Better Off Zed Movie Review
Written by Stuart D. Monroe
Released by Butcher Bird Studios
Directed by Travis Stevens
Written by Amy Tofte
2018, 88 minutes, Not Rated
Released on August 22nd, 2018
Starring:Christine Woods as Paige Turner
Graham Sibley as Guy Turner
Shayne Eastin as Maria (Neighbor Zombie)
Samuel Whitehill as Bill (aka Featured Zombie #1)
Benjamin Michael Marsh as Bike Tire Zombie
So, the zombie apocalypse has happened. It’s a few weeks in and you’re surviving at home, fortified and modestly stocked. There are helicopters in the sky looking for survivors. Hell, the power is still on! You’re roughing it with the love of your life. All things considered, it could be a hell of a lot worse. Your schedule just got seriously cleared, after all.
The question is: would you be doing everything that you could to rejoin others and get to safety, or would you be nice and content right where you are? It’s a good question and is at the heart of the matter in Better Off Zed, a genre mashup that will undoubtedly be talked about as a “Rom-Com-Zom” (anything to be able to make that Shaun of the Dead comparison, you know)…though it is much more of a zombie drama with light comedic overtones.
Guy (Graham Sibley, Zombie Honeymoon) and Paige (Christine Woods, The Walking Dead) are the definition of the phrase “opposites attract”. He’s the workhorse, pumping out 60-hour workweeks in an office hell. She’s an artist with a host of degrees and paintings on the wall, living her creative dream. They’re very much in love and also very overburdened and stressed. The zombie apocalypse has turned their lives upside down – Guy’s burden has been lifted by the end of the world, but Paige’s artistic drive has been snuffed by the threat of gut-chomping terror outside their fence and frustration at his carefree life philosophy. Two things are for sure: they’re about to find out who they really are and they can’t keep the dead out forever!
Better Off Zed is competently shot but nothing to write home to Mom about, though there is a nice series of window shots when Paige gets her first kill (while Guy merrily paints away, completely unaware of her peril). The SFX work is your standard zombie fare. Like the cinematography, it’s adequate for a movie that isn’t focusing on the zombie horror aspect but rather the dramatic interplay. The music is a highlight. It serves as a cheery “ain’t life grand” voice during Guy’s moments of devil-may-care bliss, while the absence of music accentuates Paige’s torment and allows all the horror outside to be heard.
The dramatic interplay is where Better Off Zed really shines. Sibley and Woods have a natural chemistry that is necessary to carry off a literal two-person show (there are some amusing lead zombies, though). The normal relationship dynamics are well-written; she wants him to still get dressed (“put on some pants!”), he has chores to do before he can screw around, they agree she doesn’t go outside alone for safety. It’s all very suburban and utterly vanilla, becoming more and more out of place as the action progresses.
The whole package serves as a neatly-wrapped metaphor for the stifling nature of the day-to-day grind and married life. The underlying warning throughout will make you ask if your partner is the right person to try and survive the end of the world with or if they’re just plain lazy. Better Off Zed could lead to some very interesting, landmine laden conversations with your significant other after the credits roll.
The tone is, at times, a bit scattershot. The best comedy comes from the natural situations and less when the intention is comedy, leading to the occasional bit of disconnect. Still, it’s all too easy to see yourselves in that situation thanks to surprising believability (given the premise). That alone makes Better Off Zed a staycation worth taking.