When I got the screener for Stalled, I read the synopsis and rolled my eyes. First at the word “zombie” then at “horror-comedy.” But I’m happy as shit I gave it a shot, you guys. Stalled is a brilliant film, one that uses a zombie horde as a tool to deliver an earnest, genuinely funny comedy about a lonely bastard stuck in a ladies’ room stall on Christmas Eve. Besides maybe two minutes, the entire 82 minute run time is set in a bathroom (mainly one stall) which doesn’t sound manageable, but Stalled surprisingly is. Not only that, like most higher comedies, it’s downright touching. Yeah, touching.
Writer/star Dan Palmer plays W.C., a maintenance schlub fixing a bathroom intercom the night of his building’s rowdy Christmas party. When two drunk (scantily clothed female) co-workers enter the restroom, W.C. retreats to a stall, leaving his tool kit behind on the sinks. Then the zombie outbreak jumps off and he finds himself trapped and alone against a building full of undead people he didn’t like to begin with (been there, bro!).
W.C. is a crafty fellow, who manages to repel early attempts of the undead scratching at his restroom door with screwdrivers and full-body toilet paper armor. And what sounds like a wacky set piece for a thoughtless zombie invasion turns out to be a heartfelt, surprisingly emotional examination of a lonely janitor. Stalled has its share of gore – really graphic and nauseating, in fact. The zombie horde is dressed in Christmas garb too, meaning Santa looks absolutely terrifying. But Stalled also manages to supersede its genre trappings to create something genuine. Consider it the Ricky Gervais sitcom of horror films.
The entire third act of the film builds up to W.C. confronting his faults, his fears, and displaying what kind of a character he really is. It’s a tremendously sneaky performance that Palmer plays out wonderfully. At first he seems like a rotten perv, but by the end, ya really feel for this goof.
Being confined to a bathroom stall doesn’t mean the cinematography has to suck either. Stalled is never visually boring despite its setting constraints. Lots of bathroom stall-angles are utilized – I mean that in the best way possible – and W.C. keeps shit interesting enough so you want to be stuck in a stall with him.
Shit, guys, I hate zombie movies. I even hate old, classic zombie movies. They’ve never done anything for me and now they’re one of the most painfully overused genres in contemporary horror. So when I recommend Stalled, take my word that this is an inventive film, backed by a genuine interest in the human condition and a solid lead actor. Right on.
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