Fantasia 2012 Review: ‘A Little Bit Zombie’ Goes A Long Way

By  · Published on July 22nd, 2012

Steve and Tina are about to get married, a prospect that gravely disturbs Steve’s sister who – in addition to being married to Steve’s best friend – thinks Tina is as right for him as an angry hornet’s nest is for a family picnic. Much in that same vein, Steve thinks it wise to take the quartet to the family cabin for the weekend so everyone can learn to play nice. Adding to the incredibly tense proceedings is a mosquito who managed to feed on a walking corpse a few miles over. You see, a pair of expert zombie hunters were just wrapping up the last loose ends of an undead carnival when the pesky insect sneaked a bite and made his way over to the cabin. The mosquito bites Steve several times, and soon he begins showing the classic tell-tale signs of zombism. But can this nice-guy zombie be cured?

The best horror comedies excel at both halves of that distinction. Failing that, decent horror comedies can often lean heavily one way or the other; excelling at one while coming up short on the other. A Little Bit Zombie finds itself in the third, most unfortunate category. It is a horror comedy that flubs both its comedic timing and its horror sensibilities. The comedy seems custom-made for those with severely less discerning palates. That statement is meant less as arrogant pretension as it is an acknowledgement of my own burdening snobbiness. I really wish I could enjoy a dick, a fart, and a vomit joke within the span of a two-minute period, because I would have greatly enjoyed this movie if that were the case. Instead only sighs escaped me as Trevor Martin and Christopher Bond’s half-assed script limped its way to the end credits. As to the horror elements, they are diluted down to desperate, grasping horror conventions in order to serve the comedy…that also fails miserably.

A Little Bit Zombie is a film that wears its devotion to Evil Dead on its sleeve. There are of course the snap-zooms to various utilitarian objects to illustrate an epic “gearing up,” and our hero even spouts “groovy” at one point. This paired with a half dozen other Evil Dead references, not the least of which being that Kristopher Turner was obviously cast for his passing resemblance to a young Bruce Campbell, paints the portrait of an admirably reverent horror comedy callback. However, A Little Bit Zombie’s dependence upon previously seen material is problematic to say the least. Not one frame of the film that works, not one joke that lands or set piece that thrills isn’t cribbed from some other notable geek property. This is a film that once again begs the question of whether seeing a plethora of movies is reason enough to make a movie.

The characters here are constructed as aggravating punch lines and little more. The acting feels mostly like filmed table reads, with not but maybe Shawn Roberts trying to infuse a little personality into the stilted caricatures. The character of Tina seems utterly devoid of affection for her fiance to the point that I was waiting for the subplot of his abundance of family money to arise in order to provide some sort of explanation as to their coupling. Luckily by the end, she decides that she really does love him…for absolutely no earned reason whatsoever. More to the point, we get utterly no background as to the zombie hunters and their mystical zombie-tracking orb. It’s testament to this lazy script that it’s just taken for granted that two random people would possess an ancient artifact completely removed from any zombie canon that allows them to arrive at the third act before the audience notices how idiotic it is.

I feel awful for Stephen McHattie. I honestly do think he’s a talented actor, but at this point he’s sort of become the Canadian version of Lance Henricksen; there is no paycheck he will not pursue. For all his natural presence, and propensity for ass-kicking, McHattie mumbles his way through a film that offers him only laughable, clumsy CG to serve his potentially entertaining shtick. In the name of all that is Savini, there is not one decent effect on either the limited practical or woefully over utilized CG side of things here.

The ending is a senseless callback to the film’s one-note joke. We get it, he’s a nice guy who needs to eat brains but doesn’t want to hurt people. Hardy har har. But why as he’s been possessed of nearly all of his wits to this point, does Steve suddenly become a gargling, giggling buffoon in the last shot? If anyone can come up with a reason other than that he needed to mouth fart the less-than-hilarious tagline “I love brains,” I will buy you a VHS copy of Evil Dead 2.

Do yourself a favor and watch any of the innumerable horror comedies more competent than A Little Bit Zombie.

Longtime FSR columnist, current host of FSR’s Junkfood Cinema podcast. President of the Austin Film Critics Association.