What would you do if your loved one turned into a zombie? That seems to be the question viewers are left to ponder while watching About A Zombie, directed by Bing Bailey, also the writer along with Laura Morand Bailey.
An Irish film set in a working-class Dublin neighborhood, About A Zombie is another low-budget found footage style movie starting with the arrival of an ignorant American filmmaker, whose name is never given, to document the Murphy family and explore their decision to keep Billy, their zombie son, alive, albeit restrained, in their house.
Taking care of a zombie is, not surprisingly, not such an easy feat and we do get a sense of that from what we see of Billy. However, we don’t really see all that much of him. What we get instead is a lot of talking and a lot of social commentary, as well. Friends, neighbors, film crew members – almost everyone it seems – has an opinion about the Murphy family keeping their zombie son alive and those opinions are sprinkled liberally with thoughts on everything from the Catholic church to women working in film crews. Truthfully, I enjoyed the commentary and thought the different characters provided a good sense of the local culture, but there was so much of it, I also found it to be a distraction.
Besides various people talking to the camera, interspersed with shots of Billy, we also occasionally see small, roaming groups of zombies, usually being attacked and killed by a local mobster and his two underlings. Strangely, there doesn’t seem to be any official law enforcement response to Billy being kept at home, or to the sporadic zombie invasion, itself. In addition, when zombie-bitten people have limbs amputated to avoid becoming zombies themselves, they don’t appear to seek any medical treatment for their bloody stumps. I found anomalies such as these also distracting.
Does Bailey want us to take the movie seriously? The amount of emotion in this film suggests that he does. The Murphy’s are a strong family unit and determined to stick together, zombie and all, no matter what the neighbors think. We get how much Danny and Lizzie love Billy, their first born child, and how proud they are of him, sometimes to the point of delusion. As visually reinforced in one particularly disturbing scene between Lizzie and her flesh-eating son, there really isn’t anything the Murphy’s wouldn’t do for their son. So their predicament really hits home on what an impossible decision it would be to have to put your child down like a rabid dog.
Besides hitting home on the emotional factor, another area where the film did get it right was with casting. I particularly enjoyed watching Danny and Lizzy, played by Rory Mullen and Geraldine McAlinden, and could completely see them as Billy’s parents.
The emotional pull and the casting, however, just aren’t enough to save About A Zombie. More character development would have helped – it’s hard to care about almost any of the characters, given how little we know about them. More importantly, however, more context would have been appreciated. Even if the movie is only about one zombie, some glimpse of the larger zombie picture would, if nothing else, have left me a little less confused while watching the film. There is so much that is never revealed about how the zombies or even how Billy became one in the first place.
I haven’t watched a lot of zombie films, so how About A Zombie compares to the bulk of them, I can’t honestly say. But for anyone in need of a zombie fix, my humble opinion is that you’re better off waiting for the next season of The Walking Dead.
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