Goal of the Dead (2014)

George A. Romero has a lot to answer for. Ever since titling his second zombie feature Dawn of the Dead, there has been countless “of the Dead” movies – mostly spawned after the remake exploded onto cinemas in 2004.

Unfortunately for every Shaun of the Dead there are dozens of appalling-bad, cheaply made rip off films hoping to cash in on a franchise that literally won’t die; films like World of the Dead: Zombie Diaries 2, Stag Night of the Dead, Lust of the Dead, Knight of the Dead and Survival of the Dead (sorry George).

So how does Goal of the Dead fare? Well, it’s not Shaun of the Dead… but it’s actually surprisingly good. Fun, funny, with a solid heart at its core and enough brutal violence to keep you entertained. It does very little new with a tired subgenre and feels a little bloated, but overall Goal of the Dead is a decent addition to the many “of the Dead” films vying for your attention.

Goal of the Dead is a French language horror-comedy about football (or soccer, as some continents call it), focusing on the fictional teams of Caplongue and Paris Olympic.

Caplongue are the underdogs by a long way, with crappy players, a tiny stadium, idiotic townies and a police force of three people. Paris Olympic arrive in their plush coach, Playstation-sponsored kits and a player on the brink of a multi-million pound transfer to London. They also arrive with Sam Lorit (Alban Lenoir) – our protagonist and aging forward.

The problem for Sam Lorit? Caplongue is his hometown, where he used to play before being plucked from obscurity by Paris Olympic… and the town wants revenge. Mostly, the revenge consists of some mean chanting, booing, the occasional atrocious foul and some seriously biased refereeing.

However, for Sam’s old friend-turned-enemy Jeannot (Sebastien Vandenberghe) the key to revenge is to take some ‘steroids’ in order to beat Sam into the ground during the grudge match…

…but the steroids do not have the desired effect. After some postal mix-up, Jeannot is injected with some kind of insane zombie / mutant / rage virus and goes on a rampage, vomiting white goo into people’s faces and turning them into zombie / mutant / rage virus monsters.

As the football match begins and Sam Lorit begins to feel the strain of his hometown’s anger, Jeannot arrives and begins spreading the zombie / mutant / rage virus through the crowd, players and townsfolk… resulting in an explosive apocalypse where no one is safe.

Although it rarely gets boring, the bloated runtime of 110 minutes may put some audiences off. Split into two ‘halves’, the film stretches the wafer-thin premise to the limit, following multiple characters, who all learn a little about themselves and fall in love – most of it is incidental and unnecessary, which is no surprise since Goal of the Dead credits SIX writers and a script consultant!

Goal of the Dead is directed by Thierry Poiraud and Benjamin Rocher (who also directed 2009 zombie-actioner The Horde) who direct one ‘half’ each… because it’s a game of two halves. Like football. Get it? Yeah?

It is clear they’re both very talented as Goal of the Dead is superbly directed and contains some beautiful cinematography thanks to the work of cinematographer Mathias Boucard. It’s certainly never boring.

There are some amusing moments, clever pastiches, decent gore effects, excellent acting, LOTS of zombies / mutants / rage monsters and some fun slow-mo moments, but there’s little to recommend in the originality stakes. Some of it dips dangerously into zombie cliché, including one infection scene which rips off the Brendan Gleeson/28 Days Later death almost wholesale.

Talking of zombies… it’s not clear what the infection is. It seems to drive people crazy, rip their faces up a bit, make them smash shit to pieces, actually speak / yell, use weapons… but rarely actually EAT anyone. So not zombies? No. And they’re not dead. So the title Goal of the Dead is a slight misnomer.

That aside, Goal of the Dead is an enjoyable, bloated, fun, funny and entertaining horror-comedy that can sit proudly in the mid-to-top end of the “of the Dead” films. Worth a watch, but only if you have the time.

Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

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