People are mysteriously struck dead after a bizarre lightening storm from outer space engulfs the planet. The same cosmic lights also brought them all back as zombies. Calvin was just a regular family man when this happened but unfortunately his wife and daughter were killed along with everyone else, leaving him all alone. Now with no one else around Calvin tries to make good on his promise and give his family the best Christmas they ever had, even if they are undead.
Based on the short story by Joe R. Lansdale, "Christmas with the Dead" is the feature length movie adaptation of the zombie holiday tale. I never read the originally story, sadly, and I didn't know what kind of movie "Christmas with the Dead" was going to be. But when it was announced that Marcus Koch would be working on the special effects for the movie, being the Koch supporters that we are, it seemed obvious that a viewing of the movie was inevitable.
"Christmas with the Dead" is about Calvin; a family man who was celebrating Christmas Eve with his wife and daughter when a freak electrical storm from the cosmos hits Earth. Those who actually watched the multi-colored lightening storm were struck dead but eventually came back as the undead. Unfortunately for Calvin, he was asleep on his couch during the storm and remained unaffected and now appears to be the only survivor in his home town. Consumed with the grief of his loss, Calvin promises everyday to do what he was suppose to do that night: put up the outside Christmas decorations. Easier said than done when you have to deal with a zombie plague.
Yes, it's another zombie movie. And yes, it's another zombie movie with an angle. My interest in "Christmas with the Dead" was slim to none but I'm willing to give almost anything a go. As I said, I haven't read the original short story so I'm not sure what the themes were in that or the tone it was going for. Is the movie a faithful adaptation? I don't know, obviously, but I thought the movie was enjoyable and had some actual funny moments.
With the idea of Calvin being all alone in his town after this epidemic hit, it seems like the story would go more towards the "I Am Legend" route. Dealing with Calvin's isolation, depression and what not. There is some of that early on but the movie maintains a light tone and keeps the atmosphere at a casual level. It progressively gets more into comedy when Calvin runs into G.M. -- a salty old man who views himself as a collector of the dead since there's not much else going on. Calvin and G.M. quickly form a connection with being the only survivors and eventually G.M. says he'll help Calvin in finally getting up those Christmas decorations. That's when things go from bad to worse for the two as their actions make their presence known to Reverend Mac and his collection of escaped convicts from a mental ward.
"Christmas with the Dead" could have worked as a serious movie with a look at the psychology of Calvin, but…it's a zombie movie. The movie went in the right direction of keeping everything light and going for laughs. The movie has some genuinely funny moments as well, especially with Brad Maule as G.M. AND, and thankfully, the movie doesn't fall into the usual zombie pit traps. It's not about gruesome undead carnage. There is in fact very little flesh biting and gut ripping from these snappers. The focus is on Calvin. Then on Calvin and G.M.. It becomes kind of a fun look at what two people do when the world has ended. If that world also included a zombie epidemic, a crazed self-proclaimed prophet of God and his army of wackadoos.
I know I always say it but I don't like zombie movies and especially now that culturally everyone is obsessed over them. I probably would have skipped over "Christmas with the Dead" if wasn't for Marcus being on the special effects team. Even if that was the only reason I went into the movie I'm still glad I watched the movie since it was a lot fun and made me laugh on more than a few occasions. The relationship between Calvin and G.M. is the saving grace of the movie. There are a few sub-genre clichés in "Christmas with the Dead" but the easy-going tone made it tolerable and also because "Christmas with the Dead" doesn't focus entirely on the dead part. The zombies are there but the character Calvin isn't concerned about them. His concern is with fulfilling a promise he made to his wife and that's what made "Christmas with the Dead" feel refreshing.