First off… print issue for sale at last! Including the super-duper Special Edition with extra stuff! Yes, this announcement is redundant with the comic blog, but I’m going to throw the link at you again regardless. Cuz I’m excited. LINK.

In the comments to last week’s comic, the movie Fido came up. It’s about time I talked of this film, since it’s one of the single biggest inspirations for Zombie Ranch.

Let’s face it, there’s plenty of zombie movies and fiction out there dealing with either the “outbreak” or its immediate aftermath. The credits roll as the survivors reach safety (however temporary), or are wiped out along with the rest of humankind. What you see a lot less of are stories set a ways down the road, that explore the effect the emergence of zombies has had on the world as we know it. Shaun of the Dead riffed on this in a brief, tantalizing glimpse of zombies being used as cart return clerks, game show props and fall guy video game opponents — but at that point, its story has been told and the movie is over.

Fido, in a sense, picks up where Shaun of the Dead left off, envisioning a world mostly in zombie infested ruin, except for fenced-in safe areas such as the one the human populace of the movie dwells in. The choice of how the safe area is presented is one of the genius concepts of the film, because it’s the manicured lawns and smiling faces of 1950’s American suburbia, a time warp stuck in the Eisenhower years. In our own history, the idealized nuclear families presented in the media of the era lived in the shadow of the Cold War and the less ideal nuclear aspects that threatened. This was the era of the much lampooned “Duck and Cover!” films that taught schoolkids that all they had to do in the event of a mushroom cloud was get under their desks and they’d be A-okay. It was an era where evil Communists supposedly lurked behind the most innocent faces, ready to subvert your way of life and make you one of them.  In short, a thin veneer of normalcy and sunshine overlaid some ugly lies, and even uglier truths. It was also quite the era for consumerism, as all manner of gadgets popped up in the post-WWII years to make your life easier and demonstrate your superiority to the neighbors.

Fido has no Communists to speak of, but endangering the safety of the community is grounds for exile, which is of course tantamount to a death sentence. Now, you’d think having zombies around would definitely be endangering the community, but wait! As the film demonstrates early on, the friendly corporation Zomcon has solved the undead problem through use of special collars that keep their murderous, flesh eating impulses in line. Because of this, zombies can contribute to the community as paperboys (inaccurate ones, but aren’t they all?), garbagemen, and, of course, household pets.

Fido also presents a world where anyone who dies from any means will re-animate, so its quite important to call Zombie Control as soon as possible so that they can be properly rounded up, as evidenced by another scene from the Zomcon Public Service Announcement where a small girl yells, “Help! Grandpa’s fallen… and he’s getting up!” (anyone who’s seen the old Life Alert commercials should snicker at this). But anyhow, back to the pets… this is of course why the movie is named as it is, since the titular zombie is purchased as a companion for a lonely young boy. Also as a status symbol, because frankly being a family without at least one zombie is as big of an embarrassment as not having a television.

I really don’t want to spoil the movie for those who haven’t seen it, but let me just say that if you’re enjoying Zombie Ranch, I think you’ll enjoy Fido. There’s a lot of clever satire and exploration of the line between zombie and human, not to mention other issues that the unique setting allows a focus on. It’s Leave It To Beaver meets the zombie apocalypse. If you want a more straightforward zombie fest, it may not be your thing, but I found it a highly original take on the genre, and like I said at the beginning, a take that very much inspired my own.