• My Fair Zombie




    Directed by: Brett Kelly
    Released by: Camp Motion Pictures
    Released on: August 26, 2014
    Cast: Sascha Gabriel, Lawrence Evenchick, Barry Caiger
    Year: 2013
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    The Movie:

    Ottawa-based low-budget filmmaker Brett Kelly (She-Rex, Attack of the Giant Leeches) is no stranger to the zombie subgenre. After directing My Dead Girlfriend in 2006, he's back 7 years later to capitalize on the recent trend of Victorian zombie mashups, which began in 2009 with the publication of Seth Grahame-Smith's parody novel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. My Fair Zombie is an adaptation of George Cukor's classic 1964 film version of My Fair Lady starring Audrey Hepburn, and not the George Bernard Shaw stage version. Why that distinction matters is mostly because fans of the '64 My Fair Lady who also happen to enjoy musical zombie comedies, which I've got assume is an extremely narrow audience segment, will find a lot to enjoy about how My Fair Zombie chooses to adapt its source material. The sets, costumes and musical choices, though they're constrained by the film's budget, are all designed to evoke the 1964 film.

    The movie opens with a musical number sung by a flower-selling tramp on a set that's supposed to be a street in London but looks like an ordinary brick wall. The song is clever, funny and quickly establishes up the premise that Victorian London is being plagued by the living dead, but life goes on. Well, it doesn't go on for the flower girl, who is attacked by a zombie after getting into an argument with two gentlemen, Colonel Pickering (Barry Caiger) and Henry Higgins (Lawrence Evenchick). While the flower-girl is being eaten alive, the two gentlemen agree that, with the right education, a flesh-eating zombie could become a member of high society. So they capture the zombie who ate the flower girl and try to make her into a “proper lady.” They take the zombie back to Higgins' home and name her “Eliza Doolittle,” because this is a My Fair Lady parody, and then begin with her daily lessons. Where Eliza in the original couldn't seem to drop her Cockney accent, in this version Eliza's problem is her pesky craving for brains. She's so obsessed with eating them that all she can talk about is brains. Determined to turn her into a lady, Higgins and Pickering supply Eliza with a fresh brains (that look conspicuously like raspberry Jell-O) while trying to get her to recite the alphabet. Sooner than you can say “the rain in Spain, stays mainly in the brains,” Eliza is dressing and speaking like a real English lady. Or at least, a Canadian low-budget film's approximation of that.

    Maybe it's because zombies work best when they're used as a metaphor for social issues (like in George Romero's films) and My Fair Lady is essentially a story about the social class system in Victorian Birtain, but My Fair Zombie comes across as a more natural pairing of zombies with a Victorian era source text than Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Eliza's education by Pickering and Higgins is definitely done in a tongue-and-cheek style, but that doesn't mean it's not at least a little bit reminiscent of Bub's domestication by Dr. Frankenstein in Romero's Day of the Dead. Unfortunately the zombie makeup effects in the movie are uninspired. Eliza is just painted corpse-white with blue-black eyeshadow circling her eyes. Most of the other zombies look the same, with too much eyeshadow on and just a splash of blood here and there so you know they're zombies. The gore effects in the film are laughable, though there's a moment where a heart is ripped out of someone's chest that looked pretty decent.

    The cinematography in My Fair Zombie is very rudimentary. The camera barely moves at all, and the action only cuts to focus on the individual speakers. I was surprised to find that My Fair Zombie didn't begin as a play (or at least, I couldn't find anything online to confirm that it was), because the movie is shot and staged like a play. Each scene is performed usually in a single room or set with all the actors including in the shot until they start speaking to each other. It looks like it could have been made for Canadian television in the early 90s. Maybe it's just the local talent in Ottawa, but the acting also feels very much like community theater. The accents of the cast are all over the place. Some of the older actors seem to handle their lines better than the younger members of the cast, but almost everyone sounds like a Canadian putting on a bad British accent. The cast is about as good at singing as they are at acting, but the often funny lyrics save the musical numbers from being tedious. Sacha Gabriel portrays Eliza with a wide-eyed stare and a goofy grin that's hard not to like. She's cute, for sure, but the movie doesn't go out of its way to make her look like Aubrey Plaza in Life After Beth or anything like that. On the whole the cast members are pretty forgettable, but none of them are gratingly bad.

    My Fair Zombie is a good time if you like My Fair Lady and also are into zombie films. It's tough to recommend this movie to anyone other than fans of musical horror comedies. While it does have a campy sense of humor that kept me laughing throughout, the fact remains that My Fair Zombie is a kitschy product that most people will watch for the same reason they'll read a book like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies or Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.

    Audio/Video/Extras:

    My Fair Zombie is presented on DVD by Camp Motion Pictures in 16:9 aspect ration with a standard MPEG-2 encode. The transfer on this DVD shows a decent level of detail for a low-budget film shot on digital equipment, but not to the extent that it will impress. The level of detail really varies from scene to scene, as does the quality of the video, the lighting, and color reproduction. In some scenes it looks like a blue filter was applied to make it look like the movie was being shot at night, other scenes are shot in “daylight” but still have a bluish tinge, while other scenes have a more yellow orange look to them. One scene in the middle of the film looks especially bad, like it was shot on different equipment entirely from the rest of the movie. Overall, the video presentation isn't great but it's also not so bad that it renders the film unwatchable, it just highlights that this was a very low-budget, independent production.

    The movie fares somewhat better on the audio side of things. The audio is handled by a Dolby Digital 2.0 track that provides clean audio throughout the movie. Dialogue is easy to hear, and the background music is nicely balanced with the voice acting. The music never overtakes the lyrics during the musical numbers, so it's easy to get the jokes as they're being sung.

    Special features on this DVD include a Feature Commentary, a 6-minute Blooper Reel, a 2-minute Behind the Scenes Slideshow, a 10-minute interview with cast members Lawrence Evenchick and Barry Caiger, a trailer for My Fair Zombie, and a load of additional trailers from Camp Motion Pictures (including Video Violence, Woodchipper Massacre, and more). The Commentary track features director Brett Kelly, composer/sound-designer Howard Sonnenburg, and Lawrence Evenchick. The commentary follows through the pre-production to the making of the film. The three have worked together on several of Kelly's films and so they have a natural chemistry with each other. If you're a fan of Kelly's films or want to know more about the making of a low-budget musical, it's a decent enough commentary track.

    The Final Word:

    My Fair Zombie is exactly what it sounds like: a mashup of My Fair Lady and zombies. If you're a fan of the 1964 adaption of My Fair Lady, and you also happen to like zombies, this is a movie for you. For everyone else, My Fair Zombie's mixture of Victorian-period dress, musical comedy, and zombie hijinks probably won't entertain much beyond the one-joke premise.