Harold is the first person to suffer from On-set Rigors Disease, and his nurse is doing the best she can to help him from going down the same path as everyone else - turning into zombies. She starts finding more than a patient in Harold. A great friend. At the same time we have a group of guys who are clearing out the country of zombies, and their goal is to get the first one who got the illness.
Are you surprised that you are reading yet another zombie film review? Let me tell you something, though. This is not just any random zombie movie. There's no slaughter, little-to-no flesh eating and there is certainly a lack of horror. Is it a comedy? Yes, but not entirely. The thing this one plays off so perfectly is the drama aspect. As far as I can remember, I have never seen a more sweet and touching movie involving zombies. By the end of this movie,.. Well, had I been less ultra-manly I could've cried!
The story focuses on Harold and a disease he contracts from eating a certain kind of sausage. Harold is the first one to suffer from ORD, On-set Rigors Disease. This disease works in three stages: first it stiffens your body, then it destroys you mentally, and finally you turn violent. Zombies, yes, that's basically what we are dealing with here. But Harold is different - he doesn't seem to move from the first stage to the second. He has his own nurse who spends a lot of her time trying to help him, doing exercises and just spending time with him. These two eventually grow a relationship as very good friends, and things start to look good for them both after Harold is exposed to a new approach. The problem is that when Harold is used as an experiment, he too begins to towards the second stage of the disease. The subplot of the movie is about a group of guys who are going around beating the zombies to death. Frankly, a good deed. Except that their main goal is to get the man who first got sick, as in their world "he's worth the most points". This man, of course, is Harold.
The fact that I didn't cry doesn't mean this isn't a very emotional-driven movie. The ending is extremely sad but still very sweet, and I think the reason you should watch this movie is because of this. Unlike most zombie movies, this one is really NOT about the zombies but about the relationship between Harold and his nurse. You could argue that a movie like "Shaun of the Dead" wasn't about zombies, or that even "Dawn of the Dead" wasn't. Sure, there was more to them, but they are both rather typical, classic zombie movies. Just with some more brain behind them! "Harold's Going Stiff" is a relationship drama, and there are only a couple of scenes that even include zombies attacking or being attacked. Unlike the movies I mentioned.
Due to being a drama with the focus on other things than the zombies, it's easy to see why the zombie make-up wasn't a main priority. The effects are not great - you can clearly see the lines around the wounds and all that. It's not a gory movie, and the little blood and action we get is usually edit in a way that will make it easier for the filmmakers to hide the effects. This is not really a negative aspect, but it's something worth mentioning since it's a movie that plenty of people might end up watching for the mere fact that it has zombies in it.
"Harold's Going Stiff" is a sweet and touchy zombie movie with great performances from both Stan Rowe (Harold) and Sarah Spencer (Penny, the nurse). They are both very likable, and you root for the old bugger even in the last minutes of the movie. The movie has a few moments of horror, and plenty of comedy, but the emphasis is no doubt on the drama. It's a movie you can relate to, that brings up topics such as love, loneliness, friendship and, of course, diseases and the way ill people are treated. It's not going to depths with these topics, but there are obviously there and they're all helping this become a solid movie. It's slow, but it has a lot of heart so it'll reward you. You might not put this on your top zombie movies list, but it's one worth watching. Unless you expect gore and massacres!