Short of the Week

Alice Jacobs Is Dead

The scientist who cured the Z virus is hiding a secret from this zombie-infected world.

With so many zombie movies on TV, at the theaters, and ready to stream at any moment, it would be nice to think you could be picky. But those numbers don’t mean much since most zombie films are the same: A miss-matched group is stranded and must fight out (or in) through hordes of brain-hungry undead. That basic story has been done hundreds of times, and hasn’t been improved upon since Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. A few new takes on zombies have popped up in recent features, but the place to look for something different is in the realm of shorts.

Alice Jacobs is Dead is one of the best of the non-horde short zombie flicks. It keeps much of the standard mythology for purists (zombies move slowly, are dead as opposed to just diseased–though the condition is a disease, and transfer that condition with a bite). The setting, however, is different. It isn’t the zombie apocalypse.  It’s past that.  Dr. Ben Jacobs is the world’s hero. He came up with a cure, and stopped the zombie plague.  The zombies are gone, and the people are trying to get things back to normal as best they can. The cost to Jacobs was high, as the title of the film suggests.  His wife died from the disease.

Well, maybe not. As THE authority on zombies, he’s managed to keep the infected Alice alive, more or less, and with constant injections, pretty much free of zombie effects.  As no one would be keen on him having a carrier in his home, he’s kept her a secret, as he works on a way of ridding her of the disease entirely.  It’s not so simple. With all his drugs, she’s developed a new strain that is resistant to the old cure. What’s a scientist to do? What’s a husband to do? What would you do?

Alice Jacobs is Dead isn’t an action horror film, but a horror drama, with its focus on the relationship between two believable people in a terrible situation. Stars John Lazar and Adrienne Barbeau (of Maude, The Fog, and Swamp Thing, and still pretty cute at 65) are exceptional, providing all the depth and layers required. The film is emotionally wrenching, clever, and new.  And yes, there is blood and innards splashed about.

This isn’t your father’s zombie film, but it should be yours.

 

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Matthew is the director of the Dragon*Con Independent Film Festival, which annually brings filmmakers, features, and the best in short film to Atlanta. He writes a monthly film column for the short fiction review magazine, The Fix and maintains a film criticism website, FosteronFilm.com.