Reviewbr> “Lizzie take the ute. I'll hold them as long as I can.” - Farmer
Proving the rural heartland isn't safe from a zombie apocalypse a Farmer prepares for his final stand against the undead horde, with only his shotgun standing between the dinner bell and his daughter Lizzie. Unfortunately for our heroic Shepard the zombies are closer than he thinks.
As the Nation burns can love be found amongst the decaying ashes?
Rotting Hill comes to us courtesy of Auckland's Media Design School. The short was part of the Graduate Diploma of Advanced 3D Productions offered by the School, and we assume the Students all graduate from that course with top marks. I got to say, where was this sort of thing when I was charging around the back blocks of Kiwiland looking for something to keep me off the streets and in the corporate offices. Lets bite a chunk out of it.
The movie opens with the sort of rural landscape film makers seem to think sums up New Zealand, namely sheep in a paddock. Where Cunningham, hey great name for a dark genre movie maker yo, differs immediately is in his scene composition. There's smoke on the horizon, and the sheep are fleeing stage left. Just when you think a gang of gumbooted desperadoes might be the cause of the ovine ruckus, shuffling zombies appear over the horizon in various stages of decayed splendour. Great opening gambit and I was high fiving the desiccated corpses in the garage over Cunningham reverting to Romero style zombie motion. We next cut to a close up of a farmer's eyes as he surveys the looming disaster, from there, well you are going to have to watch the short. I'm actually up to viewing three and as soon as I email this to the Editor of doom I'll be hitting play for a fourth time.
Director Cunningham has a firm hand on the leash of this puppy and doesn't allow the CGI to run rough shod over what turns out to be a bloody good short movie. I was real impressed with the pacing and delivery of sight gags. The Director keeps it rocking till the final insanely brilliant moment, talk about your ultimate brewers droop!
Reportedly the movie uses 22 digital effects, and I got to say the results are eye popping. The CGI is incorporated into the movie without the seams showing. Fantastic use of computer post production that must have Wheta green with envy. Since a zombie flick is by and largely going to work or not depending on the zombies and gore effects, you would have to say Rotting Hill is kicking a major on this aspect.
While Rotting Hill features the standard fare of decaying zombies and a lot of gut munching, the primary purposes of the short is to take a very different journey through the rom-com-zom sub genre that Shaun of the Dead (2004) kick started. We do get a romance amongst the apocalyptic landscape, but the romance is between two zombies rather than two survivors. Excellent idea, though I can't see things lasting beyond the honeymoon period, the rot has already set in. As the title, a pun on Notting Hill (1999), might suggest comedy is of more value here than anything like a zombie rampage. Due to the running time and the general lack of vocabulary amongst the undead, we're talking more sight gags here than clever dialogue, no offence intended to Writer Guy Hamling. How do you get all jiggy with it when parts of your body have a tendency to fall off, or pop out at the most inopportune moment? Lizzie striking an alluring poise to the sound of blowflies was a hoot, for example.
A couple of final points here and we'll hand pass it to editing.
Anyone else think there was a strong nod to of all things Disney's Lady and the Tramp (1955) during one early gut munching scene? Absolute brilliance come to mind, but hey I'm easily amused by film referencing that I can pick up on.
Our soundscape is rocking out with an excellent score by Timmy Schumacher, heavy chord orientated it did the trick in a short that is low on the dialogue. Schumacher was backed up by the inspired choice of Space Waltz's “Out on the Street”.
So call me a big softy, but I like a romance set against the backdrop of a zombie apocalypse. Young love as the Country goes up in the flames should never be discounted for romantic scene setting. James Cunningham hits one out of the park with an excellent different take on the theme. Check out the movie below kids and see if I'm not right.