Harold’s Going Stiff REVIEW
Shaving without a mirror: harder than you'd think.
Release Date: 7 August 2012
15 | 76 minutes
Distributor: Frisson Film
Director: Keith Wright
Cast: Stan Rowe, Sarah Spencer, Andy Pandini, Richard Harrison, Lee Thompson
Don’t be put off by this film’s title, faintly suggestive of porno, which does it no favours. This low-budget British effort is actually a wry tale of friendship across the generation gap, which has more in common with Hal Ashby classic Harold And Maude than Dawn Of The Dead – or, indeed, Debbie Does Dallas.
Harold Gimble (Stan Rowe) is the titular character, a Barnsley pensioner who was the first to contract “Onset rigors disease”, which causes its victims to stiffen (cue John Cleese funny walk), lose their mental faculties, and generally start acting like zombies – and which has now reached epidemic proportions. Inexplicably, Harold’s pretty much kept hold of his marbles, while his physical needs are tended to by Penny (Sarah Spencer) a nurse who pays regular visits to give him physiotherapy (amusingly, this sometimes resembles vigorous bonking). Pretty soon, a friendship blossoms between these two lonely souls.
At times, you can’t help thinking they could have dropped the zombie element altogether, and just made a film about Alzheimer’s (especially given that Harold remains perfectly lucid until the very end), or that it might have worked better as a short. The closest comparison point might be Grace Lee’s 2007 film American Zombie (well worth checking out on region one DVD), which made similar use of a faux-documentary approach to depict the everyday lives of sympathetic zombies.
When the camera isn’t following Harold it’s trailing three goons patrolling the countryside, who get their kicks by battering zombies to death. The oafish South Yorkshire equivalent of George Romero’s redneck posse, they’re just an annoyance… until you realise, with rising dread, that they’re on a collision course with sweet old Harold.
Some of the humour’s pretty crass: Penny has irritable bowel syndrome, a flimsy excuse to have her popping off into the woods with a toilet roll to shit behind a tree (because ha ha ha, debilitating medical conditions are funny if they involve pooing). And the world presented doesn’t really convince: if ORD was really an illness which people received home-care for, would the authorities tolerate goons beating them to death for sport? Nevertheless, thanks mostly to two strong central performances, it’s a sweet, likeable film, with moments of genuine poignancy.
See http://stiffmovie.com for details of Harold’s Going Stiff’s limited theatrical release. If there isn’t a screening near you, it’s out on DVD on 24 September
Watch the trailer for British zombie movie Cockneys vs Zombies.
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