27 June 2009 | elaine-105
Crude, funny, bloody, high school rom-zom-com
Warning - contains slight spoiler about the ending!! Romeo and Juliet vs the Living Dead is either one of the stupidest or the cleverest films I've seen in ages, a movie mash-up in which Shakespearean prose and Technicolor zombie gore are as at odds with each other as the warring families of the Bard's original play. The title credits are a mini-classic in themselves, but as the hybrid Shakespeare codswallop/high school profanity kicked in for real (think the script of Animal House littered with 'prithees' and 'thous') I began to wonder whether I could really sit through an hour and a half of this nonsense.
Like a school play that the kids have put on all by themselves, it's cheap, at times incoherent and crass to the point of being puerile. Yet it's also witty, fast-paced, laugh-out-loud farcical and betrays an endearing knowledge and love of both Shakespeare's play and the late night picture show B-movie horror tradition, mixing some great textual jokes (never bite your thumb at a zombie) with styling and humour in the manner of 1980s horror classics like Night of the Creeps, Reanimator and Basketcase.
Supposedly set in fair Verona (that is, interspersing stock shots of the Italian city with footage that looks as if it was shot in a university halls of residence) the film sees our heroine Juliet (Hannah Kaufmann) fall for the unlikely charms of zombie Romeo (Jason Witter), and well, you know the story really. Although you probably won't predict the happy ending – Shakespeare's director's cut perhaps.
Sure, the joke is stretched a little thin by the end, but the general over-enthusiastic, bargain basement mayhem of the plot and 'effects' (for which read joke shop face-paint and strawberry sauce blood) and the irrepressible exuberance of the actors (particularly Juliet and Reuben Finkelstein's Elvis-esquire Father Larry) make it impossible to dislike this film, even if you are sober. Throw in a classic '80s soundtrack (never before has Lita Ford's 'Kiss Me Deadly' sounded so apt) and you have a rom-zom-com that's destined to become a drunken late night drunken DVD favourite as surely as our star-crossed lovers were destined to meet.