We Are Zombies - Fantastic Fest International Premiere Review
Director: François Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell
Starring: Alexandre Nachi, Derek Johns, Megan Peta Hill, Vincent Leclerc
Written by: François Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell
Produced by: Laurent Baudens, Didar Domehri, Fabrice Giger, Gaël Nouaille, Pierre Spengler
Cinematography by: Jean-Phillippe Bernier
In a city infested with the living-impaired aka non-cannibal zombies - three slackers after easy money must fight small-time crooks and an evil megacorporation to save their kidnapped grandma.
It's almost impossible these days to make a zombie comedy and NOT be compared to 'Shawn of the Dead'. That film perfected the mix of horror and comedy, to the point that every zombie comedy film after it just felt like a lesser knock off. Films like 'Zombieland' and 'The Dead Don’t Die' have come at the genre from different angles to great success, but those are heavy stylised films to set itself apart. The zombie comedy genre has actually had a boom in comic book form. Comic series' like 'iZombie' and 'Chew' have opened up the world of possibility of what you can do with the genre.
The 2004 series 'The Zombies That Ate the World' by Jerry Frissen introduced us to the characters of Karl and Freddy, two zombie catchers, in a world where zombies are more of an inconvenience than a threat. After the success of 2015’s 'Turbo Kid' the directing team of RKSS (François Simard, Anouk Whissell, and Yoann-Karl Whissell) have now adapted the comic series for the big screen. RKSS’s off kilter sense of humour and use of gore could be a perfect fit for a horror comedy, but have they made something worthy of the popular comic series or have they just made another 'Shawn of the Dead' rip off?
If you’ve seen an RKSS film (Turbo Kid or Summer of ‘84) before you kind of know what to expect here. They often feature dark, non-PC humour (which could put off some viewers), adult characters acting like teenagers and a visual style that’s often influenced by 80’s movies. It’s clear to see why these films are horror film festival favourites but they sometimes don’t work as well when you’re watching it in the comfort of your own home. Luckily, 'We Are Zombies' is hilarious and the premise is a lot of fun. The influences of 'Robocop', 'Repo Man' and 'Re-Animator 2' are very much on full show here and the world feels very lived in. I’ve had trouble in the past with RKSS movies as their worlds often feel like someone trying too hard to feel like an 80’s film; whereas 'We Are Zombies' has quite a fleshed-out world.
The two main leads, Alexandre Nachi and Derek Johns (Karl and Freddy), have great chemistry together. They reminded me a lot of Norm McDonald and Artie Lange in 'Dirty Work', as they believably play lifelong friends. Their banter did have me laughing out loud at moments and I'd love to see the two of them working together again. The comic series is ongoing, so I'd be fun to see these characters back in another adventure. Megan Peta Hill plays Maggie, the sister of Karl and love interest of Freddy, and I don’t want to be rude about Miss Hill because I've seen her in other projects and know she’s a good actress, but my goodness is the character of Maggie the worst I've seen in a while. Maggie’s annoyance towards Karl and Freddy’s dumb conversations often stops the fun, which I couldn’t stand. The character honestly ruined multiple scenes just by being there, pointing out how dumb our main characters are being. If you’ve ever been in a situation where you’re having fun and you notice someone sitting with a sore bake just staring at you and your friends, you know how annoying it be. It stops the momentum of the jokes and in a comedy film, that’s not a great thing.
The zombie aspect of the film is pretty surface level and that’s fine. Zombies aren’t the walking dead here, they’re “The living impaired”, meaning that they don’t eat humans, they’re just dead people who came back to life. The horror elements are fun when they happen. Lots of blood, fun kills and inventive ways of lopping off body parts. If you’ve seen 'iZombie' or 'Santa Clarita Diet', it’s very similar in tone when it comes to the zombie comedy. As mentioned earlier the Non-PC jokes might be a bit too much for some viewers but it’s very much in tone with an 80’s comedy (for better or worse.)
The story kind of loses sight of itself as it enters the second act. Karl and Maggie have their granny kidnapped in the first act and they’ve to raise money to get her back. By the end of the film you’ve forgotten completely that the granny is even a character. The film is a lot of fun and is well paced, so you don’t mind as much, but if you’re coming here to see a coherent story, you’re going to be disappointed.
'We Are Zombies' is thin on story but big on laughs. It’s definitely a standout in the zombie comedy genre that I think will quickly gain a cult following.
- Adam Neeson
'We Are Zombies' received its International Premiere at Fantastic Fest '23 on September 23rd