During an interview in the mid 90's, George A Romero discussed the potential plot to his long-awaited follow up to Day of the Dead. He said it would revolve around the social complacency of zombies. Zombies would exist in society like a lower class. While still a minor threat, society would have progressed to a point where zombies were treated more like a nuisance.
Mark Fratto, the writer and director of Zombies Anonymous, must have been paying attention. Zombies Anonymous makes a close-but-no-cigar attempt at exploring a world where zombies and living humans co-exist.
That little itch could be a gunshot wound in your head.
The movie starts with Angela (Gina Ramsden) being brutally murdered by her boyfriend, Josh, who is played WAY over-the-top by Joshua Nelson. Awakening as a zombie, she must struggle with her new place in society's lowest common denominator. She must try to hide her slowly decaying body from her employer as it is frowned upon to hire the undead. She is lured into merchandising by cosmetics companies that promise to give zombies the look of a bright, vibrant living human. She joins a zombie support group (hence the name: Zombies Anonymous) where they discuss ways to assimilate into the living world including eating donuts even though it causes vomiting. All of this is handled with great comedic and surprisingly emotional effect.
How does anyone acquire a wound like that?
While Angela struggles to accept her zombie identity, her ex-boyfriend joins a radical zombie hate group. Lead by The Commandant (Christa McNamee), the group’s vitriol against zombies is played to unintentional high camp. They mostly resemble the nazi skin heads that used to appear on the Morton Downey Jr. Show in the 1980s. Their goal is to see zombies removed from every level of society. Why? Zombies take jobs from the living! Zombies are ugly! Zombies are… zombies! It is a flimsy political statement with the zombies in Zombies Anonymous are portrayed as sympathetic characters. They don't hunt the living for "brains". They are nothing more than the sad second life of our friends and loved ones. It is the shallow, close-minded living humans that are the real threat. Never seen that before!
To a predictable end, Josh discovers that Angela is a zombie and must face his actions. Without giving anything away, the film’s climax can been seen like a slow train pulling into station.
Angela’s discovery and exploration into the life of a zombie proves to be the real highlight of Zombies Anonymous. It’s a shame this subject only makes up 1/3 of the movie. Ramsden is a surprising find and her portrayal of Angela is surprisingly effective. One gets the sense that the team behind Zombies Anonymous got nervous about being classified as a “zombie dramedy” and opted to switch directions to appease the the gore-thirsty masses. Gore is great and Zombies Anonymous delivers on the blood and guts.
But what separates Zombies Anonymous from the other low-budget entries in the zombie canon is it's brief, albeit totally enjoyable, exploration into zombie society. Please, someone, make that movie.