Thursday, October 30, 2008


If, like me, you find the idea of a zombie hamburger delightfully stupid, then you may be inclined to check out THE MAD, a seriously flawed but fun 2007 release from director Johnny Kalangis that often teeters on the brink of genius.

A white-bread suburban family (led by venerable character actor Billy Zane, totally out of place as a straight-laced dad, even with the David Cross hipster glasses) vacationing in a bucolic farm community soon finds their itinerary disrupted when trouble brews at the local restaurant. It seems the ranch that supplies their beef has been infected with a strain of Mad Cow disease, transferring to the people who consume it and making them marauding, rampaging zombies.

As horror-comedy set-ups go, Kalangis has the makings of a winner, but his comedy is too uneven to really work. The humor works best when it's subtle, but the broad slapstick, which constitutes most of the laughs, doesn't fare quite so well and degenerates to sloppy silliness as the film wears on.

THE MAD also suffers from several narrative missteps, including a too-familiar plotline, some very predictable characters arcs, and an indulgent, self-referential zombie discussion, not to mention a third act that grinds the story to a halt when it should be hitting full-throttle (even at 82 minutes, it's still 20 minutes too long). Kalangis has a penchant for stylistic flourishes involving quick editing and skewed camera angles that add nothing, which leads to one of the worst blowjob-related scenes in recent memory.

Yet despite these significant faults, THE MAD entertains for the most part thanks to a couple of genuine surprises (as in the people who don't survive) and an incredibly game cast. Zane keeps up his dependable-but-bland persona (leaving behind the smarminess that creeps into many of his roles), and supporting females Maggie Castle and Shauna MacDonald breathe life and charisma into potenitally cardboard characters--especially the latter, who channels Annette Benning's manic perfection from AMERICAN BEAUTY.

Though it could've done more in the gore department--the scenario was perfect for an over-the-top bloodbath, though I doubt Kalangis is really the director for one--THE MAD is still worth a look-see. Prepare yourself for a little frustration and you'll be all set.

No comments: