Toronto After Dark 2013: Stalled – Christian James

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I haven’t seen a movie where things go so wrong at Christmas since the days of Gremlins and Die Hard.  In Stalled, a custodian-type everyman, W.C. (writer/star Dan Palmer) finds himself trapped in the women’s washroom at a company party on Christmas Eve when the zombie apocalypse suddenly breaks out.  Soon he’s barricaded himself into one of the stalls as more and more colourfully-dressed zombies file into the room, and yet can’t get out because they don’t know how to work the door from the inside.

The irony of the lead character’s initials being the same as “water closet” (a British term for washroom) was not lost on me, and while some of the humour of this UK ZomCom was not really my style, overall the film does have a certain amount of charm – and a wicked dance number.

W.C. finds out early on that he’s not the only person left alive/not undead in the room – a woman is crying alone in the far stall.  The pair strike up a conversation that wanders from escape plans to life before the apocalypse and back again.  W.C. draws a caricature of the woman on the wall of his stall in black magic marker, and talks to the  drawing as a replacement for not being able to see the face behind the voice coming from the other side of the room.

There were a lot of things about this film that I really really enjoyed.  The first thing I noticed was how incredible the sound editing was.  Normally I don’t really notice technical things when watching a film, but in Stalled, the sounds we hear are almost a character unto themselves, and often, it’s what we hear that pulls us into the scene, rather than the visual gory details most films employ.  There are some pretty disgusting sounds in Stalled, and it made the visual gore less necessary – and when there IS gore, it’s used sparingly to some pretty great effect.

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I enjoyed the budding relationship between the voice and W.C. – it was almost like an online romance, as they can’t see one another, but they are technically in the same room – along with a horde of bloodthirsty zombies, of course.  I found the pair of remaining humans brought a lot of heart to the film, and stopped it from crossing over the ridiculous line so far that I wouldn’t be able to relate to it anymore.  In addition, W.C. had to get pretty creative with his defense tactics from his bunker stall and – while I thought some of it was kind of unnecessary – for the most part, I did not anticipate the majority of the ideas he came up with, and that’s a difficult thing to do, so kudos to the filmmakers for their creativity, as well!

Overall, Stalled may not have been my favourite, but I did enjoy it for what it was, and even stayed for the sting after the credits!

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