For those unfamiliar with the format, let me offer a bit of illumination. Slacker films are those typically headlined by characters generally opposed to the traditional world of work, be it the soul-crushing 9-to-5 construct or anything, frankly, anything resembling a normal job. It’s not as if these folks are lazy; rather, (in my opinion) it’s that they kinda/sorta detest what’s grown to be considered a normal, functional existence, and their narrative rebellion against the establishment is what mostly defines these characters. While it might be considered a bit ‘highbrow’ by some standards, 1998’s The Big Lebowski (from the Coen Brothers) is arguably one of the best examples – especially from the 1990’s – but a great many variations on such a theme and format also fit within the Comedy sub-genre.
Though I could be wrong on this point, I think it’s fairly rare to run across a slacker film in the world of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror; and that’s part of why I think I so much fell in love with 2023’s As We Know It. Blending ‘slackness’ alongside zombie humor with more than a smidge of romance (Zom/Rom/Com), As We Know It was written (in part) and directed by Josh Monkarsh. Its cast includes Taylor Blackwell, Mike Castle, Oliver Cooper, Pam Grier, Danny Mondello, and Chris Parnell (in the biggest roles); and its breezy California laid back setting pits its players against a growing zombie plague that’s brought on – by all things – a bad batch of soy milk.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last few paragraphs for the final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the film’s IMDB.com page citation:
“In the late 90’s, James Bishop is dealing with a complicated breakup with the help of his best friend, while trying to finish his book before the impending zombie apocalypse.”
As for this one? Like Goldilocks said, “This one’s just right.”
Aspiring author and SciFi junkie James Bishop (played by Michael Castle) has run up a healthy bit of writer’s block in trying to craft the follow-up to his somewhat successful debut novel, “Trains In Space.” The problem is that whatever muse he had appears to have deserted him, and said muse took the shape of the ‘love of his life,’ Emily (a delightfully plucky Taylor Blackwell). Thankfully, James has his best bud – Bruce (Oliver Cooper) – to distract him from his somewhat crippling bout of depression. And, yet, perhaps what all of them truly needed was nothing more than a slowly burgeoning Zombie Apocalypse to at last bring them all together, face their demons, discover their separate truths, and maybe – maybe – even save the day.
Stranger things have happened, am I right?
Just as relationships are imperfect, As We Know It might not have enough humor to tickle everyone’s funny bone. I’ve often suggested that humor is the hardest sell in the whole entertainment business – what you find funny may not be what I find funny, and so on and so forth – but Monkarsh and his friends’ script is equally prescient and smart about the world and people created. It never suggests a rightness or a wrongness to any personal choices in all of this subdued chaos, leaving such assumptions to the viewing audience. Instead, the bulk of the action has these somewhat slackers just embracing life on the fly – even the unwinding of civilization around them – by choosing to, instead, sit back and enjoy yet one more home screening of Kevin Costner’s own disaster-in-the-making, Waterworld (1995).
Oh, the cruel irony! Embracing the Apocalypse while enjoying the ultimate professional apocalypse on film!
(As one of Waterworld’s last remaining and true fans, I’m thrilled for this tip of the hat. So sue me.)
The core beauty of an ensemble is that it becomes impossible to see any other talent inhabiting these roles, and hats off to all involved in this respect. Castle pitch perfectly assumes the mantle of the struggling author – that guy who may or may not have what it takes to find success if he can just figure out how to get out of bed in the morning – and he rather capably leads those around him to their collective doom. The screen (and the audience) love a pretty face, and Blackwell shines as the young maiden who – despite her best interests – can’t quite quit coming back to her former flame, mostly because she believed somewhere in her heart of hearts that it was about as good as it can get. Cooper – as probably the seminal slacker here – refuses to take ‘no’ for an answer – even when ‘no’ is, truly, the only answer – and his ‘never say die’ attitude satirically ends up nearly saving the day … but – in true slacker fashion – I think all of us suspected this one’s ending wouldn’t be happy across the board.
Count me in.
The best slacker comedies have always been, ultimately, centered on friendship: what makes these types who they are isn’t so much as important as their insistence on meeting life’s obstacles together, and As We Know It is no different. Yet, global disaster has finally arrived, but no one seemingly lets it spoil their day; and – as the film shows – there’s always time to learn something about yourself along the way to oblivion. In fact, I like thinking that the final message to all of these antics and discovery is this simple lesson: sometimes, you gotta come out of your shell far enough to realize just how safe you were … back in your shell. After all, no one’s getting out alive – no matter how fit, how happy, how employed, how productive, or not – so why not stick to what makes you happiest?
Truer words were never written, and I’m glad As You Know It left me with that closing inspiration.
Go about your day, people.
As We Know It (2023) was produced by Buffalo 8 Productions, Revisilagi Vfx Studio, and Traffic City Productions. According to a quick Google.com search, the film is presently available for viewing theatrically at select locations across the United States. As for the technical specifications? While I’m no trained video expert, I found the sights-and-sounds to this Horror/Comedy to be exceptional from start-to-finish. Lastly, if you’re looking for special features? As I view this one via online streaming, there were no special features to consider.
While I’m admittedly no fan of the slacker comedy format, I’ll still concede that I found As We Know It (2023) highly infectious. It properly hits many of the comic beats of like-minded fare (i.e. regular Joes both confronting and surviving the Apocalypse in their own special way), and it feels as if it could exist in the same universe as Zombieland (2009), Warm Bodies (2013), or Cooties (2014), albeit with vastly less blood and tension and with measurably more introspection. Its performers make the of the slightly-overlong run-time … but when the end of life as we know it is this inviting that’s an easy overstep to forgive. After all, don’t take those grudges to the grave, folks. That, too, could kill ya.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Buffalo 8 Productions provided me with complimentary streaming access to As We Know It (2023) by request for the expressed purpose of completing this review. Their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.