I've written about this before (Black Sheep & Severance), but horror-comedy is my favorite genre of films, although I believe they're extremely tough to do well, just the right tone has to be created. I was a bit excited to sit down with The Mad, which came recommended, 4 stars, from Netflix. The film is a zombie-comedy, or uh, zomedy; and I have a weird thing for zombies, I'll never get sick of them. Another bonus was Billy Zane, I've always liked him and I think he got a bit of a raw deal from Hollywood. He deserves to be seen in more films, in this film he gets a rare lead role. He's fun to watch, the rest of the film, not so much.
It takes a little while to get going, too much step-mom/daughter drama, but the film lulled me into a false state of hope, with a well made, equally funny and gory first half. Topping it off with the best scene in the film. From here the film takes a sharp turn downwards, and devolves into a real mess, relying way too much on some horrible comedy routines and flaking out on the "zombie" action.
The Mad is about a family on a road trip together, stopping in at small town diner for a meal of famous organic hamburgers. Unknown to everyone, is the local farmer, who supplies the beef, has had a bit of mad-cow disease problem at his ranch, and decides to sell the meat anyways. While waiting for their meal, it's fun to watch as two customers behind them enjoy the burgers then quickly change into raging "zombies", and before you know it the step-mom gets a knife to the head and is being chomped on like something from the menu. Things quickly get nuts, as the entire restaurant is turned into a human slaughterhouse. Soon Billy Zane, his daughter, her boyfriend, the chef, and the cute-bad-ass waitress are the only ones left alive.
Billy Zane plays a great reluctant hero, showing a true flair for physical comedy. He manages to kill a ton of "zombies", but each time sort of bungling his way through it with a scared look on his face, eventually towards the end it's second nature. When the group decides to leave the diner to make their way to the farm, to stop the beef from getting any further, the film really starts to get bad. It turns on a dime, from well made, witty gruesome-humor, to poorly executed scenes of slapstick, with the "zombies" playing the fall guys. In one particularly bad scene, Zane and his daughter talk over their family issues while fighting off "zombies" like they were nothing more than bothersome flies. Even in the ridiculous world that the film has created, it was too far out of reality.
I keep writing "zombies", because these aren't zombies, much in the same way that the "zombies" of 28 Days Later aren't zombies; they are in fact infected humans, with zombie like qualities. To truly qualify for zombie status, you must come back from the dead. These people never died, they changed, and once they're dead, they stay dead. The film doesn't claim they're zombies, in the scene I mentioned before, they pontificate on what they're truly dealing with. I simply get annoyed when the film's marketers and other reviewers insist on calling them zombies. Just like when most everyone claims that 28 Days Later was the first film to have running-zombies, when Return of the Living Dead had it beat by nearly two-decades. See, I told you I had a weird thing about zombie flicks. I'm getting off tangent.
If you're a horror fan, there are enough redeeming qualities to make The Mad worth seeing. The first half is some well made fun, and Billy Zane remains pretty great throughout, despite the ridiculous things the filmmakers have him doing. The rest of the cast is okay, I didn't particularly care for the actress playing his daughter, but the tough-waitress chick mostly makes up for her. I wish the film had kept the tone they had set in the first half, it could have been a much better film, and potentially gone down as a minor cult-classic. As it is, it's too big of a mess to be considered anywhere near a good film. - Grade: C-
If you're looking for a good zomedy, with true zombies in it, check out the far superior: Fido