Directed by Benjamin Rocher
On the heels of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, another football-crazed country, France, has combined the two things that have always been proven to bring the masses together in times of peril: the international sport of soccer and the unrelenting hordes of the undead. With Goal of the Dead (first released as a two-parter in its country of origin), directors Thierry Poiraud and Benjamin Rocher have teamed up to create a fast-moving, character-driven zom-com that manages to keep its momentum despite the film being divided up and then slapped back together again for a festival run at the Fantasia International Film Fest.
Cleverly separated into “First Half” and “Second Half” installments, there’s no mystery where the outbreak virus originates (a post-credit sequence in Part 1 gives even more info), and the character carrying the infection winds up having a long-standing connection with the main lead character that pays off later on in the film.
Still full of himself after all these years, famed footballer Sam Lorit (Alban Lenoir) returns to the home field of Caplongue – a town he abandoned 17 years previous to join up with his current squad, the splintered but talented Olympique de Paris. Although the match is just an exhibition, the diehards of team Caplongue are ravenous with anticipation, hellbent on sending Lorit back to Paris with his tail between his legs.
Not soon after the match starts, more carriers race through the gathered crowd, spreading the Z-germ by means of high velocity white vomit preferably applied directly to the mouth and face of the nearest fan. The outbreak personifies the over-excited, near religious fervor of the local football supporters and serves as a microcosm for the international obsession of soccer worldwide. (It’s also pretty disgusting but in that charming, Stand By Me “complete and total Barf-A-Rama” sort of way). Akin more to rabies than rigor mortis, once this killer cocktail is fully ingested, the mayhem spreads from the stands into the streets, where soccer town becomes riot town.
Once team Paris is split up, the story begins to humanize anti-hero Sam Lorit – now trapped in a bar with a cute fan girl (Tiphanie Daviot) – when it’s revealed that he regrets leaving his hometown and once had plans to return before he realized how much the people despised him. On the other end, Paris’ man-child superstar athlete Idris (Ahmed Sylla) remains lost in the bowels of the stadium with an obsessive, weird fan that he would completely ignore in normal circumstances. Both amuse as their egos slowly fade as they’re forced to become more human as the hordes outside become more monstrous.
The “First Half,” directed by Rocher, has plenty of action and humor, but it’s left to Thierry Piraud to deliver the climactic battle in the “Second Half,” where the drama (just as if it were an actual match) kicks into high gear. Each section complements the other well with the tone and style never changing greatly from one “action” call to the next. Some shots of the action on the field in both parts are striking in their scope and composition, adding some cinematic flourishes that are normally reserved for larger affairs. In fact, it looks as if an entire town really was involved during some wide shots showing a staggering amount of extras in full freak-out mode.
All in all, Goal of the Dead continues the above-and-beyond quality level of Shawn and Juan, almost as if an actual epidemic of Romero-esque parody swept across Europe from England to Spain (by way of Cuba) and, finally, small-town France. If anything, transplanting the underlying commentary of mindless consumerism to a lightweight statement on unruly fandom feels fresh. In that respect, Goal of the Dead draws a fun connection between sports buffs and horror fans that reminds us that maybe we’re not so different from each other after all.
4 out of 5