When Francine’s younger brother, Teddy, became a zombie, nobody seemed to care much. I mean, he couldn’t stay as involved in school; you had to keep pets or a stray finger well clear of his gurgling and growling mouth; and the family had to stock up on more raw meat. But other than that, things seemed to chug along like normal at Fran’s house.
Fran tried to talk sense to everyone. But even when she would catch Teddy trying to eat her parents in their sleep, the worst that would happen was them punishing her for overreacting and waking the whole family in the dead of night.
In fact, truth be told, even when Fran wasn’t complaining about her bro, her parents tended to think of her as the real “loser” and “idiot” of the family. And they openly said as much.
I guess, though, that’s the way things are when you become a teenager. Everybody looks at you strangely. You start feeling like you’re the weird one. And they start yelling at you all the time like you don’t have a brain in your head.
But Francine has plenty of brains. Good ones!
Unfortunately, Teddy’s starting to notice that, too.
If you squint really, really hard, you might be able to see this film delivering allegorical messages about fathers and daughters and friendship. (Though truthfully, I’m really reaching here.) Francine goes from being completely shoved aside by her dad to being embraced by him as the story’s zombie infestation spreads.
And even though Fran’s new friend Calissa becomes a zombie, they still remain friends, Suggesting that even very different and diametrically opposed people can find common ground. Even if some are actually now the walking dead.
Francine’s mother and father are very lovey-dovey: hugging, rubbing noses and blowing kisses to each other. And after Ma becomes a zombie, the oblivious Pa winkingly mentions that she was “nibbling and scratching” at him the night before. Eventually, he can’t resist his zombified wife and moves to embrace her. She bites his neck.
Fran talks about making a new “girl friend” at school. And for a few moments, Pa thinks she’s talking about having a same-sex girlfriend and becoming a couple, before Fran corrects him.
The kids go to a school dance, and Teddy ends up biting several people, including one girl. When Fran tells her parents, they misunderstand: Pa celebrates Teddy for making out with a girl. “Score! Go Teddy!” Pa cheers. “Did you use tongue?”
This is a zombie movie, so you’d expect some goopy parts, but the film takes a very blood- and mess-free approach to it all. Sometimes to the point of being almost abstractly strange.
For instance, Teddy is supposed to lose an arm at one point, and the missing limb suddenly becomes a pillow-like fabric-and-stuffing extremity. Then when Ma tapes it back in place, it became a real arm again. Francine is also supposed to be attacked by a flock of birds. But we never see the birds, we simple see her pick herself up off the ground with little red tears in her shirt.
Several people get bitten by zombies, but the bites never land. The people broadly react as being bitten (almost as if in a 4th grade play) though there’s no evidence of contact or a wound. We then might see them wearing a red-smeared bandage (as in the case of one boy who supposedly had his nose bitten off).
Teddy eats raw meat (though, even that appears plastic). It’s implied that zombies eat a live chicken offscreen. (We see only flying feathers.) Fran’s pet bunny is said to have been devoured by her brother, but the remaining bones are large, plastic, dog-bone sorts of things. Teddy brushes his teeth and spits a tooth out in the sink.
As things begin to get worse at home, Fran’s teacher finds several drawings she’s drawn depicting her brother hanging, on fire, and with his head lopped off. All three are quite cartoonish. Later, Pa introduces Fran to his blowgun collection, and the two practice shooting poison blow darts at a target.
“Fudge” and “frikken” stand in once or twice for the f-word. Fran’s parents repeatedly call her an “idiot,” a “loser” and “weird.” Someone leaves a “What the …” exclamation hanging. Francine uses an obscene hand gesture.
A teacher mentions a Mexican cartel’s drug smuggling. Fran and Pa dip small darts in a bottle marked with a poison symbol.
Fran’s mom talks to her about the dangers of the internet. “If people don’t like you online, they hate you,” she tells her daughter. But the statements appear to be about warning Fran away from friendship instead of warnings about the internet itself.
If you stop and think about it, the living-dead existence of a zombie would be incredibly boring. It’s just a long, mindless shamble with no place to go. In fact, it would be the most completely pointless non-life ever. But hey, a zombie would never notice, right?
In that sense, Zombie Bro is the perfect zombie movie. As in, a perfect movie for zombies. It’s long and pointless, stone-dead boring, and horribly written and acted. And even though it’s supposed to be a comedy, the biggest reaction this pic can hope to incite is a guttural “Ugh.” (Not to be confused with the snore from the next viewer over.)
On the plus side, this is a zombie film that’s supposedly “for kids,” so there’s very little nasty content to worry over. The best zombie effects this Australian-produced pic can muster are some black-and-white crème stage make-up and a smear of stage blood. And you could say there’s a slight lesson here, since a dad goes from calling his daughter an “idiot” to thinking she’s not quite as much of a loser as she appears to be … before trying to eat her, of course.
Yep, that sounds like the stuff of zombie blockbuster. Which seems perfect for all our completely grave-like theaters right now. Though, trust me, Zombie Bro is not for living people or breathing families. You know, the kind with brains.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.