Livelihood (2005) – By Duane L. Martin

 Zombies.  Been done to death right?  Well every so often a movie comes around that brings something new to the zombie genre.  That’s exactly what we get with Livelihood.  See, the dead are rising from the grave.  Why?  Who the hell knows?  Anyway, these zombies aren’t into killing people or eating brains.  They just wanna get back to their old lives and try to pick up where they left off.

The story revolves around three particular zombies.  One was the lead singer of a heavy metal band in the 80’s who died after a drug and alcohol binge.  Oh, he didn’t die from that though.  Actually, he got electrocuted by a short in his guitar after doing all that.

The second story revolves around a typical office worker type of a guy with a bitch wife who won’t let him touch her except on his birthday and does nothing but order him around, cheat on him and treat him like crap.  Still, he loves her and does everything she asks.  One night however, he has to work late at the office, shredding boxes full of incriminating documents for his crooked boss in hopes of getting a promotion he’s up for.  Unfortunately, he ends up having his head chopped off by a kabuki looking samurai.  Yeah, you read that right.  It’s pretty stupid when it happens, but it makes sense at the end of the film.  Anyway, he shows up again with his head duct taped back on only to find that his wife is now having an affair with a woman he used to work with.

The third story revolves around a guy and his wife who have his mother living with them.  The mother is a complete bitch and is constantly talking smack to the wife, who’s even having to go to therapy to deal with it.  The mother tries to poison her daughter in law with some tapioca pudding, but the lights flicker, and in the confusion, their cups of pudding get switched and the mother ends up dead.  She shows back up and the whole thing starts all over again, only this time it goes over the top.

This film is supposed to be a comedy, and it is, but there’s really nothing all that funny for about the first third of the movie.  Mostly it’s just showing us the zombies’ lives leading up to their deaths and the circumstances surrounding each of them.  The film gets more fun, and the humor starts kicking in after the zombies come back.  The rocker finds his deaf keyboardist and tries to get the band back together, only to discover that since the 80’s, the keyboardist is now a lounge musician, the other guitarist and bass player are now a hilarious gay couple, and the drummer joined Spinal Tap and exploded on stage.  The band does get back together with a new drummer though, just in case you were worried.

The office worker with the bitch wife…  Well, his jerky boss won’t let him come back to work, but does hire him to work at his fancy dinner party, where he also happens to meet up with the guy’s daughter who lives in the basement, is totally goth, and gets totally into our duct taped zombie, who now by the way has put the duct tape in the form of a bow tie to better match his waiter outfit.  the daughter hates her father and the two of them work together to ruin him at the end of the film.

The mother who came back and the daughter-in-law start going at it right away, and things get brutal.  There was a line in the "Fusebox" episode of Sea Lab that went, "There can be only none!"  Well that pretty much describes how it ended up between those two.

This film really picked up a lot after these people died and then came back.  Up to that point it was kind of just coasting along telling the lead in stories, but after the zombies came back, everything suddenly got fun.

In the rocker part of the story, the deaf keyboardist and the two gay band mates just made it for me.  The three of them were absolutely hilarious and gave extremely good performances.  In fact, those three were really, at least for me, the best performances in the whole film.  That’s not to say everyone else wasn’t good.  They were pretty much all really good, but those three just reaked of awesomeness.

As for the poor office guy, there are some great moments in that storyline as well, including him losing his head at one point and the bit at the end that wraps everything up.  I don’t want to talk about that here though because I couldn’t do it without it being a spoiler.  Suffice it to say, the boss got his comeuppance.

The one with the mother…  Man, that one was great, but the best part about it is that it had some of the best gross out moments in the film.  I mean, there were some parts of this one that would physically make you ill.  That’s how awesome they were.  If you’ve seen the movie Dead Alive (the tapioca scene at the dinner table) then you’ll have a good idea of the kind of gross this was.  Thing is though, I think this actually surpassed Dead Alive as far as gross out factor.  I’m thinking about it now and it’s giving me an "ick" feeling all over again just thinking about it.  Again, I don’t want to tell you what it was because it would be a spoiler, but man…ick!

I really enjoyed the last two-thirds of this movie.  The first third just cruised along, but it was a necessary part of the film so that you’d know what was going on with these people and the situations they found themselves in during the rest of it.  I’m trying to think how they could have made that first third better or more fun, but I can’t really think of anything offhand.  It was what it was and I think it needed to be that way.  I’m not saying it was horrible or boring or anything.  It was just more of a lead-in to the rest of the story.

The acting in this film was quite good from pretty much everyone.  Again though, I have to say that the band-mates from the rocker storyline were the real standouts.  And that mother from the third story, my god.  I don’t know how she did those gross out scenes without getting ill herself!

Speaking of the mother, I think that was the only real problem I had with the make up in this film.  She looked all creepy and everything, but the make up they put on her made her look inexplicably like some voodoo zombie from Haiti.  In contrast, the make up they had on the rocker made him look like he fell face first in a cow pie, and the office guy actually looked like a relatively normal zombie.  Then again, he was a lot fresher than the rocker guy.

So where does that leave us?  Can I recommend this movie?  Absolutely.  It’s a fun movie and if you watch it for nothing more than the gross-out scenes and the goofy band mates, then it’s all worth it.  There’s a lot more to like about this film than just those things though, and it’s definitely worth your time to check it out.  The special edition release comes with two discs.  One disc with a widescreen version of the movie, and a second disc with some really great special features.  It’s a really nice package.

If you’d like to find out more about this film or to pick up a copy for yourself, you can check out the film’s website at http://www.livelihoodmovie.com.