WC (Dan Palmer) is an unassuming janitor seeing to giving an office's toilets one last bit of maintenance before the place is closed for the Christmas holidays.

Surveying the spacious ladies' toilet foyer, he spies something odd from within an air duct above him. Upon closer inspection, he discovers it to be a dead rat. Suitably nauseated, WC races to the nearest cubicle to be sick. When the lavvy doors then open and two scantily clad women walk in to take a break from the office party, he locks the cubicle door and hides in silence.

The girls bicker about colleagues a little, and then suddenly start making out at the sink area. WC spies on this activity, even contemplating a sly wank ... but is soon persuaded otherwise when one girl turns on the other, biting a huge chunk out of her neck.

Panicked, WC remains hidden but alerts the zombie girl to his presence when he drops his mobile telephone into the toilet while trying to make an emergency call. Fighting the ravenous chick off, he manages to flee the toilets ... only to be chased back into another cubicle by the horde of zombies gathered in the office outside.

The above action accounts for the opening 15 minutes of STALLED, the latest feature film from Palmer - who also wrote the screenplay - and director Christian James. The pair first made their mark on the genre scene with 2004's zany, low budget FREAK OUT.

While those opening 15 minutes may have worked expertly as a short film with a pretty funny punchline, the boys extend the action by a further hour. If that doesn't sound ambitious enough for you, you should know that the film is almost exclusively set in the ladies' restroom. The best, or the worst place to be when the zombie apocalypse comes?

For WC - get it? - the answers more towards the latter, as the zombies keep piling into the toilet block at regular intervals, ambling around in a search for fresh human meat to chow down on. Occasionally, a glimmer of hope will walk through the door - such as burly Jeff (Mark Holden) from the office's IT department. But such characters don't tend to survive for long; WC soon realises that it is down to him and him alone if he is ever going to make it out of there alive.

In the meantime, he strikes up a highly strung conversational relationship with Heather (Antonia Bernath), a sight-unseen woman stuck in the cubicle two doors down from him. Through his chats with her, we learn more about WC's past life as a fuck-up and how this current predicament has made him realise it's time to turn over a new leaf ... if he ever gets the chance to, that is.

Fortunately, WC is resourceful enough to use toilet seats, screwdrivers, ladders, tool boxes and even a 'No Smoking' sign in his bid to keep the flesh-eating undead at bay. But for how long?

Shot on a �450,000.00 budget at Pinewood Studios, STALLED looks very good and makes great use of its economic single-setting environment. Through stylish camerawork and slick editing James is careful to never left the potentially gimmicky premise overshadow either the humour or the action. Everything zips along at an agreeably brisk pace, the jokes - both visual and verbal - working more often than not alongside occasional set-pieces of surprisingly gory flesh-eating. The FX work is good, and WC's inventive ways of killing zombies brought to mind Peter Jackson's BRAINDEAD.

Palmer is funny in the lead role, only once or twice misjudging his performance and tilting over into broad farce. The low-point for me was his tonally displaced one-man rave scene. Everyone else in the film is peripheral but adequate.

The film feels a tad long at 81 minutes in length, largely due to the restrictive nature of its premise. Yes, James and Palmer do well to get such mileage from this situation ... but they do stretch their efforts just a little too far. Still, that aside - and an arguable unnecessary final scene - STALLED is highly enjoyable entertainment.

Is it a "worthy successor" to SHAUN OF THE DEAD, as Kim Newman's quote on the DVD cover suggests? Not really, no. It lacks the emotional draw of that film, as there are no real relationships or character arcs to be found here. But if you want a zombie comedy that manages to be funny, gory and original by equal turns, and you're not averse to the low budget aesthetic, then STALLED should sate your needs.

STALLED was provided for review by distributors Matchbox Films on a basic DVD-R (no menus, no extras). It looked very nice in a 16x9 transfer which preserved the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Colours and blacks were both strong, as were detail and sharpness.

English audio was presented in 2.0 and offered a clean, clear playback throughout.

I have no idea if the retail disc will include bonus features.

STALLED is a good slice of novel fun. Anyone who likes their zombie films a little on the silly side should happily eat this up.

Also available on blu-ray.

By Stuart Willis

Released by Matchbox Films
Region 2
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review