Stalled is the feature film debut of both director Christian James and writer/star of the show Dan Palmer. It’s a low budget horror comedy, but it’s much more than buckets of blood for laughs. It’s about a hapless, miserable WC attendant (Palmer) working late on Christmas Eve while all around the building people are celebrating the season to be jolly. During a routine inspection of the ladies toilet he becomes trapped in a cubicle in the wake of a zombie outbreak.
Palmer and James don’t make it easy for our hero. Every obvious avenue of escape is explored and when you think they’ve exhausted the situation they stick an ecstasy tablet down his throat. Cue the mania of a man high on a disco biscuit in the midst of a zombie attack with a dance routine to throbbing techno. He’s escaped, but only in his mind. When the drug wears off the reality of his terrifying predicament magnifies, but the process of freeing his mind has unshackled his fears. More mishaps and near misses follow as he is prepared to take more chances. When all is seemingly lost, a very funny use of false teeth pulls us back from despair – it’s a beautiful subversion of our expectations from zombie films.
Amazingly the lion’s share of the action takes place in just the one room. And Palmer’s inventive set ups buried in the action consistently have a pay off or reveal that drives the story forward. Everything happens for a reason. For example, he removes a warning sign hanging by a screw from the wall. Soon after this becomes a blade to chop off fingers and then a skirting board to block the gap at the foot of his cubicle door.
Palmer and James prove themselves to be capable and inventive film makers by managing to find something new to say with a sub-genre of horror that’s saturated (literally) with cheapo blood soaked one trick ponies. Don’t misunderstand, there’s plenty of claret for the gore hounds, but there’s also a real narrative for you to cling on to and help you empathise with the hero more and more. Hats off to them. They have achieved so much with seemingly so little to play with.
Stalled is released on DVD 24th February 2014