CITY OF ROTT is a 2006 animated feature film created solely by Frank Sudol. It’s an action zombie comedy which are three of my least favourite genres, but to counterpoint that it’s an independent animation which interests me greatly. I’ll try and not let my personal taste in genre get in the way of an impartial review.
The story follows an old man named Fred as he navigates a treacherous world in which zombies have eaten most people and the few remaining struggle to survive. Fred also talks to his walker which gives him advice. Not surprisingly other survivors Fred encounters think he’s a bit crazy. Throughout the film Fred’s motivations are simple. The first being to find a new pair of shoes, the second being to not get eaten. It soon becomes apparent that the zombies are created by parasitic worms which breed in earth’s water supplies.
Fred might be old but he is by no means defenseless. He kills an astounding amount of zombies by bashing their heads in, decapitating them with his walker or shooting them with guns he finds later on. Gore fans won’t be disappointed. There are possibly more zombie fatalities in this film than any other I’ve seen. This abundance of blood and gore is amusing and even comedic at first but tends to wear a bit thin thin in the second half.
One of the things that I found really enjoyable in CITY OF ROTT was the character of Fred. He’s definitely not your average old man and it’s good to see a character that really defies genre stereotypes. Fred is also a bit of a bastard, which leads to some great comedic scenes. For example he meets a nurse who’s been bitten. She wants an antidote and Fred agrees to help, taking her to the zombie infested mall. He then tells her that she needs to go in and get him some new loafers and he’ll give her the antidote. When she refuses and presses Fred for the antidote he lies and tells her that the cure is to get bitten again by a zombie. I found myself laughing pretty hard. The downside to Fred’s character is that it doesn’t really develop. At the beginning his primary motivation is to get new shoes and it never really progresses from there, leaving the story feeling a bit flat.
Fred meets several survivors through his quest including the nurse, a violent gunman, another old man and an office worker who is nailing himself inside a box to escape the zombies and parasites. While these characters are well fleshed out and often funny, they don’t really seem to advance the story much and for the most part, are simply excuses for something to happen to Fred.
Due to it being made by one person, the animation is extremely limited and done in a 2D digital cutout style. The characters, background and props are hand drawn but digitally coloured which works fairly well. The visuals are bleak and the colour palette is mostly browns and grays which is what you’d expect from a zombie film. The voices are all done by Sudol and work well with the exception of the Nurse. She’s the one female character in the film and her pitch shifted voice shook the illusion, however I can’t think of a better voice for Fred. I really enjoyed the score and thought it worked with the mood and animation really well, reminding me of industrial-esque midi songs that were in old FPS games like DOOM and QUAKE.
CITY OF ROTT is no masterpiece but it’s a titanic debut effort from Frank Sudol (he’s gone on to make DEAD FURY, SHOCK INVASION, GNOME IN THE HAUNTED CASTLE and CITY OF ROTT 2.) It’s definitely also not for everyone, but if you’re a fan of zombie films or weird action animation this might be for you. CITY OF ROTT is a refreshing take on a fairly stale genre. I’ll be interested in seeing Sudol’s more recent work to see how it’s evolved and developed.