Stiggy’s Film of the Day Stalled (2013)

It is not very often that a film will incense me to the point of utter rage, but this latest Brit Flick entry into the realms of the zombie/comedy horror subgenre  had me spitting feathers; so much so I was ranting so much after watching the film I made tea and left the teabags in the cup *shock* (yes it really was THAT serious). So what was it that really got my hackles up? A film which has been garnering positive reviews, a film which was well received on the festival circuit, a film which a well-known but shall remain unnamed critic assigned as a ‘worthy successor to Shaun of the Dead and Harold’s Going Stiff’, yet I hated it in the extreme, and it wasn’t that I wanted to either, the fact is after reading a few gushing reviews I was really looking forward to it. So what went so wrong?

The main problem with Stalled was for me I found it to be one of the most singularly offensive horror films to women I have ever seen. To get this into context let me outline some facts for you just so we understand that this is not just someone getting their feminist over stretched panties up in a big old bunch; I am a massive fan of Jess Franco, I love Jean Rollin, I watch and review exploitation, sexploitation, slasher, giallo and other ‘sleazy’ film sub genres, and I enjoy them, I am a huge advocate of Fulci’s New York Ripper (a film condemned for its misogynistic violence), and Rape/Revenge Flick I Spit on Your Grave (the original) and I also accept that women in general throughout the wider horror genre are objectified. Taking all this into account, and the fact that I am an opened minded person, why would I make this accusation against a film described as ‘touching’, a film which features hardly any female nudity,well it is the simple fact that Stalled tries to be clever, but simply isn’t. A film which has been highlighted has having ‘deep messages’ is as shallow as they come, and some, and on this basis I find the entire concept a massive insult to my intelligence.

The story revolves around an opportunist criminal and handyman W.C (played by scriptwriter Dan Palmer) who gets trapped in a toilet cubicle (in the women’s toilets) on Christmas Eve during an office party just as a zombie apocalypse kicks off. With his tools left outside and no way of escaping the entire plot revolves around this premise, and introduces an unseen female character who is in the cubicle but one down (Antonia Bernath); the two chat about life, family, and all that stuff, while zombies try to smash the doors down and our ‘hero’ tries to find a way out.

As the story kicks off there are some good set pieces, one featuring a bra, some fingers and an attempt to press the fire bell was actually funny to the point of laugh out loud, but this is intersected with large portions of dialogue between the two leads which for me became incredibly wearing, boring and not very funny at all. I think if the makers could have kept up the pace with the action then it might have made Stalled a much better film that it turned out to be, but sadly whether this was down to budget constraints or a deliberate move, it made the running time feel much longer than it actually was. For some reason the female lead’s voice really grated on my nerves and her chirpy upbeat ramblings seemed inappropriate, plain silly, and seriously out-of-place. OK this is a comedy and so to some degree I accept things are not supposed to make sense, artistic licence and all that, but at least make it funny and then a lot can be forgiven. I would also perhaps have been a lot more forgiving had it not been for that ending, instead, the reaction I had to that made me so annoyed it overshadowed everything else.

I do not like to give away serious plot elements or spoilers in my reviews, and I always try to give a balanced account and aim to accept that some one might find something in a film that I did not like. In this case to express my rage I am going to have to talk about the problem, and so I am giving my very first SPOILER ALERT********* so scroll down if you do not want the ending to this movie ruined, I will tell you when it is safe to look again.

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The main problem with this film was the female lead who supposedly cheers W.C  throughout and encourages him to call his dear old Ma who he hasn’t spoken to in years (how touching in a patronising kind of way), kills herself at the end because she is so ashamed of her oversized body she walks out into a mass of brain hungry zombies. She does not even need to do this as there is a locked door between her and those screaming for brains outside, and they have not managed to break in throughout the movie, so what would suggest they would do this now. She does this because the other girls at work make fun of her and she was sent to the cubicle in the first place as part of a cruel joke. Now forgive me here but really? If I were about to die in a horrible, gruesome way, and if I was going to be ripped apart limb from limb, I do not think I would be worried about what I looked like, I think in all honesty the good old fight or flight response would have well and truly kicked in by then. The makers in aiming to have this huge deep message at the end show such a lack of understanding that for me at least it left me with a sour aftertaste of disbelief. Why not make the ‘fat girl’ the real hero and have her kill all the zombies? Or better still why bring image into it at all? This single reason made me seeth to the point of frothing, because it was every bit as insulting as a ‘chick flick’ (see my thoughts on those in this article), because all women do is think about  image and dating isn’t it? In fact the few other female characters we see in this film are as exceptionally shallow as the lead. I read an interview with the director Christian James recently over at our good friends at Zombipedia and when asked about the feminist criticism he mistook that to mean the lesbian scene at the beginning, thus outlining his lack of understanding of female horror fans because come on if we were going to take offense at every lesbian scene that ever appears in a horror we might as well stop watching.

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YOU CAN LOOK NOW….

So there you have it, I could talk about the camera work in the toilet stall, which was well done, I could talk about the zombies and the marginal amount of gore featured, again which was well done, but given that this film annoyed me so much any redeeming value was sadly spoiled by the overall message. I accept, as the director pointed out in the aforementioned recent interview, there are women who liked this film, but I am not one of them. To compare it to Shaun of the Dead or Harold’s Going Stiff is mind-boggling to me, and it seems like the film has been riding out this tidal wave of guff ever since (yes I am using a George Galloway term, this just demonstrates my rage). Shaun of the Dead was refreshing, honest, hilarious and extremely well scripted, and as for Harold’s Going Stiff such were the levels of touching drama in that film it almost brought a tear to my eye, Stalled was nothing near the level of either of these films. Shallow, pointless, and overly long, Stalled is one film that for me certainly did not live up to its hype.

Stalled-2013-Movie-Poster

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Categories: 00's horror, Reviews, Zombie

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