Judge Brett Cullum says don't get the mad, get the even.
Flesh is on the menu and you are what they eat.
Thanks to the likes of Shaun of the Dead, the zombie comedy is alive and well. It's becoming a distinct genre, and I'm tempted to start labeling these releases with a tag like "Zom Com" or "Zomedy." Bloody, gruesome, and twisted humor characterize movies in these new horror romps showcasing the lumbering undead types Romero made famous. The Mad comes from Canada, and riffs right off the Fast Food Nation, Mad Cow, and USDA fears people seem to have concerning beef. On top of the evil burgers, there's also a father-daughter reconnecting story, and a chance for Billy Zane (Dead Calm) to show off his physical and verbal comedy skills. There's a whole lot going on, and The Mad doesn't keep a consistent tone even with its admirable ambitions. Still, if you're a fan of blood-soaked comedy peppered with zombies it may be worth a look.
The movie starts off with a not-so-subtle montage of cows ready for slaughter drinking neon green water from a trough. Off goes the tainted meat to a rural burger joint, and you can guess what happens next—anyone who chows down on a hamburger patty turns into a flesh eating zombie hungry for human flesh. In comes Dr. Jason Hunt (Zane) and his sulky teenage daughter Amy (Maggie Castle, Fast Food High) along with their respective dates for the weekend (Shauna MacDonald and Evan Charles Flock). They have to escape the diner, and make their way to the farm to find out what's going on. Along the way they'll lose friends and lovers to the hungry hordes of zombies who are always pursuing them.
The Mad has some unique, genre-bending elements going for it, and it's not every day Billy Zane and cows join forces with zombies for a comic horror romp. Surprisingly, the film examines its characters fully. We get a lot of beats dedicated to their backstories, and the father daughter relationship is fleshed out well enough to feel genuine. Zane seems to have been given free reign by director John Kalangis (Jack and Jill) to ramble and make odd choices in his line delivery. He's funny, but it's a quirky performance that sometimes has its own goals—which run counter to the rest of the film. He seems to shrug every death and zombie off and keep things low key as he rambles through without any urgency. Ironically enough The Mad tries too hard to be intensely scary, and the comedy is forced and not successful as it could be. It moves at a nice clip, but it doesn't live up to its clever premise or inspired casting. By never taking anything seriously it can't deliver suspense or social commentary with conviction. I will admit watching meat patties attack people is pretty funny, and perhaps this would be a great title for vegetarians and vegans looking for a thrill.
Genius Products delivers an okay DVD with enough going for it that fans will feel satisfied, but there are some glaring problems. The anamorphic widescreen comes from an HD video shoot, so it looks crisp and made specifically for DVD. Surprisingly though, there are compression artifacts that pop up periodically and the picture hiccups for a moment. The Mad will be playing along and you'll see the picture actually dissolve into a digital mess for a second and then return to a pretty nice presentation. Sound treatment utilizes five speakers, but oddly without much direction. You'll hear the same thing coming out of all of your speakers simultaneously. This makes dialogue and squishy sounds extremely loud at all times. Bass is often too heavy, and it will thump out of your sub woofer at an alarming level.
Extras are meaty enough for a film like this. A generous twenty-five minute "making of" featurette does enough to make a commentary track non essential. It's very well put together, and features all the major players in the cast and the director. The only flaw with it is it presents too many extended clips of the feature we have just seen. There's one deleted scene which amounts to simply two minutes of somber shell shock that would've never worked had it been integrated into the final cut.
Fans of Dead Alive or Shaun of the Dead will find that The Mad attempts to cover similar territory. It certainly gets points for not being stereotypical and often playing with the genre enough to label it inventive. Unfortunately it feels like it's not cooked through, and it veers all over the place through three acts. It's worth a look, but a horror comedy like Slither works better than this "direct to DVD" title. The Mad has some technical problems, but a nice featurette makes up for the digital snafus. If you're in the mood for a middle of the road "Zom Com" it's a title worth inserting into your rental wish list. It's interesting enough to catch your eye, but I can't see this one gaining the cult status of some better crafted zomedies.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Genius Products
• Making of Featurette
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