The French football knockout cup has drawn giants Paris Olympique from the top-flight against the amateurs of tiny Caplongue. A regulation cup match with a foregone conclusion, it is the kind of game that barely registers any interest. But for Paris captain Sam Lorit (Alban Lenoir), it has special meaning.
In the twilight of his career now, the veteran striker got his big break in the identical fixture 17 years prior when he was plucked as a talented teenager from the Caplongue ranks and never looked back since.
But the village folk have not forgotten their most famous son. They saw his departure as a betrayal, none more so than Doctor Belvaux (Philippe du Janerand), the father of Sam’s best friend Jeannot (Sebastien Vandenbergh). He has spent the intervening years doping up his son into a player focussed solely on vengeance. When a contaminated batch of steroids turn the now-hulking Jeannot into, well, a zombie – he sets out on the warpath with Sam and the Paris players securely in his sights.
Goal of the Dead is a French comedy/horror that does a lot of things right but in the end fails at being particularly funny or scary. Oddly presented as two parts – a second set of titles runs halfway through to introduce the ‘second half’ – the film takes its time with the set-up and introduces a pretty memorable batch of characters.
These include the young talent Idriss Diago (Ahmed Sylla) on the verge of signing a big-money transfer deal to London United with the help of his douchebag agent Marco (Bruno Salomone), weary journo Solene (Charlie Bruneau), football teen groupie-with-a-secret Cleo (Tiphaine Daviot) and Caplongue’s tiny population of four football hooligans.
These are all well-realised and have excellent interactions without ever being particularly funny. When the zombie outbreak inevitably occurs, though, the film turns into a pretty bog-standard zombie film with the usual sequence of events. These include bailing up somewhere surrounded by the undead, using makeshift weapons and the time-honoured “one of the heroes gets infected.”
The film owes a lot to Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead and, while it mimicks that movie’s tone, it never has quite the same wit or heart. This is despite a hefty six(!) writers being credited. There are some half-hearted attempts to skewer aspects of the footballing world, but there is no real satirical bite present.
What Goal of the Dead does have on its side is that it looks superb. The sequences through the French countryside and the embattled village have a real sense of scale with big, sweeping shots to take it all in. There are flashy slow-mo Matrix-esque shots and the football match itself – all smoke and flares – has atmosphere to burn.
The result is a film that is painless to watch – despite being a bit lengthy – but the lack of laughs make it just a very good-looking entry into a long pantheon of mediocre zombie movies coasting on a gimmick.
Aside from the usual array of trailers, there are also two short French films. These are of the ‘fake grindhouse trailer’ type and are crushingly amateurish and unfunny. Indeed, for one, they didn’t even bother with subtitles or dubbing. Fortunately, people in $2 shop wigs running around fake-vomiting on each other transcends language.
Available on R4 DVD from Madman Entertainment.