A film that draws a parallel between rabid soccer fandom and a zombie outbreak is comical on paper. Is it strong enough to serve as the backbone for a two-part film that stretches across 140 minutes of French undead carnage? No it’s not, as Goal of the Dead proves. Split in two – “First Half” and “Second Half” - this film’s story is about as flimsy as a deflated soccer ball. There were reportedly six writers on board and this was the best they could do: Another entry in the zombie sub-genre that features a fun “outbreak” scenario (think performance-enhancing drugs that leads to extreme “roid rage”) which is followed by a formulaic tale of survival.
Directors Benjamin Rocher (“First Half”) and Thierry Poiraud (“Second Half”) do their best to make the film as entertaining as possible with every visual trick they have up their sleeve. Bullets plow through flesh and heads explode in slow motion. Red flares light up a soccer field, casting smoke and long shadows across its grassy surface. Goal of the Dead is quite sharp to look at. Rocher and Poiraud forget, however, about tension and excitement.
When the film’s two teams clash before spectators screaming for their favorite players, it’s the least interesting game to watch ever. The action is shoddily edited and there’s a complete lack of soundtrack. Instead, Rocher and Poiraud’s interests lie with the zombie attacks.
For Rocher, this is his second encounter with the undead after the French crime/zombie film The Horde (another weak script) and his “First Half” is the best of the two films, mostly because it’s all about set-up and the outbreak whereas the “Second Half” sucks the momentum right out of the material and gives its audience a walk down derivative alley.
Along for the ride through this mediocrity are soccer players from Paris who are playing a team in Coplongue. Lorit, the lead soccer player for Paris, calls Coplongue his hometown and his return is bittersweet. There’s bad blood everywhere: From the women he’s slept with to the best friend he ditched. He’s got a young player nipping at his heels named Idriss who is threatening to steal all of Lorit’s fame and it’s making Lorit desperate – he’s out to recapture the glory he once had. For a leading man, he’s self-centered and a bit of a jerk. Naturally, his carries him from asshole to good guy through a variety of interesting ways, but still, we’ve seen this all before.
The zombies here are of the fast-moving variety – ferocious bunch with cracked skin and some major aggression issues. They spread their disease by puking up white vomit, so it looks like everyone is spewing milk everywhere. And I expected the filmmakers to embrace the camp of “soccer players versus zombies” and get a bit inventive with the kills, but this film, in spite of its concept, plays it rather straight. Furthermore, when Lorit takes on this film’s “big bad” the results are shockingly uninspired.
Goal of the Dead is slick and boasts some promising visual talent behind the camera, but this is just another lame “what if zombies attacked?” film.
(The movie was screened at the Fantasia Film Festival.)