February 16, 2012

Eat Me (Review)


Eat Me (2011)

Director: Rocco Nisivoccia


 3/ 5 zedheads

You can take the soldier out of the battle but you can't take the battle out of the soldier. So learns Brady, the main character in Rocco Nisivoccia's short zombie film "Eat Me." (eatmezombie.com)

After serving as a soldier in the war against the living dead, Brady (Alex C. Ferrill) is having a difficult time adjusting to life in a world where the living and the dead are now at peace and integrated into American society. Struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, Brady starts to lose his temper, which he takes out on the rehabilitated zombies that move in next door, that beat him out for promotions, and that start to marry his friends. Brady starts to suspect that these so-called "Zombie Americans" are actually planning another coup. Is he the only man who can see the truth, or has his mind been warped by too many years of paranoid prejudice?

Clocking in at approximately 22 minutes, "Eat Me" is a technically accomplished short that suffers from a muddled thematic message. There's been a spate of zombie films in recent years that take the subtextual metaphor of zombies and elevate the subtext to plain text. American Zombie and the Homecoming episode of Masters of Horror, for example, recast zombies as the underprivileged and the marginalized in society. "Eat Me" takes a similar bent: all the talk of "Zombie Americans" taking American jobs, screwing up the economy, and corrupting American society mirrors similar racist propaganda against Muslims, Mexicans, and Jews -- or even the Germans and the Japanese after WWI and WWII. At his most desperate, Brady even joins a militant group of pseudo-skinheads reminiscent of the Ku Klux Klan. The theme is hard to ignore.

However, the creators of "Eat Me" seem to have sensed that the presentation of zombies as metaphorical stand-ins for the marginalized has been done before, so the climax of the short takes a sudden turn -- a kind of  Tales from the Crypt moral twist in reverse -- in an attempt to surprise the viewer. While the conclusion helps liven up a fairly predictable story structure, it also nullifies anything the film was trying to say about prejudice against the marginalized in society. Then again, maybe "Eat Me" wasn't trying to say anything about America's underclass -- but if that's true, then what's the point of sowing the seeds of that metaphor in the first place?

There are some interesting performances by our leads (although a number of the supporting character turn in performances that are positively chewy), and the cinematography is active and cinematic, but the thematic thrust of "Eat Me" left me feeling cheated.

If you can catch "Eat Me" on the festival circuit, by all means give it a watch, but for all the talent behind and in front of the camera, the story doesn't know what kind of story it wants to be.