March 19, 2010

FleshEater (Review)


FleshEater (1988)

Director: Bill Hinzman


2/5 zedheads

It's 1988. 

The hair is big. Denim jackets are big. Tom Hanks in BIG is big. Zombies are...well....just big enough of a draw for low-budget filmmakers hungry to make a quick buck in the home video market. Into this market comes Bill Hinzman, the original graveyard zombie from Night of the Living Dead, looking to satisfy his own hunger to write, direct, shoot, and edit a film capitalizing on his cult status as the first zombie to appear in Night of the Living Dead.

What we get is FleshEater (aka. Zombie Nosh). It's a shameless ripoff of Night boasting approximately one gratuitous shot of bare tits on screen for every 16 minutes of the picture, double that in unintentional laughs prompted by poor dialogue and hilariously bad acting, and surprisingly better special gore effects than it deserves.

The story (if you can call it that) begins with a group of ten teens in rural Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania who are taking a tractor hay ride into the woods for a night of drinking and making out. Before we get to the action, the worst part of the film is already apparent: the sound. The sound dubbing and recording on this film is ridiculous. For example, we are treated to two (count'em: two) shots of a tractor in the distance moving into the foreground, but we can hear all the contrived, inane chatter of the tractor's teen passengers as if they were standing directly in our ear at all times. For the rest of the film, dialogue will sound dubbed-over in tones and volume completely out of place with the rest of the scenes.

Anyways, after Exposition Eddie regales his friends with a story of murdered teens that has no relation to the movie, an awkward dance sequence commences involving three girls dancing and holding their boyfriends hands while their boyfriends sit defiantly on their asses. Rural White Boys can't dance apparently. Way to pick'em girls. The dance ends with one girl's lame strip tease before the teens split up to look for fire wood. Little do they realize the Flesh Eater himself is on the prowl! Earlier, a farmer pulling stumps with his tractor unearthed the grave of Bill Hinzman's zombie who has been entombed under some vaguely mystic runes the farmer dismisses as the work of college kids on his property. Hinzman is hungry for flesh, and everyone he kills becomes a zombie and gets up and kills (wow...deja vu).

By this point, the film's dialogue and acting had me literally laughing until I could not breathe. FleashEater is about as close to the Troll 2 of zombie movies as I've ever seen. Every line, every word, every intonation just seems....wrong, as if uttered by a space alien who just learned English from Nigerian spammers. Highlights of the film include Denise Morrone as Carrie with her placid, "" at the sight of her boyfriend being impaled by a pitchfork-wielding zombie. I also got a kick out of characters truly believing that one board against a window equals a good barricade, the repeatedly flat Pennsylvanian exclamations of "Oh Mah Gawd," and the constant soundtrack of zombies growling even though their mouths aren't open. That acting in this movie is supremely bad, but you laugh when you cringe.

Eventually, the teens board themselves in a farm house (that sounds familiar), but they are all quickly slaughtered except for two couples in the cellar protected by the power of the boyfriend's shiny mullet. If you think these characters will become heroic protagonists in any way other than just standing around, you're wrong. The rest of the film follows the zombies as they eat random people and are then pursued by a posse of rural hicks (Wait a second, now I know I've seen this movie before....).

Did I neglect to mention that this film takes place on Halloween? It's easy to forget until the costume party massacre scene when you realize that Erica Portnoy's looping musical score is desperately trying to claw at something John Carpenter would compose for Halloween.

A burned barn, a series of kills, and an exploded zombie heads later, our two protagonists emerge from the ordeal alive and ready to face a brave new day.... until they are promptly shot down by the redneck posse (Oh come ON now! That's a SHAMELESS RIPOFF!)


I'll give FleshEater two points. One: it has better special effects than it deserves. Gerry Gergely works some fine gore effects with little money and little time. For example, on Shriek Show's surprisingly and needlessly well-produced DVD retrospective of FleshEater, Gergely describes making two burned corpses in one and a half days with no budget by using seat cushion foam and spare parts in his shop. And they do look good. Second: Bill Hinzman carries some level of presence as the lead zombie in this film. Maybe it's just the fact we celebrate him as the first zombie in Night of the Living Dead, but he seems to carry some credibility and, dare I say it, some level of acting as the Frankenstein-esque undead flesh eater of the movie

However, these two points are not enough to compel me to recommend FleshEater. FleshEater is a dumb movie full of dumb people doing dumb things. While I will recommend the equally cheesy and inept zombie film Burial Ground: Nights of Terror only for its over-the-top sex and weirdness, FleshEater does not come close enough to being the Troll 2 of zombie films for me to give it the same recommendation. If you're a fan of bad films and can find amusement in them, try out FleshEater. If you're looking for a good film, stay far away.

If FleshEater were food, it would be a novelty Hamburger Telephone. You can't eat it or get any nourishment out of it, but it's worth a few laughs.