Friday, February 8, 2013

Worth Mentioning - Once You're Bit, That's It

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

Cody follows zombies from fundraising to completion.


During the opening title sequence, a series of internet video clips catches us up on the world of Cost of the Living. What first seemed to be an outbreak of cannibal attacks soon proved to be an epidemic of re-animated, flesh eating corpses. As the plague spread, the number of flesh eaters growing into the millions, society collapsed and big cities fell. Zombie apocalypse time. But people fought back, found ways to survive. Areas were secured, the walking dead held at bay, a solution of sorts found. Now a company called Z Core performs brain surgeries on zombies to remove their lateral hypothalamus, without which they no longer hunger to feed on people. If you can't afford the Z Core treatment for your favorite zombie, other companies offer the procedure at a less costly price (and are less reliable.)

After the title sequence, the start of the zombie outbreak is many years behind us. Docile, lateral hypothalamus-less zombies, referred to as "post-ops", co-exist peacefully with humans in the barricaded city the movie is primarily set in and are used as cheap labor for monotonous tasks, hired as theatre ushers, landscapers, postal workers, store stockboys, etc.

A zombie named Brian works at a fast food joint called Burgerrrrrs, and this romantic comedy gets its "meet cute" when a young man named Andrew instinctively stops Brian from stepping out in front of a car driven by Emily, who happens to be one of Brian's co-workers. Andrew is instantly taken with Emily and pursues a relationship with her, but of course things are complicated. Not only does Emily already have a boyfriend, who turns out to be a work-obsessed jerk, but she and Andrew are also from different sides of the tracks. Or wall, in this case.

Andrew is an outlier, meaning he lives outside the city's barrier, where it's still a zombie free-for-all. He goes on regular zombie hunting trips with his militantly anti-dead sister. Emily's a city-dwelling leftist who believes in dead rights. She lives amongst zombies, works with them, her best friend even dates zombies, trading up when her boyfriends' rotting bodies start stinking. Emily keeps her zombie mother in her home, and has a tough time taking care of her. (Though she doesn't have nearly as much trouble as Lionel had with his dead mother in Dead-Alive.)

These issues provide the characters with obstacles to overcome to make their relationship work, necessary for any good rom com, and are also director Daniel Lee White doing what most of the best zombie movies do, using the zombies as a backdrop for character study, human drama, and social commentary. White had the topics of same sex marriage, migrant workers, abortion, and euthanasia on his mind when putting his story together, and while that comes across in the film it's never overdone, the movie finds the right balance of reflecting reality while entertaining with its zombie world.

The movie does have some shortcomings, the biggest problem for me being that it feels like it goes on a bit too long at 105 minutes. It was made on a very small budget, which is apparent when watching it, but I think the story overcomes the budgetary and technical limitations, as does the acting. Everyone does well in their roles, with Kevin Killavey and Sarah Nicklin making Andrew and Emily very likeable and enjoyable to watch.

Cost of the Living first came to my attention almost three years ago, when I heard about its fundraising campaign. I've contributed to a handful of independent productions over the years, so far all directly to the filmmakers rather than through sites like Kickstarter or Indiegogo, and about half of those experiences have been disappointing, with the people behind the campaigns turning out to have lousy communication with their contributors and neglecting to go through with the terms of the deal. It seems to me that totally ignoring people who have donated money to their productions and/or are potential customers is about the worst move an independent filmmaker could make, but it happens. So I'm glad to say that was not the case with Daniel Lee White and Love Thy Job Films. I donated some money to the production of Cost of the Living and got an e-mail acknowledging the donation within a few days. My name has been on a list of thank yous on the movie's website for quite a while, and as promised at the time of donation I also got a special thanks in the end credits. Love Thy Job did it right.

Now that it's finished, Cost of the Living is making the rounds screening at film festivals and conventions, and is currently available for viewing on YouTube for a limited time, which is how I watched it this week. I haven't heard anything about a DVD release yet, but I look forward to owning a copy whenever it's possible.

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