A janitor gets trapped in a women’s restroom and encounters an all-out attack by a horde of zombies.
You might not know this but scientific studies have concluded that there’s a new zombie film released somewhere on earth approximately every 4.7 days. Now I don’t know about any of you but I’m thinking that pretty much every idea for a film featuring a zombie apocalypse of some sort has been produced at this point. The makers of Stalled were probably thinking the same thing when they hit upon a new idea to bring zombies to the big screen so they’ve set their film almost entirely in a bathroom stall. That’s right…I said a bathroom stall.
Now that I’ve got that bit of information out of the way I can get to the meat & potatoes of this British production from director Christian James & screenwriter/star Dan Palmer. Stalled does indeed take place in a ladies bathroom stall on Christmas eve and as the film starts maintenance man W.C. (Palmer) finds himself in the ladies room attempting to repair a ceiling vent when two scantily clad women stumble in from an office party to fix their makeup (& make out for a few seconds as well). He manages to lock himself into a stall without them noticing and prepares to pleasure himself at the sight of the two women making whoopie when all of a sudden…one of them takes a sizable chunk out of the other ones neck. This is how the zombie apocalypse begins dear acolytes, not with a bang but with a couple of semi nude Brits making out in a bathroom.
This film’s biggest problem is its central premise. I’m estimating that about 80 of the film’s 84 minutes take place in that bathroom so as the film progressed I wondered (to no one in particular) how the hell was this flick gonna keep my attention if it didn’t move from that bathroom? It’s basically a one man show as Palmer has to figure out how to extricate himself from that stall while more and more zombies find themselves wandering inside the bathroom but aren’t able to get to him because…well because zombies aren’t too smart. They know he’s in there, they just don’t know how to get him out so they just bump into each other, moaning & groaning. And as Palmer is playing a pretty unlikable character with a bit of a voyeuristic bent to him, I wasn’t too emotionally invested in his situation. It doesn’t help that he’s not very good here either and the character is written as so perfectly stupid I wondered why he would cast himself in the role.
Later on W.C. discovers that there’s someone else in an adjoining stall, a woman named Heather (It’s a ladies room…remember?). And the two of them spend a fair amount of the film’s running time talking with each other about all sorts of things but not too much about the zombies that are hungrily milling about right in front of them. Stalled slows to a crawl while all of this is going on and this highlights another big problem with this idea, mainly that it’s better suited for a short film and not for a feature length film. It’s a novel idea but in an attempt to stretch it out to feature film length it loses a lot of what makes it so unique in the first place.
In addition, Stalled calls itself a comedy and wants to make us laugh. It tries very hard to make us laugh and to be fair it did elicit a chuckle out of me every so often (A bit during which a zombie has to decide whether to eat a chicken leg or W.C. is priceless) but it aims to worship at the throne of Shaun Of The Dead and it fails miserably. The character of W.C. just isn’t very interesting and since he’s basically the only human that we see in the film (There are a few more but they hardly matter and don’t add anything to the film) he’s carrying the whole thing on his shoulders, neither the character or the actor playing him are strong enough to shoulder the burden presented here. Heather (Antonia Bernath) is strong but she’s just a voice, we never see her face so she doesn’t help much.
The film is especially ugly looking but I’m thinking this was planned. The lighting in the bathroom is pretty dim and the dingy paint on the wall doesn’t help too much but I bought the idea of an office bathroom looking crappy, especially on Christmas eve during a big party so I’m giving it a pass in that regard but a little more light wouldn’t have hurt. All of this being said, I don’t think Stalled is a terrible film but it is one with some terrible flaws. If it had been written as a 30 minute short film a lot of the flaws wouldn’t even exist, they’re mostly there due to the script’s inability to sustain it’s central premise for 80+ minutes. It’s certainly gory enough which always helps when you’re making a zombie flick and although it’s not as funny as it thinks it is, I got a laugh out of a few sequences so it wasn’t a total loss.
But it could’ve been so much more and as there are so many zombie movies being released with what feels like the same exact script nowadays, it had a chance to stand out from the crowd and doesn’t. Still if it’s a slow night and you’re looking for a late night zombie fix then you might enjoy this a bit. It does try to be different and while it ultimately fails, I gotta give it props for trying.
“Stalled” – Two out of five shrouds.