Summer’s here and the time is ripe, and so are the zombies rotting away at sundown in San Jose’s SoFA district Wednesday, August 31. It’s a red-letter day on the annual calendar; this fourth Zombie Crawl makes San Jose a top-ten zombie destination for mobs of the undead.

As zombies need something to mill around, the focus of the gathering is a free outdoor screening that ends the summer’s Starlight Cinema series on a seriously high note. 2007’s Fido is the best zom-com you’ve never heard of: a notably intelligent and entertaining sleeper from Canada.

At heart, director Andrew Currie’s Fido is about the walking dead chomping people, so have no fear. You’ll get your gore, even though that’s not all the movie is all about. Currie blends horror and humor as if in a latter day Bride of Frankenstein (the title zombie recreates the “Smoke. Good.” scene from the Karloff classic).

Fido respects the classic rules so much that it doesn’t even need to have a character sum them up: take them out with a double tap to the head; space radiation caused it all; one bite communicates the disease; no zombie can lurch faster than a crippled golf-cart. Fido’s central idea is even spun off of the original 1985 Day of the Dead, which proposed that someone (likely the Army) would figure out a commercial use for zombies.

And yet why does Fido seem so original? 

Maybe it’s this: nothing since Todd Haynes’ 2002 Far From Heaven has been such a playful yet serious homage to the 1950s social melodrama of Douglas Sirk (All That Heaven Allows) and Nicholas Ray (Rebel Without a Cause). Production designer Rob Gray did sterling work recreating those vast Cinemascopic interiors in the studio-built suburban houses. Jan Kresser’s emulation of Eisenhower-era Technicolor is so vibrant it almost glows.

In this 1950s story of creeping zombie blight, the wavering father of the Robinson family (played by hard-working character actor Dylan Baker, the pervy dad in Happiness) is a salaryman. He has a big false porcelain-white smile that crumbles as soon as he gets away from the office. He seems to have everything, in this leafy Leave it to Beaver style small town. It’s protected by an electric fence. Zombies have been tamed with electronic collars, courtesy of ZomCo (whose corporate logo looks troublingly like the royal monogram of the Kingdom of Oz).

The undead are used as menials and maids, and, even though it’s frowned upon, girlfriends. (Tim Blake Nelson plays the town eccentric, a Hugh Hefner type swinger who has, uh, domesticated a rather young zombie). But fragile young Timmy (K’Sun Ray) is starting to question the order of things, and he’s starting to zero in on the troubles that haunt his father.

Fido makes the zombie problem rhyme with the 1950s issue-movies of encirclement (whether by juvenile delinquents, ethnics or Commies). It also mimics those dramas about the emotional strain of the older generation: unhappy commuters, coping with memories of having been warriors in WWII… though for this story’s purpose, that Big War was a Night of the Living Dead style conflict between zombies and humans.

The war is over, but the memory of it still lingers, in the form of trophies in dad’s dens; the adult male survivors are either too traumatized to talk about it, or else are gloating about their killing sprees they had back when they were in the service.

The head gloater is the new man in the neighborhood, a ZomCo executive played by the eerily Mitt Romneyoid Henry Czerny. When this affluent exec and his family move in with a full retinue of zombie servants, Timmy’s mom Helen (Carrie-Anne Moss, surprisingly good) decides she could use a zombie of her own. Dad disagrees: so what if everyone on the block owns a zombie? “In India, everyone has a tiger. Why don’t we move there?”

Thus Fido enters the picture: a bluefaced and shaven Billy Connolly in one of his best roles as the good-hearted Frankenstein-like innocent. He has a lesson to teach us about zombies: sure they’re rabid and carnivorous, but they have feelings too. This ultimate corny dog name is Latin, meaning “I am faithful”. Certainly this Fido demonstrates this fidelity; he’s a Lassie for this Timmy.  But he’s also a helper to Mom: as in Far From Heaven, a charismatic earthy outsider helps a housewife realize her disenchantment. She never realized how fed up she was with a life too much like death on the installment plan.

Fido is only going to look better on an outdoor screen, applauded by zombies—and the costumes, adult beverages and general lurching horror is going to make for an evening so fun, it’ll be worth coming back from the dead.