The Horror! — “Stalled”

stalled onesheet

Okay, time to get back on the horror train, with a brand-new section here at AFan.  Hooray!  First up, a zombie apocalypse movie…set in the bathroom?

“The Queen’s swimming in my toilet.”

Subgenre: Zombie horror-comedy. C’mon, look at the poster.

Story: It’s Christmas Eve, and poor WC (GET IT?) is hiding in a ladies bathroom stall after two women come in while he’s cleaning. But when a pizza boy “gets rapey under the mistletoe” and leaves a bite mark on one of the ladies? He’s literally up shit(ters) creek. I know, but I couldn’t resist.

FX: Middling. Zombies = white foundation & black eye makeup. Lots of fake blood and latex bite wounds lit too brightly to pass as believable.

Thoughts:

Well, this does answer the “what happens if you’re stuck in the bathroom during the zombie apocalypse” question. Stalled is low budget horror.  SUPER low budget. I see this film as one shot late at night at somebody’s day job when the boss wasn’t looking.

And it doesn’t help that Our Hero, WC, is such a milquetoast.  And not the brightest tool in the shed.  (Yes, I mix my metaphors.  Don’t judge.)  And there are some strange, inexplicable moments here — no really, even moreso than tue usual horror stuff — like WC finding a yoooooge dead rat in a ceiling vent, and then picking it up with his bare hands to flush it down the toilet.  WHY DID HE PICK UP THAT DEAD RAT WITH HIS BARE HANDS??? And c’mon now, flushing it down the toilet? Like a huge rat would fit.

Lest you think it’s just one man’s survival story, a woman is stuck in another stall, keeping this from being a one-man show. WC skillfully draws a picture of a woman on the wall of his stall, so he has a face to look at as they talk.  Does the film use that skill to develop his character?  Nup. But do these two bicker, and then bond?  Of course they do.  That’s Story 101, and apparently writer/lead Dan Palmer is able to swing that.

Screenplay-wise, there are some nice gags at first.  Zombies being fascinated by a person’s reflection, a zombie whose costume is too big to fit through the door, and another who tries to decide between a drumstick in his hand and a live human in front of him…these all work.  And for folks like me who love dry British humor, it’s here in spades.  There are even a few twists that could have made this movie something really interesting.  But then the plot drags, as if everyone suddenly ran out of ideas. At least it feels as if the ideas ran out.  Cue the shuffling undead!

But sadly, the boilerplate “will they escape” suspense wasn’t enough to keep me invested. There were several points where I considered fast-forwarding, and I checked the Netflix timer at least 8 times to see if the end was near. Chalk this up to a brilliant idea, poorly executed.  As the director and writer/star are apparently still starting out in their careers, I hope one day in the near future these great ideas circle around a more solid script.

Clichés:
– Outbreak!
– Crappy office coworkers
– Downtrodden hero/lead
– Slutty chicks
– Out-of-the-blue girl on girl action
– Silly character zombies
– The ultimate sacrifice
– Fantasy sequences
– Big break, bungled
– Holiday theme
– Opposites attract
– Accidentally stoned
– Animated hallucinations
Thriller dance number
– Skulls that go pop
– Karma’s a bitch
– Dramatic irony you see coming a mile away

Grade: D  I’d like to give it a better grade, but it’s too much of a mediocre letdown to even bump it up out of pity.  But it’s got a crazy premise, and this low-budget fest doesn’t completely suck. Well, not completely.

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