Romeo & Juliet Vs. The Living Dead

Romeo & Juliet Vs. The Living Dead


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Competing with The Immaculate Conception Of Little Dizzle as the most-outrageously-imaginative-yet-unable-to-rein-itself-in film of the year is this trashy mash up of Shakespeare and zombies. Featuring moments that are laugh-out-loud funny along with quite a few that aren't, it defies both easy categorisation and a star rating - though I've put one up there nonetheless.

This is, primarily, the Shakespearean tale of star-crossed lovers, passed through a prism of zombie shlock and then reheated within the crucible of bad Eighties TV high schools, which is perhaps such a glorious success-cum-failure because it is trying to send up all three genres simultaneously.

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Not so much out-there as barely clinging to the rocks of reality, the story concerns the usual titular pairing, with one small twist. While Juliet is your run-of-the-mill Montague, Romeo is a man of very few words - chiefly because he and his cronies are all zombies. This doesn't stop Jules from getting the hots for our hero, however, and in this regard the story more or less tells it 'by the book' - although the super shlocky ending comes as an inventive surprise.

In truth, it's all rather more miss than hit, but it's very hard not to have respect for Ryan Denmark's imagination - and when his flights of fancy score, they are complete slam dunks.

Using large chunks of the Shakespearean text, this is Carry On Bard-ing for Generation Y. There is a lot of low-brow humour - from toilet gags, to a Mercutio whom everyone thinks is gay, to some zombie bestiality. But there's also clever commentary going on. For example, Juliet is only ever seen in soft focus and much is made of the fact that she has "just turned 14" despite the fact that Hannah Kauffmann who plays her is well into her 20s, so at the same time as poking fun at the 'wrongness' of that idea in Shakespeare, Denmark is taking a cleverly aimed potshot at all those high school films in which the central protagonists were clearly much older than the kids they were playing.

Kauffmann, in particular, deserves praise for playing her role absolutely straight. In doing so she creates a similar sort of uneasy humour to that generated by Jess Weixler in Teeth. Elsewhere, however, there is so much excessiveness going on that it all gets a bit too much. Whether you like or loathe the film - and despite the rating above, middle ground here is not really an option - will largely depend on both how well you know the original Shakespeare play, much of the humour with the words depends on this, and on whether you view silliness as a blessing or a curse. One thing's for sure, you've never seen Shakespeare look quite like this.

Reviewed on: 03 Aug 2009
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Shakespeare doth zombies.
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Director: Ryan Denmark

Writer: Ryan Denmark, William Shakespeare, Jason Witter

Starring: Hannah Kauffmann, Jason Witter, Mark Chavez, Kate Schroeder, Reuben Finkelstein, Kevin R. Elder, Malcolm Madera, Shenoah Allen, George Bach, Elsa Menendez, Ross Kelly, Summer Olsson, Andy Brooks, Lucien Sims, Katy Houska

Year: 2009

Runtime: 84 minutes

Country: US


EIFF 2009

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