Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Cinema File #70: "A Cadaver Christmas" Review

Merry Christmas everybody.

If you've already watched A Christmas Story five or six times in a row by now (or just watched the sequel once), you're probably sick of Christmas movies at this point, and if you've been alive for the past decade or so of zombie mania, you're probably just as sick of Zombie movies as well. So, I thought it was only appropriate that on this, the birthday of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the original Christmas Zombie, that I review A Cadaver Christmas, a surprisingly delightful horror comedy with a unique, if somewhat distracting style, and a nihilistic sense of humor that builds to one of the better overall efforts in the genre I've seen in a long time.

A Cadaver Christmas follows a lowly Janitor, a disgraced former cop, and a couple of drunks on a mission to eradicate a small army of re-animated corpses brought to life on a college campus by a mad scientist experimenting with brain parasites. It starts off very slow, almost to the point where I was about to give up on it, or at least to where I was beginning to form a very negative opinion, and it took about fifteen to twenty minutes before I was laughing consistently, but once I was, I pretty much never stopped. The problems of the first third are mostly a question of pacing, with an unnecessary tendency to jump in and out of flashbacks, where I think more urgency would have resulted from keeping things linear in the present. Also, it takes some time for the characters to settle into a groove, most notably the police officer whose performance is just a bit too hammy at first, and a side character who provides the sarcastic voice of reason, only to lose all credibility due to an unnecessary scene involving necrophilia.

That being said, the main duo of the Janitor and the good-natured oaf Tom are almost instantly engaging and lovable, the latter providing most of the funniest lines in the movie through his child-like naivete, and the former coming off as some weird combination of Don Knotts and Ash from Evil Dead. The Janitor spends most of the movie covered in blood, turning his various cleaning instruments into weapons of undead destruction, only to be forced to switch to Christmas decorations when he runs out of mops and plungers, and Tom trudges along often blissfully unaware or unfazed by the danger around him. I was surprised by how genuine I found their friendship by the end, even amid all the absurd carnage and brutal lack of sentimentality, so much so that I was willing to forgive a last minute cheat to keep one of them in the movie longer than they otherwise should have been.

It's obviously low budget, and you'll never mistake it for anything else, but it does a lot with what it has and never comes off as cheap looking or hokey. The gore is mostly effective, especially given that for the most part this element is meant to take a backseat to some very funny dialogue One scene revealing a group of fresher and therefore faster zombies is almost legitimately chilling, with a great use of shadow to enhance the oncoming sense of dread, and the resulting exposition explaining it provides a satisfying middle ground in the whole running vs. shambling zombie debate. Even for a zombie comedy, the humor is particularly dark in some places, leading up to a twist ending that had me howling in my seat. I won't spoil it, except to say that it is all at once a happier ending than most zombie movies, and a tragicomic gut punch that is so abrupt, and yet so simple and dictated by common sense that you'll kick yourself for not seeing it coming.

If you can get past the slow start and the sometimes jarring shifts in pacing and tone, A Cadaver Christmas can be a very rewarding experience, and I highly recommend it for any zombie fan, or horror/comedy fan in general. Its not quite well rounded enough to justify becoming a new Christmas classic, let alone a 24 hour marathon movie a la A Christmas Story, but its certainly good enough to merit at least a few repeat viewings. At the very least, it would make a good last minute stocking stuffer.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the rest of your Christmas day/current day of Hanukkah and or Kwanza/possible Islamic winter holiday I'm not aware of/misc.celebration/day off school or work everybody. (I'd just say happy holidays, but I don't want Bill O'Reilly on my ass.)

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