With the advent of the irrationally popular TV adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s comic book The Walking Dead, the age old zombie genre is very much in vogue. They’ve always been there – White Zombie (1932) was an early classic as was Jacques Tourneur’s I Walked with a Zombie (1943), but of late the emphasis on originality has never been stronger. Granted, this has achieved mixed results from the schlocky Big Tits Zombie (2010) to the genius of Juan of the Dead (2010). In Goal of the Dead we see ‘the beautiful game’ attract the interest of the undead in this French movie from one of the co-directors of the excellent La Horde (2009).
Sam Lorit (Lenoir) is about to make a return to his hometown. He plays for high flying Olympique de Paris who have on their calendar a less that glamorous fixture against Caplongue. Sam’s hometown doesn’t exactly welcome him with open arms, as they feel that when he left them well over a decade ago it represented a rather direct two fingers in the face of his adoring public in the town he was born.
Everyone in Caplongue is prepared with a succession of vitriolic tirades against their most hated son, none more so than Jeannot (Sebastien Vandenberghe) who when Sam took the step towards a professional career, he was left floundering in this backwater town. Jeannot’s father took pity on his son during this act of abandonment, and has since assisted in building his son up (through illegal means no less) to be quite the feted brick shithouse. On the night before the big match however, Jeannot’s Dad goes a little too far with the steroid injections, and before we can say methandrostenolone he’s developed into a raging monster hell-bent of carnage.
My opinions on Goal of the Dead displayed a level of indecision more associated with a cat caught in the headlights of oncoming car. There’s so much to like here – from the regular doses of dark humour, to some quite outstandingly lavish gore to be fawned over with puppy-eyed admiration. The narrative on the other hand is pretty much cliché central, not that we all rush to see a zombie movie for the quality of the storyline, BUT it does prevent this feature from entering the undead hall of fame. The running time I found to be really prohibitive and it led to the film getting bogged down in some parts which really restricted the zippy flow that it should have aspired to achieve. Granted, Dawn of the Dead (1978) was over two hours – but this is no Romero film.
My biggest gripe though is saved for the film being spilt into two. After 55 mins we fade to black swiftly followed by a set of opening credits as we begin ‘the second half’. In other territories where the film may have been released as two 80 minute features then fine, but to put it on DVD in the UK with the split still intact makes no sense at all, and only serves to disrupt the flow of a film that was already struggling for continuity. Goal of the Dead is impossible to dislike, but you can’t help but feel a sense of frustration that the length and the endless subplots have prevented this from becoming the Gallic horror classic that it deserves to be.