On first sights of the premise for I Love Sarah Jane, I was unsure of what to think about a love story set in a post-apocalyptic zombie wasteland. Although there are often romantic plots hanging around in the background of most great zombie movies, this short has that principle as its primary focal point of the story. Looking at director Spencer Susser’s comments, however, it is clear that the aim here was exactly that. To make a zombie film that didn’t have zombies as its main motivation. Ultimately it’s a romantic film. Main character Jimbo (Brad Ashby) just happens to experience his sexual awakenings during a zombie epidemic. Susser said, “What if not everyone was sick and, for those people, life had to go on?”
The story cuts right in with thirteen year old Jimbo and his lanky friend Joey as they cycle through their wrecked neighbourhood in a passage that resembles one of the beginning scenes in Gummo. As the boys reach their destination we are presented with the film’s only featured zombie and it is not a disappointment. Unlike many recent depictions of sub-human, fast paced and slightly more believable undeads, Susser decided to chose a more extreme, Evil Dead style monster, creating a nice and refreshing reverence to the classics. However, as mentioned, the zombie was just a sideline to the longing of Sarah Jane, played by now well know actress Mia Wasikowska. After she initially retaliates against Jimbo, her heart warms, as does ours, as they open up about their fears, which are quite obviously more prominent than the average teenager’s.
Although the gore in this movie is a little rushed and under budgeted, as admitted by Susser himself, there are some great moments, the climax being a zombie explosion leaving the top half still crawling along the ground. The effects are all man-made which is an admirable and valuable trait, particularly on the modest funding for Susser’s short. They also add a little comic releif to the otherwise stern atmosphere of the story.
I love Sarah Jane proved a hit with film critics, winning awards at the Arizona Film Festival and the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival. Although the movie itself contains many references to it’s predecessors, Susser seems to have brought up a rather innovative idea, making it one of the reasons it was such a hit. So much so in fact that he is now in the process of converting his work into a full-length feature film. Hopefully soon we will get the full picture of a love so powerful, not even your zombified Dad in the back garden can destroy it.
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