Director: Christian James
Cast: Dan Palmer, Antonia Bernarth
Plot: A janitor gets trapped in a woman’s toilet cubicle during a zombie invasion and has to fight back, using just those four walls.
Zombie movies have always worked best, when kept claustrophobic. The best Resident Evil was the one that featured the survivors trapped in a dark, underground lab. Shaun of the Dead saw our protagonists centred in the local pub, as the undead came for them. All of these films kept their movies grounded by their location and were all the better for it. However, Stalled creates a zombie movie, like no other. The entire movie is spent inside a single room, as our protagonist is caught with his pants down, literally, inside a toilet cubicle on Christmas Eve.
Stalled is the kind of movie I would like to imagine I would come up with, if I ended up making up a B Movie. Most of these films I have subjected myself to have been mind-numbingly stupid, but Stalled’s main strength is that this movie is actually dripping with intelligence. It takes a good script and some amazing direction to keep a movie like this exciting for its 90 minute run-time, yet Stalled rarely feels constrained by its small set-piece. In fact, it seems to be brought to life by its little quirks. The lead character’s only living ally is a woman in the cubicle next door, who we never actually see. She is depicted by a drawing on the cubicle wall, the hero of our movie’s imagination bringing her to life. For a lot of the film, we are unsure of what is real and what is not (the film even plays with the ‘dream sequence’ for one ‘ball-busting’ scene). It is these running themes and ideas that keep ‘Stalled’ going, also bringing out this attention to detail from the viewer, so they are fully engaged with the proceedings. When someone takes a tiny budget like this and does so much with it, you wonder why there are bad movies at all.
There is a massive comparison to Shaun the Dead here, but in the right way. While most movies inspired off the back of Edgar Wright’s genius Zombie comedy simply use British accents and that thin line of parody, Stalled realises the true spark that made Shaun of the Dead so special. Stalled is filled with that British sense of humour, finding comedy from the darkest of places. Cue Dan Palmer’s hero using a bra to catapult dismembered fingers at a fire alarm. Just like the themes, the jokes run through the entire plot too, familiarising the audience with certain zombies and gags. Some jokes even become important plot points later, being turned on their head to mean something entirely different in the final act. It shows a great script and a sharp mind from everyone involved. One of the best scenes is when Dan Palmer finally escapes the toilet and the outside of that room is eerily quiet, with one girl not knowing what is going on. Suddenly, the film slips back into that thin line of comedy, black humour and surrealism. It feels so very British and when you are handling small Independent films, that homely feeling goes a long way.
There are bumps along the road. Dan Palmer is new to the acting game and he has the kind of presence that gets him through the comedy, but he can’t quite fall back into the dramatic as smoothly as Simon Pegg could. A lot of his backstory feels a little forced too, which doesn’t help as the writers try to keep him as vague as they can (he doesn’t have an actual character name). This also means that when the film slows down, it only works half the time. Stalled sometimes does feel limited by its small set-piece, but when it only occasionally becomes a problem in a film like this, I call that great direction. This is definitely the best B-Movie I have watched yet and I fully recommend renting it from iTunes right now.
Final Verdict: Rarely limited by its single set-piece, Stalled takes a tired genre and injects it with black comedy and a British vibe.