A minimalist horror-comedy, “Stalled” could be viewed as a horror version of “Waiting For Godot”. With zombies. In a toilet. If you squint a bit. Maybe.
A blackly comic take on the zombie trope, it tells the story of a hapless maintenance worker who gets trapped in the ladies’ toilets of an office building during a zombie outbreak on Christmas Eve. The film doesn’t bother to explain or explore the reason or source for the outbreak and we’re kept firmly with the perspective of our protagonist as he struggles to stay alive in the face of an increasingly desperate situation and a progressively more crowded restroom.
It starts in schlocky and gratuitous fashion and the first twenty minutes or so actually work very well as a silent movie. Although there is some minor dialogue, the story is initially progressed entirely visually and through the physical performance of our hero, “W.C.” (yes, I know) so much rests on the shoulders of writer and star Dan Palmer. Fortunately, he makes a perfect beleaguered and reluctant hero, trying to figure out a way to survive and escape.
Despite its very contained setting, the story never feels limited and Palmer’s script finds clever ways to include other characters and a whole heap of back story without slowing down the action or compromising on the central gimmick. Running through all the carnage and chaos is a streak of satirical commentary on office politics and the bitchiness of the workplace which informs the story’s conclusion. On the horror front, there’s gore enough to satisfy zombie fans while much of the humour is pitch black, featuring the best speech about not liking Christmas since Phoebe Cates’ monologue in “Gremlins” and one of the most offensive jokes I’ve heard on screen since “The Aristocrats”. Although it concentrates on one character and another character is only heard, not seen, “Stalled” manages some genuinely tense moments and a great deal of poignant character development amongst the laugh out loud hilarity and the usual zombie movie trimmings.
A quirky, likeable and well-realised micro-budget feature, there’s a lot to enjoy in this British film, which is almost tailor-made to be a Friday night post-pub movie.