wendy Jewell). Mistaken that Gwen is interested in him sexually, Gus goes for the gusto, only to realize that Gwen actually set him up for a surprise birthday party.
Devastated, Deborah (Shauna Black of Saw III and IV) leaves Gus and returns to her childhood home, a farmhouse that has been abandoned for some time. It is here that she remembers something horrible: Her mother and Uncle Pete (Derek McGrath) murdered a repairman and buried him just above the septic tank.
Before Deborah can properly move in, Gus shows up and asks for her forgiveness. Deborah hesitantly agrees on the condition that she will go to work and Gus will spend his days fixing up the place. The couple is haunted at night by knocks at the door and rats in the walls, and one morning the septic tank gives out. It falls on Gus to fix it. As he digs up the tank, he finds the dead repairman, not too worse off for wear and very reanimated. His nametag reads “Quinto” (David Sparrow).
The remainder of the film focuses on Gus’ struggles with Quinto, who at first behaves like a traditional Haitian zombie. As the movie progresses, Quinto begins to express Romero-like behaviors, such as wanting to eat living flesh. Quinto eventually bites Gus, who dies after a horrible comedy act. Gus and Quinto then set their sights on Deborah, who fights for her life before using a magic wish (which involves grabbing her undead husband’s pecker) to reverse what has come before. The incantation goes like this:
Witch’s wart and demon’s mole
You get one wish on a dead man’s pole.
The film thus ends with a happy ending, with a final comedic touch of implying that poor Gwen may be a cross-dressing man.
Zombie Dearest moves slowly and offers little gore (although things pick up toward the film’s climax). For me, much of the comedy felt forced, but I also believe this approach was intentional, as the writing is not bad when it comes to characterization and structure. Direction is solid if not a little unimaginative and the sets and effects are pretty good, given the film’s low budget.
For me, the comedy in Zombie Dearest simply did not work. That is not to say others may find the quirky, grating approach as amusing. However, I was bored, not amused, during much of the film.
Careful viewers will also find that there are some plotlines throughout the film that are never resolved. Although these plotlines are minor, they nevertheless show that the script needed a few more revisions before being filmed.