The zombie apocalypse has come and gone, and society finds itself split between those who live in integrated cities with tamed zombies (zombies who have undergone a surgical procedure to curb their brain-and-blood lust) and those who live outside the cities and think that zombies are best made twice-dead. Andrew (Kevin Killavey) is one of those outliers, though he has no problem traveling into the city and hanging out with his friends, which is where he meets and falls for Emily (Sarah Nicklin), a fast food server at the Burgerrrrrs chain. The biggest problem facing any potential coupling between the two is that Emily lives with her zombie mother in the city, and Andrew’s sister Christen (Cat Miller) is a particularly angry and militant anti-zombie proponent (despite the calming effect of Christen’s wife Jessica (Samantha Acampora)) Can Emily and Andrew find love despite the differences between them?
The opening minutes of Cost of the Living: A Zom Rom Com are incredible, as they set the stage for the entire zombie apocalypse turned new normal with a series of video clips strung together as if someone is surfing YouTube. The production design and visual effects in the opening are spot-on, the jokes are funny and it covers all the necessary back story while setting a very high bar for what to expect from the rest of the film. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t deliver much after the premise is set.
Basically, it aims to be what it says it is, which is a romantic comedy with zombies; except it’s not a very good romantic comedy, tending more towards drama than funny. Without the zombie aspect, there’d really be nothing notable about the story, because we’ve seen it all before, done better. A couple meets, they seem to like each other, the differences between them pull them apart and then they reconcile.
And yes, I realize that there is seldom anything new under the sun, and the romantic comedy formula is not something that has changed very much over the years, but there has to then be something else that elevates the story. The politics of a society split between accepting domesticated zombies and not accepting them is somewhat interesting, yes, but the characters that embody those politics and struggles don’t seem to have much beyond their basest roles.
Chemistry-wise, the only reason I’d even believe Andrew and Emily were together, or interested in each other, was because the film says it is so, because the performances don’t translate it. Not that anyone is doing a poor job as an actor, but nothing really pops or is the type of performance, good or bad, where you walk away remembering anyone’s name. And since the story is the same old song and dance with different circumstances, it all just starts to drag. And don’t get me started on the subplot with Emily’s ex-boyfriend Eric (Gio Castellano), which gets far more time than its eventual plot device usage deserves.
The film does have its moments here and there, though. Again, the opening is spectacular and there are various small moments, such as the Safe Zone soldiers getting all the tamed zombies together to hold hands to form a wall against the suddenly invading untamed zombies, that are actually fun to watch. I also enjoyed the way Christianity re-frames the story of Jesus Christ to reflect the current zombie climate, and inclusion of shotguns for each bar stool at the zombie-friendly drinking establishments. So, yeah, it’s not all bad.
Cost of the Living just unfortunately got really boring, really fast. It set up a great environment and hints at some intense dramatic tension and politics, but then delivers a very flat, not-very-funny romantic comedy (that probably could’ve been called a “zom rom dramedy” instead). The zombie novelty was neat, sure, but the rest never came together for me.
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