I love zombie flicks as much as the next guy; although I’m not a TV watcher and thus The Walking Dead is lost to me (at least until I get all the Blu-Rays), I at least respect it for what it is and how it’s brought the subgenre to millions who probably wouldn’t have showed up otherwise. I am, however, a huge fan of the cinematic incarnations of the shuffling undead; from Romero to Fulci, Hell of, City of, and Shaun of the Dead and everything in between, I love ’em. Return of the Living Dead…Cemetery Man…Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things…28 Days Later…I even watch stuff like the SyFy flick Zombie Night without blinking…and even found some merit in that turd…so I feel pretty confident in saying that I’m a fan.
What I’ve always felt about the whole “Zombie Apocalypse” scenario however, differs from those intrepid survivalists of AMC’s hit series (and even Mr. Pitt’s character and his pals in World War Z); I’m one o’ those that has always said that it would be THE end, sooner or later. Kaput, finito, done. No one would really survive. It might take a few years, mebbe even a decade or so, but when you are grossly outnumbered by a tireless, self-sustaining, and unwaveringly dedicated enemy who, on top of replenishing itself from the ranks of your fallen, really doesn’t have another goddamn thing to do but wait for you to make a mistake, that’s pretty much the ballgame. Of course, I understand why that attitude wouldn’t make a movie that was worth a damn, but it is what it is.
Carolina Parakeet is a short zombie film by A.J. Briones that offers a viewpoint that’s differs from anything else I’ve seen in cinema; it’s not the norm, and it’s not the same kind of nihilistic view I personally entertain. Actually, my calling it a “zombie movie” isn’t really correct; in the tradition of what are truly the best zombie flicks, the ghouls aren’t the real focus of the film; they’re simply the catalyst that makes us look deeper into ourselves.
We open with a pair of survivors, Rachel and Matt, fleeing down a suburban street. They are relentlessly pursued by a mass of single-minded and hungry ghouls who plod their way relentlessly after the couple, undaunted by those of their number that fall to Matt’s sporadic gunfire. Finding themselves surrounded, Rachel and Matt are rescued by an older man in one of the small homes, Wallace, who hurries them into his living room, locking out the mindless horde. He offers them a little rest and refreshment, and makes small talk with them, wondering what their plans are. They tell him they’re heading to a rural area where Rachel’s sister has a patch of land, hopefully to hole up and survive this crisis. Using the analogy of the methodic extinction of the Carolina Parakeet to illustrate his views on the whole situation (as the film cycles to different views of the carnage happening all over town), Wallace graciously declines their offer to take he and his wife (whom is sleeping too soundly to awaken; it’s the first sleep she’s had since this mess started, after all) with them to the farm, choosing instead to remain in his home and face the fate he believes is inevitable, and perhaps deserved…
The zombie backdrop of the film is nothing different than any from one of those other films I mentioned earlier; the overall cause is unknown, and the situations predictable. All of this is irrelevant; what reaches out and grabs you in this tale, the meat and potatoes of the film, is Wallace’s intelligent, completely sensible and matter-of-fact viewpoint on the entire disaster. The script was well-written and researched, and the use of the poor extinct bird’s tragic history is a perfect and poignant metaphor to illustrate the older man’s beliefs. I came away from this film finding my own theories about such a “slate wiping” event with a more philosophical and perhaps somehow even less defeatist bent. I was really, really impressed with the story and the way it unfolded; the performances were what you expected, but in Myles Cranford, playing Wallace, I saw a intricate and emotional performance that was exceptional; I was completely sold on the character. As far as blood and guts…well, as I said, there’s not an overabundance of in-your-face FX, but what you do see is solid, quite professional, and more than adequate to serve the story. All in all, I have to tip my hat to writer/director Briones, the film caught me off-guard; it wasn’t at all what I expected, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I can see where this short won’t please everyone; hell, what flick does? But when the focus isn’t on blood, gore, or even zombies for that matter, there’s just not a lot to attract the hardcore, gut-munchin’ zed-head, is there? Unless, just maybe, you can dig a really thoughtful and introspective look into ourselves as human beings, and how our very best attributes could very well be our downfall.
Pretty heavy stuff for a 15 minute zombie flick, eh folks?
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