Stalled Christian James
Published Oct 19, 2013The ceaseless glut of titles in the current zombie boom infecting pop culture makes it harder than ever to stand out in the gut-munching field, making the gimmick almost essential. As the title so aptly conveys, this low budget zom-com takes place in a public crapper. But Stalled isn't just a useful pun banner; the word is as deliberately chosen for thematic value as it is for comedic intention.
To set up this particular tale of an outsider working through personal issues by bashing in the heads of the unsympathetic masses, a janitor finds himself trapped in a women's lavatory during an outbreak of the undead. W.C. (Dan Palmer, who also wrote the script) is doing what appears to be more than a little routine maintenance – his tool box is full of money – when a couple of scantily clad dancers from a Christmas party fundraiser come in to the loo, feeling drunk, frisky and gossipy.
Thinking he's about to receive a voyeuristic seasonal treat, W.C. readies his wanking hand, only to have a sensual tease turned into a horror show when one of the ladies proves interested in eating more than her friend's midge. Duly chastised, the audience, by proxy of our nebbish protagonist, is made abundantly aware that this isn't a movie that will subscribe to the rules of objectification practiced by many horror films.
An early attempt to escape results in the flesh chomping hoards flooding the room, forcing W.C. back to his stall where he frantically fights off these traditional slow stumbling zombies using little more than a screw driver, the toilet seat and a bra. In such a constrained environment, it's a testament to the ingenuity of Christian James's shot composition and Palmer's script that Stalled never drags or gets stale.
Between Evil Dead-inspired zombie kills (the fingerprints of Sam Raimi's editing style are unmistakable) and an assortment of gore gags, W.C. strikes up a conversation with a women hiding a few stalls down. Their chats provide a window for much needed character development, the nature of which is unexpectedly moving at times and quite insightful and funny at others. W.C.'s rant about celebrating Garfield's birthday instead of Christmas – because of how much more joy the cynical cartoon cat has brought his life than Jesus – is a major highlight.
With an irreverence for horror tropes comparable to Feast, effectively rendered low budget gore, carefully considered sound design – vital in a film with limited visual options – characters that are sympathetic in all their selfish human flaws and a seriously goofy sense of humour – there is an ecstasy-induced trip-out dance number – Stalled is a welcome addition to the limited pantheon of successful zombie comedies. (Cubicle Hero)