Proclaiming itself as the first animated zombie gorefest, 2005's CITY OF ROTT comes to us from Fred Sudol--literally, since he handled every single aspect of the production, from writing and directing to the animation, editing, and scoring. He even provided the multiple voices. And while that may give him the luxury of a self-congratulatory end credit sequence, his experimental animation style isn't enough to carry the lightweight story he offers.
Opening in true homage mode in a zombie-infested shopping mall, ROTT at least takes a different approach to its walking dead; here they're empty vessels occupied by parasitic worms that live in our water supply. The plot centers on an old man who's rapidly going insane as he totters around the city with his walker in search of a new pair of shoes, encountering a few human survivors amid the thousands of zombies roaming about.
It's not much of a story, and often it feels as though ROTT would've been better suited as a short film; even at 77 minutes, it spreads itself awfully thin. Sudol has created a non-traditional hero to say the least, though this old duffer is pretty agile for someone using a walker, not only wielding it as a weapon to bash in the heads of zombies, but he's always able to make a quick getaway, whether it's scrambling down a fire escape or hopping on a handy motorcycle (I got the impression Sudol was less concerned with credibility than he was with style). What I liked best was that Sudol treated the old man's insanity as another character, using it to convey information as well as giving him someone to interact with; it's a novel way to give him a little depth. With such an interesting protagonist, it's a shame that Sudol decided to put him in the backseat two-thirds into the movie--it's an intriguing twist how he shifts gears, doing something I don't recall another zombie movie doing before, but I won't reveal it here--leaving his story to float along with brand-new characters.
The animation is crude and inarticulate--it makes the early episodes of SOUTH PARK look like a Chuck Jones masterpiece--but I soon found myself getting drawn into--heh-heh, sorry--Sudol's style. He packs an impressive amount of detail into his backgrounds and even though he often betrays his limitations by repeating many of the same shots, he does pull off quite a few admirable setpieces (one in particular that stands out is when the old man hallucinates inside an abandoned shoe store).
I like what Sudol's doing, he's got a sharp directorial eye and his sense of humor doesn't distract from the horror. With a little more money and a better screenplay, he stands a good chance of making the TOY STORY of horror. And that, my friends, would be awesome.