City of Rott (2006)

I’ll confess it.  I like Frank Sudol’s weird little animated films a lot more than I should.

I first encountered him in the anthology film, Monsterland (2016), to which he contributed a funny but gory animated short which went on a little too long.

I then caught his feature film, Shock Invasion (2010), a gleefully black and postmodern alien invasion film which was like getting stuck in a videogame redrawn by a child.

His style is pure ugly.  There is no other way to describe it.  He uses a very primitive cut and paste style animation whose characters and backgrounds are in a very scribbly, childlike style.  The animation is deliberately clunky, with only a minimal attempt to capture the way people move.  In Shock Invasion, he actually throws in a little fourth wall joke to explain the silly way everyone walks as his main character (and presumably any other survivors) are stiff after being frozen by the aliens’ secret weapon.


Another curious signature is that many of the same, instantly recognizable characters reappear in film after film, even though they have different names.

City of Rott was his first feature, although his artwork really doesn’t seem primitive compared to his later films.  In it, a confused old man named Fred is wandering through a city filled with horrible zombies, trying to find a new pair of slippers.

After all, his feet hurt something awful.

Mind you, he’d settle for a big slice of pizza instead, but fortunately he wields a mean walker and slaughters zombies with it non-stop throughout the film.

And with machine guns, pistols, cars, motorcycles, pipes, severed limbs and any other weapon he can get his hands on.

This particular zombie apocalypse has been caused by these nasty worms of mysterious origin which ended up in the water.  Once they get inside you, they will move to your brain and send you off to eat other people.  Mind you, the whole time you are going around attacking other people at their command, the worms are eating you alive.

By any standard, Frank Sudol’s work is extremely gory, with dismemberment, disembowelment, lots of worms, and massive bite wounds being the norm.  It is a little amusing to note, however, that most of the gore involves lots of vague and undetailed scribbles, even if it is meant to represent someone’s internal organs.

It all moves at insane speed from one massive zombie slaughter to another, with other characters getting briefly involved (and ultimately eaten), amid lots of jet black humor (like the man who doesn’t realize his brother is getting eaten because he’s too busy on his phone, telling another member of their group of survivors what kind of donuts he should be looking for).  The crude animation style and the non-stop action suggest not an animated film, but a videogame, with each new encounter followed by long bursts of zombie mayhem.

If anything, City of Rott has a little more story than Shock Invasion had (still not much, though) and the delusional and very angry Fred has a bit more development than the hero in Shock Invasion, but we all know he’s there to find a new pair of slippers and kill zombies.

And they’re all out of slippers.

However, what’s missing is the knowing, post-modern humor of Shock Invasion, which was perfectly willing to mock its own limitations along with just about anything else.  And, following a surprising development 47 minutes into the film (with half an hour left!) the film loses its way badly, even if there is a curious twist at the end…

And a surprising revelation of the zombie cure.

What is hard to believe here is that Frank Sudol not only animated and edited the film, but he provides all the voices, wrote the script and even composed the driving, videogame-ish music (although it sounds like he’s reused most of it in his other films).  His films are truly one-man animated films. more so than even something like Nova Seed (2016), where Nick DiLiberto sought out voice actors and other help on his finished project.  What is even more remarkable is that Sudol released his first three films two years apart from each other, with Dead Fury following immediately after City of Rott.

Since Shock Invasion came out, however, he has primarily worked on a series of short films.

He did, however, make a sequel to City of Rott in 2014.

Although it isn’t in his signature style.  Instead, he chose to make it with an absolutely horrible looking computer animation approach, which seems to involve endless copies of an identical people shaped 3-D model, with individual skins stretched over them.  The standard shapes remind me far too much of a Lego movie.

Not that it looks anywhere near as good.

(Although, I’ll admit it does grow on you a bit if you watch it long enough…)

But now, after eight years, he’s finally released a new movie, City of Rott: Otherworld, which returns to his old style of animation.  Whether it is as much fun as his earlier films, though, is another question.

And I’m sure I’ll have to seek out that answer one of these days.

But at least it shouldn’t be too painful.

Particularly not if I’ve got my walker…

(Watch for free on Tubi)

Buy or watch at Amazon (paid link)



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