Harold’s Going Stiff (18)
Another example of the explosion of low-budget filmmaking going on in Yorkshire, Harold’s Going Stiff is a surprisingly smart – and surprisingly moving – zombie movie.
In fact, it’s a May to December romance wrapped up inside a horror flick that is richly comic, mischievous, poignant and slyly dark – like Harold and Maude, but in reverse. With zombies.
From the same stable as Shaun of the Dead, this frequently hilarious offering from writer/director Keith Wright and producer Richard Guy presents the sad tale of Harold Gimble, a widowed pensioner who emerges as the world’s first sufferer of Onset Rigors Disease, or ORD. Harold is slowly getting stiff.
Harold’s struggles are documented via a fly-on-the-wall documentary that also chronicles the progression of the condition and its rapid growth through the male population of South Yorkshire. Central to understanding Harold and his deterioration is Penny, his chubby singleton nurse who, in the course of caring for her elderly charge, comes to realise that he embodies everything she is seeking in her ideal man.
Wright opts for a broad comedic approach mainly courtesy of a trio of philosophising vigilantes who prowl the moors looking for zombiefied locals. Then there is the ambitious doctor who sees Harold as his ticket to the big time – if he can use him to create a cure.
It’s a metaphor movie, an allegory and a laughterfest all rolled into one. And it works. As Harold and Penny, newcomers Stan Rowe and Sarah Spencer make for a delightful odd couple. The real horror is not the beatings meted out to the walking dead by the self-appointed protectors with their baseball bats, but the dawning realisation of what it is like to grow old and infirm.