Billy Zane, zombies, and new wave? I’m in. The gist of the zombie infection in The Mad is basically “mad cow” disease. Small town, cows are diseased, cows are made into hamburgers for local restaurant—people turn into zombies.
This movie had me from the opening credits song because it is a total 80s new wave throwback. All the songs in the movie are by a band called Half Past Four, and what the band did with the opening song, entitled “We All Are Mad 1985,” is basically record an 80s-style horror record. In my opinion, the two best decades of Halloween and horror themed songs were the 60s and the 80s. Well, Half Past Four did their homework, because their 1985 version of “We All Are Mad” sounds like a cross between the Bollock Bros. (who gave us the 80s treasure “Horror Movies”) and Oingo Boingo (who had classics like “Weird Science” and “Dead Man’s Party”). Later in the movie, there’s a 2006 version of the same song, but it can’t compare to the opening throwback version. Perfection.
Not unusual for movies that were released in the past 10 years, this film makes 80s references ad nauseam. And I love it. Considering Dead Calm came out over 20 years ago, Billy Zane is now old enough to be playing a dad (but still looks hot, bald and wearing geek glasses). His character reminisces about playing electronic drums in a post-electronica band in the 80s called, what else? The Mad. He now has a bratty teen daughter who, in one sentence, busts on his taste in music by dropping names like Culture Club, the Bangles, and Depeche Mode. She’s mad at him because they are traveling with his new girlfriend. Seems mom is dead, and this movie starts with what threatens to be a complex examination of a fractured family and the relationship between a daughter and her soon-to-be step mom.
But fear not. Once the fractured family sits down for dinner at a local restaurant, the zombie fun starts. Everyone in the restaurant who is eating a burger very quickly turns into a zombie, and this film suddenly becomes a totally over-the-top campy, almost slapstick at times, comedy. Once you adjust to the change in tone, it’s easy to laugh along with it. It’s right up there with Dead & Breakfast in terms of the ridiculous humor that some of us can’t help but laugh at (others will probably hate it). But come on. There’s even an uncooked infected hamburger patty that attacks! The gore effects are tame, there are no scares, and there is no real significant gut munching, but the part many zombie fans will appreciate is when the characters get into a deep philosophical discussion about the ever questionable technicalities of how exactly one becomes a zombie.
The Mad is pretty simple in its goal of entertaining, and it’s just long enough at about an hour and twenty minutes. That’s about as long as Zombieland, yet this film delivers more consistent zombie action, even if the humor wears a little thin by the last half hour or so.