A film in two halves (just like a soccer match), with one very strong, directed by Benjamin Rocher of 2009’s The Horde, and one, directed by Thierry Poiraud of 2004’s Atomik Circus, that’s a bit weak, Goal of the Dead is a worthy addition to the absolute glut of Zombie films that have come out in the past few years. What makes it so worthy is that, like Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead it tries something different and, for the most part, succeeds. Where Dead Snow 2 was the Crank 2 of Zombie films, this is much more akin to Bruckner, Bush, and Gentry’s The Signal; we have two very different segments which were written and directed by two people who approach the overall story arch in wildly different fashions with varying results.
The first half is by far the most effective. Rocher gets really creative with his limited budget; there’s one particularly hilarious sequence during the soccer match in which response shots are composited over action shots, moving across the screen in wipe fades. I’ve never seen anything quite like it in a film before and it is a rather hilarious way to map the action. All of the Zombie stuff here is hilarious; Sebastien Vandenberghe is great in his role as Jeannot, a sauced up rival soccer player and patient zero in the Zombie outbreak who had me in fits of laughter any time he was on screen. The script is quite strong, laced with undeniably French humour and quips, most of which hit their target (even for an international audience). The cheeky story of inter-regional rivalry also translates well and invokes my nostalgia for my youth spent at NRL grudge matches.
Unfortunately, the second half isn’t as strong as its predecessor – this isn’t to say it’s not any good because it is, however it lacks the joyfulness and relentless wit of the first. It’s a much more subtle approach to the content which just isn’t necessary because let’s face it, we’re watching a Zombie Soccer flick, not some high-art film. A lot of the humour that made the first hour so entertaining is absent and the budgetary limitations on the film become clear fairly quickly. At the end of the first half Rocher sets up an imminent all out Zombie attack, however it’s fairly obvious that Poiraud’s budget could only afford to focus extensively on about 10 Zombies (excluding the closing sequences of both halves). These remaining Zombies are scattered throughout his half of the film and honestly, barring a few great kills, don’t really do much (if this is so they could afford the stadium set-pieces of the first half I’m okay with this). There are some cool moments here, mostly involving decapitation, but there’s nothing to really elevate it above standard Zombie faire, and since it is juxtaposed with the super strong opening half, it seems comparatively much more average than it actually is.
Still, the film was a lot of fun and is well worth checking out, even if you’re not a soccer fan. While I wasn’t so keen on Poiraud’s contribution I’m really interested to see what Rocher comes up with next. If you’re keen for a Zombie outing at the festival and you’re tossing up between this and Dead Snow 2, I’d lean towards the latter, only because I found it less flawed but really, you couldn’t go that wrong picking either.