Saturday, July 26, 2014

Fantasia ’14: Goal of the Dead

During a zombie apocalypse, population density is considered a bad thing. That makes a sports stadium a very bad place to be, even in a simple country village like Caplongue. Everyone in town will be there for the grudge match with the Parisian professionals, including a zombie. One infection logically leads to another in Benjamin Rocher & Thierry Poiraud’s two-part zombie soccer epic Goal of the Dead (trailer here), which screened in its entirety at the 2014 Fantasia International Film Festival.

The last time the Olympique de Paris squad played Caplongue, they hired away the highly ranked amateur team’s star player. Seventeen years later, Sam Lorit is at the end of his career. Expecting to be received like a returning hero, the over-the-hill center is quite taken aback by Caplongue’s hostility. It seems they never forgave him for abandoning the team and the town. In fact, the local doctor is so set on revenge he has his son, Lorit’s former teammate Jeannot, on an aggressive doping regimen. Unfortunately, the latest batch has some nasty zombie side effects.

Forget about zombie bites. Jeannot spreads the contagion through projectile vomiting to the face. Most of the two teams are quickly dispatched on the field, but Lorit is ironically saved by a meritless red card. Suddenly, he finds himself fighting to survive with Cléo, the daughter he never knew he had.

Finally, someone has combined soccer with zombie vomit. That is basically the kind of film or films the Goal duology is. Released as two separate installments in France, Rocher’s first half has far more exposition and scene-setting than your average zombie film. You will practically know Lorit’s career stats by heart when it is done. At least in the process, he very considerately sets up the pins for Poiraud to knock down in his rock ‘em sock ‘em second period, bringing more laughs with his elevated mayhem.

Rather unexpectedly, Alban Lenoir decides to do some acting as Lorit, taking him through a full range of emotions as best he can, given the carnage. Tiphanie Daviot’s Cléo also brings more energy and attitude than the typical horror movie teenager, but her fellow townsfolk are largely standard issue provincials.

Goal is a lot of gory, messy fun, but it never stands the zombie genre on its ear like Tommy Wirkola way-better-than-the-original Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead, which also screens at this year’s Fantasia. Still, Rocher, Poiraud, and their battery of screenwriters do not let a good concept go to waste. Delivering the promised madness, Goal of the Dead is recommended for zombie fans, fresh from its screening at this year’s Fantasia.