Director Christian James’ “Stalled” is a very creative, and often clever horror comedy that takes the zombie movie to a new direction. It tries, at least. “Stalled” really seems to have a grasp on its premise for the first forty minutes, and then scrambles to keep monotony from setting in the rest of the way. In spite of that, “Stalled” is a creepy, interesting, and very unique zombie horror comedy that takes a few notes from “Shaun of the Dead.” It’s a horror movie about a perpetual loser who gets his life together in the wake of a bona fide zombie apocalypse. But it tries to add its own twists to the conventions, which make for a good experience.
Unlike more mainstream zombie movies in 2013, “Stalled” really grasps for individualism, and it works. WC is a janitor who is forced to work on Christmas during his office’s big party. After stealing the money from the office pool, he decides to make a break for it, but is trapped in the ladies room after two of the office workers step in to freshen up. When one of the two women attack the other, the chaos attracts a slew of the office’s partiers, all of whom are now flesh eating zombies. Now WC is stuck in the bathroom stall with no phone, or weapons, and the crowd is only swelling with the noise. “Stalled” really makes good use of its setting and manages to really pour the big effects in to the zombies by the single setting horror film. Director Christian James really is clever in finding a great excuse to feature the film in one locale, and manages to turn the bathroom WC is stuck in, in to a death trap.
Often times we’ve seen zombie films involving zombies and bathroom stalls, but James really dares to compile an entire narrative in this confined setting where the zombies wait outside, anxiously trying to devour WC. “Stalled” really has a good grasp on its idea and its premise for the most part, giving WC nowhere to go, while director James successfully turns such a small setting in to an interesting character all its own. While the bathroom seems generic in the beginning, Director James pulls off some fun moments involving the environment, including WC’s attempts to cover the gap under the stall door with a no smoking sign, and his use of a retractable ladder. Though we’re never told what caused the outbreak, James also never wastes time on exploring the zombies.
WC knows immediately what they are, and through some great editing, we understand that this isn’t an isolated zombie attack. “Stalled” does go slightly off the rails mid-way, when WC discovers there’s a woman in a few stalls from him who is also trapped. The pair form a friendship and alliance, stuck with no resources of idea on how to escape the hungry mob outside their doors. This is where the narrative deviates from the tension, with a ton of exposition, some weird dream sequences (the drug trip really reached for a laugh), and a turn in to the dramatic that killed the comic momentum. That said, the tonal shifts don’t hobble the overall film, as “Stalled” remains an interesting horror comedy, with Dan Palmer giving a fun turn as the inadvertent hero of the film who decides it’s time to stop sleepwalking through life when the apocalypse shows up. I really enjoyed how Director Christian James handled such a risky premise, and as a zombie entry, it’s very entertaining.