Harold’s Going Stiff – UK, 2011

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‘The nicest zombie you’ll ever meet’

Harold’s Going Stiff is a 2011 British horror comedy written and directed by Keith Wright. The film stars Stan Rowe, Sarah Spencer and Andy Pandini.

A new disease is spreading throughout rural England: Onset Rigor Disease (ORD). The disease, which only affects men, manifests itself in three stages: extreme stiffness of the joints, dementia and, finally, aggression. Regular people call the diseased zombies, but according to scientists that term is factually incorrect.

Nevertheless, groups of zombie hunters are already gathering in the countryside, hooligans who mercilessly club to death any ORD-sufferer they come across. They’re waiting for a chance to catch patient zero. His name: Harold Gimble. Gimble (Stan Rowe from TV’s Heartbeat) is an elderly widower who for mysterious reasons has a very slow developing strain of ORD. A district nurse, the plump and lonely Penny (Sarah Spencer), visits him daily. These two lonely souls develop a close connection.Image

Harold’s Going Stiff is designed as a mockumentary that appears to be quite farcical at first. Is this a low-budget variation of Shaun of the Dead? No, it isn’t. Obvious comparisons are unavoidable with a zombie film that’s played for laughs. However, to sit Harold alongside Shaun is a tad unfair. Shaun took the theme of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead  and played it for laughs.

Harold manages to tell his own sorry, painful story whilst successfully managing to ‘pick up and drop’ the humor card at will. Something many movies don’t achieve. The longer the camera lingers on the main characters, Harold and nurse Penny, the faster the similarities evaporate, despite some hilariously satiric asides. Harold and Penny’s friendship forms the true heart of this poignant film.

For a film on such a limited budget, director Keith Wright manages to execute a truly engaging story with enough feeling, wit, charm and grace to put most other independently financed efforts to shame.

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Harold is different from other zombie movies that deal with the transformation of main characters such as I, Zombie (1998), Colin (2008) and Dead Heads (2011) in that there is no contagion as such. ORD can affect any male at virtually any time. There is no contamination through death, bite or ingestion of zombie fluids.

This puts a nice spin on proceedings as the horror movie market is being flooded with ‘zombie apocalypse’ flicks that are all telling the same story. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, Harold pops up!

The British DVD release comes with a quick splash of extras which are all worth a peep. Commentary and an interview with the director Keith Wright are particular highlights. Harold’s Going Stiff is a remarkably good film given its resources. It’s certainly enough to keep you thoroughly entertained on a cold winter’s evening.

Martin Langford, HORRORPEDIA

Buy DVD: Amazon.co.uk

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