And now, Scary-Crayon reviews...
City of Rott
by: Wes

With it presently being the season for spookiness, you've no doubt seen a lot of Halloween-related merchandise popping up on the shelves of your local retailers during the last month and a half. Hopefully -- rather than being deterred by the appearance of freaking Christmas trappings before Skeleton Jack even has a chance to do his thing -- you've given into the festive haunting spirit and have purchased one or two or more of these items. You may have decked your halls with cotton and yarn spiderwebs, placed a cardboard ghost on your front door, or sent scary Halloween cards to your best fiends throughout this wretched world. Perhaps you've gotten a nifty costume with a horrific rubber mask and a wriggling mechanical rat to wear to the office Halloween party. Or maybe you're planning to spend the night of October 31st at home, in which case you've likely stocked up on Butterfingers and KitKats and other candies to hand out to the neighborhood kiddies as they go from door to door begging for items to further exacerbate the growing problem of childhood obesity. Kinda makes you wish they sold individually wrapped baby carrots, doesn't it? They could even print spooky faces on the bags.

Meet Fred.ZOMBIESssss

At any rate, if you're planning to stay home for Halloween and haven't picked them up already, you're also likely contemplating buying a movie or two for your obligatory Halloween film fest -- which means you've probably been on the lookout for a good ZOMBIE flick. And maybe, instead of going with time-honored classics like George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead or Lucio Fulci's appropriately-titled Zombie, you're looking for something a little less popular and widely-known. Maybe, this Halloween, you're interested in seeing a fantastic animated zombie film about an old man who -- despite the warnings of his talking walker -- braves hordes of the undead in search of a pair of comfortable loafers. If so, you're almost in luck, because the aforementioned statement does indeed describe Frank Sudol's City of Rott on several counts. It's got Fred, an old man who talks to his walker and whines an awful lot about shoes, and he does wander into a variety of zombie-infested locales as he follows a vision of floating loafers throughout the city. The movie is also animated, presenting Fred's quest in a quirky style that warrants comparisons to both the simplistic mechanics of Flash cartoons and the artistic look of old Bloodlust Software games. What the movie is not, however, is fantastic. Despite the obvious effort and skill that went into its creation, City of Rott has to be one of the most boring and pointless zombie movies ever made.

KILLING ZOMBIESMORE KILLING ZOMBIES

Right now, no doubt, you are looking at the screencaps above and questioning my taste in films. "Dude," you are saying, "how can a movie with so much zombie killing -- during which, among other things, an old man uses his walker to decapitate the flesh-eating corpses -- be anything short of amazing?!?!?" And here, I will agree that the first time Fred whips out his walker and starts bashing in zombie skulls, it is pretty cool. But when the same general sequence happens again and again and again and again and again, it gets incredibly stale: imagine how you'd feel if you were forced to watch your favorite flash cartoon 18 times in a row in one sitting. At one point, upon encountering another undead mob, Fred asks aloud, "Do you know how sick I am of killing zombies?" He didn't answer the question, but I'm guessing that he wasn't nearly as sick as I was of watching him do it.

Not that there aren't other problems with City of Rott. When Fred's not killing zombies, he spends the majority of his time complaining about his feet hurting and wanting a new pair of shoes -- and not in a funny or cleverly-written way, but in the mind-numbingly repetitive and increasingly irritating way that you'd expect a real old man to whine about his ailing tootsies. It starts off just being odd, but even 15 minutes into the 77-minute runtime I felt like wringing Fred's wrinkly animated neck. THE DEAD ARE WALKING THE EARTH, FOR FUCK'S SAKE -- QUIT DRONING ON ABOUT YOUR GODDAMNED SHOES!!! And while you'd think that the addition of the talking walker -- which is really just Fred hearing voices -- might help to liven up the dialogue, the fact that the voice is also Fred's and shares his irritating old man mentality (the only noteworthy difference being that the walker complains about food instead of shoes) means that when you're not watching the same zombie kills over and over again, you're pretty much watching a cranky old man talk to himself about nothing. Ugh.

BRAAaaAaiiiN worms.Hottest. zombie. ever.

That is, until 50 minutes into the movie, at which point Fred succumbs to the brain worms responsible for turning people into zombies and becomes a walking corpse himself. Sounds like it could make an interesting turn, right? But instead of anything neat happening, Fred just sort of walks around moaning and eating people -- and not even lots of people; like four, who are themselves engaged in ridiculous shit like looking for donuts or talking on cell phones -- for the next half hour. Despite the presence of some cool advertisements for Zombifate, a drug that allegedly stops the infection, this portion of the movie somehow manages to be even more boring than an old man complaining about his feet hurting ad nauseam. It's enough to make one wonder whether Frank Sudol himself was suffering from the effects of the brain worms when he wrote the script for City of Rott.

Ultimately, City of Rott is an infuriating and frustrating film not simply because it's got one of the most pointless, moronic, and repetitive stories ever, but because there's so much obvious potential on the screen. The art is fantastic, the action is engaging (at first), and -- even with their pointless obsessions -- the characters could be funny and even sympathetic in the hands of a writer who knew how to exploit their various proclivities in order to make a humorous statement about how, say, our consumer culture has us worried about fancy clothes and flavored coffee even as madmen in the Middle East make plans to bring our society to a standstill with explosions and violent death. There are also some potentially interesting developments throughout the story -- around 40 minutes in, Fred comes across a paper that mentions another kind of brain worm that, instead of killing its host, first causes the host to age rapidly and hear voices. Given that Fred's talking to his walker and his driver's license lists his birth year as 1985, this is a potential OMG moment. FRED IS INFECTED WITH THE ALTERNATE BRAIN WORM! But does anything ever come of it? Nope. There are also various newspapers that Fred picks up from time to time, all of which have interesting text regarding society's reaction to the zombie plague. But again, these documents have no bearing on the insipid plot -- and it's telling that (unless you're a speed reader), the film moves on so quickly that you have to pause the DVD in order to read them.

"Helping millions keep their distance from the dead."yummy yummy yum

So what happened with City of Rott? Well, my theory is that it was originally intended to be a adventure game. From the animation to the admittedly silly setup to a number of shots within the film, it just looks like something you should be playing instead of watching. When Fred wanders aimlessly through the city talking to his walker, the dialogue is so awful that it seems as if Sudol just pulled it out of his ass in order to fill space that wouldn't have needed filling if the viewer were actually controlling the character and trying to spot useful items in the background. Sudol does all of the characters' voices in the movie -- leading one to wonder why he didn't just get some friends or someone to help him out, especially seeing as how he lacks the vocal range of a Japanese seiyuu or even your run of the mill standup comedian -- but if all of the dialogue was supposed to have been conveyed by text, there would have been no need for voice actors. And if the viewer were actually participating in the numerous zombie battles and the eating of hapless citizens, perhaps these repetitive and drawn-out sequences wouldn't have been so freaking boring to watch. Even the newspapers and advertisements would have their place. After all, the Resident Evil games are filled with a bunch of documents that don't really affect the in-game developments, but they do add something to the intrigue level of the story on the player's end.

teh zombie hordeEntire Production by Frank Sudol. :(

But perhaps the biggest problem with City of Rott is revealed during the 7-minute credits sequence, which pretty much consists of Frank Sudol's name being displayed on the screen a whole bunch of times with reference to every conceivable aspect of the film. Yes, I can understand being proud of making a feature-length animated movie alone -- and there's certainly a lot here that Sudol should be proud of -- but whereas it's clear that Frank's got the artistic skill to handle the art direction of such a film, he's sorely lacking in the writing ability and wit and vocal talent (et cetera) to carry such a production all by his lonesome. And since I somehow doubt that he's lacking in connections, I have to wonder why he chose to try. Was it vanity? Per the above theory, was he trying to recoup his losses on a failed game project and didn't want to involve anyone else given the secondhand priority of the film version? Or was it something else? I don't know, but I just saw a gory, well-animated zombie feature that yet managed to be so plodding and ridiculously pointless that I didn't even bother to watch the deleted scenes -- because how the hell can you justify having deleted scenes in movie that is at least 70 minutes longer than it needs to be? 10/11ths of this movie should have been a deleted scene. There is every reason that City of Rott should have been an entertaining and unique entry into the zombie flick subgenre, but as it stands it only satisfies the latter criterion. Pass on the full-length version and watch the trailer instead.

BONUS HAIKU!!!

screw your goddamned shoes

City of Rott sucks
attractive zombie snoozefest
screw your goddamned shoes

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