Zombie in a Penguin Suit – a review

October 21, 2011

Zombie in a Penguin Suit - Design by Tyler Littwin of Blake Ink United

More and more I’m starting to think that with the mass of zombie movies that have come out in recent years, short films are establishing themselves as the format. As I’ve said again and again, few zombie movies have enough of a plot to carry them through an hour and a half, let alone two. They often suffer from either a lack or an abundance of material: 1½ hours about a single person or a small group is often too much, yet it’s also far too little to chronicle the apocalypse in detail. Luckily we have short films, that often manage to combine these two nicely.

As you might have guessed, Zombie in a Penguin Suit by Chris Russell tells the story of, well, a zombie in a penguin suit. A movie similar in look and feel to shoestring-budget zombie movie Colin (see here for the IMDb details), it’s a quiet, melancholy story of a lone zombie’s trudge through a zombie catastrophe. We see glimpses here and there of happenings, with several traditional zombie movie set pieces. The main character (played by Michael Wetherbee) does what every zombie does, staggering along and occasionally eating someone, while at times being harrassed by survivors.

There are several things that make this seven minute short memorable. The first one is of course the main character. The zombie-in-unusual-clothes is a common trope in the genre, I believe started by Romero with Dawn of the Dead‘s Hare Krishna zombie and the rest. The sheer absurdity of the penguin suit is brilliant, and it makes for a great contrast both visually and mentally. The bright black & white costume with the orange beak really jumps out from the screen, making the main character the focal point pretty much every time he’s on screen. The mental contrast is an even more effective one. Penguins are many things: cute, funny, smart, definitely not homicidal. There is a lovely mix of absurd comedy and shock in the way the cutesy zombie attacks its victims.

On a deeper level, the movie is actually quite touching. Through the originally comic character of a zombie dressed in a penguin suit the viewers are given a glimpse of the inherent sadness of zombies. While recent movies in which zombies are portrayed as running and jumping have presented zombies as feral predators, they’ve lost the whole touching side of things. For me it’s the real sadness and horror inherent in zombies – a human being reduced to a mindless automaton, left to wander the world with no purpose, only to die eventually. Zombie in a Penguin Suit brings this theme up wonderfully. There’s another contrast, one of feeling, here, between the frantic survivors and feeding zombies, and the solitary quiet ambulation of a lone zombie. There are some beautiful shots in the film, and the viewer is given ample time to just watch the main character go. The soundtrack is a lovely composition as well and it really adds to the whole.

Overall verdict: A suprisingly touching, quiet story of a lone zombie’s existence. You could spend seven minutes of your life far worse. One of the best new zombie films I’ve seen in a while, and yet another example of zombie short film excellence.

Watch the film below, and visit the filmmakers’ official site.

One comment

  1. You’re quite right, a great little film – good to see it’s not just europeans who are capable of neat cinema.


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