Livelihood (2005)

DVD Cover (Midnight Releasing)
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Overall Rating 51%
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Ranked #13,679
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An 80's rock star, a corporate lackey, and an evil mother-in-law all die bizarre deaths. But when the dead suddenly start coming back to life, these three zombies find that picking up where they left off isn't as easy as they'd hoped. --IMDb
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Review by Chad
Added: April 12, 2008
It seems as though the zombie comedy has moved beyond the one-off release and has become a subgenre of its own in recent years, mainly because it's probably one of the easiest types of film to pull off in a decent fashion on a low budget. The normal zombie film used to fill this niche: a filmmaker merely had to get a couple of friends together, find some local extras who would work for nothing more than a spot in the credits, slap some makeup on them and cook up some gore effects, and you have yourself the latest direct-to-video release from Lions Gate.

When Shaun of the Dead came along, things changed a little; this formula could still be used, but filmmakers could save a couple of bucks in the gore department by giving their work a comedic tone rather than attempting to shock or disgust their audiences. Yes, this type of film has been done countless times now, and the results have ranged from instant classics to "Jesus, why do I even bother with this shit?" Livelihood, the latest of the zombie comedies, doesn't quite reach that "instant classic" level, but at the same time, it's a far cry from being a piece of shit.

Putting a relatively new spin on the zombie genre, our feature film for the day centers on three separate groups of people who have to contend with the living dead. We've got an eighties hair band whose vocalist has returned from the grave, a mamma's boy whose dear mother has returned to seek out her darling boy and his wife, and a corporate brown-nose who has come back to his place of employment. The kicker here? These zombies have not returned to feast on the living, and they'd probably scoff at the mere thought of eating a fresh pile of human brains. No, this trio (and the countless other zombies who have returned) merely want their old lives back, and when they discover that things have changed since they were laid to rest, things get mighty interesting for both them and their loved ones.

This basic idea had been attempted before in They Came Back, a film which shared the same core elements as this one but focused more on drama rather than comedy. I really wanted to like that movie, as I thought (and continue to think) that this idea could result in one hell of a film if handled properly. Sadly, that film turned out to be forgettable at best, so I didn't exactly have high hopes for this one as I was sifting through the press materials prior to popping the disc in; after all, if an artsy-fartsy French film that attempts to tell a legit story can't get a high rating out of me, what chance does a film that uses the same basic plot and replaces the drama with borderline-juvenile humor and pop culture references have? I was wrong... oh, so wrong. While I'd still love to see a film use this idea in a serious fashion with better results than They Came Back, I have to admit that I enjoyed the hell out of this one.

The true strength of the film is the fact that each of the three - I hesitate to call them "stories", but I will for lack of a better word - are completely separate from one another in terms of both storyline and tone. This film was created by one guy, but it sort of felt like what you'd get if you gave the general idea to three different directors and let them each run with it in their own way.

The tale of the metal band seemed to be the main emphasis of the film, and this one was a pure goofball comedy that featured over-the-top cheesiness from beginning to end (and I don't mean that as an insult or complaint). On the flip-side, the story of the corporate stooge focused more on his revenge against those who have wronged him in what almost felt like a light-hearted episode of Tales From the Crypt (only, without the grisly murders), while the saga of a boy, his mom, and his girl was more of a black comedy than anything else. Putting these three stories together with a running time of over ninety minutes could have been disastrous, but the distinct tones helped stave off any sense of monotony that could have popped up otherwise.

We're also treated to some snippets of daytime television along the way, and by that, I mean daytime television in a world where the dead have risen. Products marketed towards these zombies? Check. Soap operas that cater to this new market? Bingo. Good ol' boys who - in a not-so-subtle reference to immigration issues - have an opinion on zombies taking American jobs and stealing their women? Oh yeah, that one's toyed with a time or two. These brief snippets have no real relevance in the grand scheme of the film, but they do serve to pull some laughs and keep things moving along at a brisk pace. My only complaint in regards to these is that I felt that the filmmakers went to that well a time or two too many; one of these in particular could have easily been cut out, while another featured a solid idea that just didn't work very well.

Overall, Livelihood is an entertaining film that will certainly please those of you who enjoy a little humor mixed in with your zombie flicks and those of you who want to see a new spin on the walking dead. Some of the jokes work a little better than others (this is just the nature of personal taste), but said jokes worked much more often than they failed in my humble opinion. 8/10.
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