Monday, 31 March 2008

Flesheater (1988)

Grampa's gotten into the strawberry jam again.

Bill Hinzman played the zombie who chased Barbara around the cemetery in Night of the Living Dead. Twenty years later he decided to capitalise on his marginal fame by making a zombie film of his own; writing, producing, directing and placing himself in the title role. The result was Flesheater, otherwise known under the almost copyright infringing title Return of the Living Zombies and in the UK as Zombie Nosh. An homage to Romero's classic, Hinzman essentially reprises the same role from that movie.

The film begins with a group of "college kids" on a hayride, ready for a night of drunken debauchery. It's 1988, so it's stonewash denim and feathered hair as far as the eye can see. They are uniformly obnoxious and I couldn't keep their names straight, so I didn't bother. A nearby farmer digs up a coffin inscribed with a vaguely menacing passage, and when he opens the lid, a zombie (Hinzman) leaps out and eats him. At this point the film proceeds like countless slashers, with teens pairing off to engage in poorly acted romance before being munched by Hinzman.

Eventually the main group run across some zombies and retreat to a nearby cabin. They board themselves inside and the requisite power struggle between alpha males ensues. The women, meanwhile, are busy backing themselves up against windows so the zombies can bust in on cue. One girl's repeated cry of "Oh my Gawd!" will have you in stitches. They attempt to call the police, who respond to their not-unreasonable pleas for help with remarkable skepticism. They are cut off mid-call when a sneaky zombie rips out the phone cable. Eventually the zombies force their way in and the teens are killed.

So, we're almost half and hour in and all of our protagonists have been eaten, save for a couple who've sealed themselves up in the cellar. Time to introduce some more fodder, I guess, through the timeless medium of the nude shower scene. I don't know who the girl is supposed to be (older sister? babysitter? live-in maid?) but downstairs the mother and kids are preparing for Halloween night. Hinzman politely knocks on the front door and proceeds to eat the entire family, starting with the little girl and finishing with the girl upstairs. Naturally he removes her towel and gropes her for a bit first (one of the perks of being producer/director/star). The father returns home and is eaten by his former family. Whoops, those characters didn't last long. Better move on.

The couple from the cellar manage to escape when a policeman responds to the cabin and is quickly eaten. After trying unsuccessfully to seek help from a farmer, they crash what appears to be the lamest Halloween party ever. Only about eight guests have shown up, and the host (dressed as Dracula) is hitting the sauce pretty bad. The guests remain unconvinced of the couple's story until the zombies crash the party too. Hinzman takes the opportunity to grope a few more topless actors, because why not? The two teens are the only survivors, and escape back to the safety of the cellar.

By this time word of the zombies has spread, and a volunteer force of gun-toting rednecks has been assembled. The last act of the film follows them as they hunt down and destroy all the zombies. Despite some nice head explosions, it all proceeds in a fairly uninteresting manner. Most of the zombies from earlier in the film make an appearance, which is nice because it's not very often you see a bunch of rednecks blasting a zombie in a chicken suit. The ending of the film is painfully telegraphed (hint: it's stolen from Night of the Living Dead, like everything else in this film) and the two teens happily pontificating on their future together hammers it into your head with the force of a shotgun blast. Of course, Hinzman's zombie survives the extermination process, but if he was setting himself up for a sequel he was wildly optimistic.

The gore effects are nothing special, but occasionally impressive for such a low budget. Hinzman is twenty years older than in his appearance in Night, and the makeup does little to hide the fact that he's not the gaunt, cadaverous man he once was. The acting in this film is hands down some of the worst I've seen, and that's saying something. The dialogue-heavy scenes are downright painful. It's good for a laugh, if nothing else.

There's very little in this film that other people haven't done better. Skip it, unless you really want to see the boobs of some 30 year old actors pretending to be college students. If that's the case, I'd like to direct you to a little friend of mine called google.

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