Monday, 14 April 2014

FleshEater (Revenge of the Living Zombies / Zombie Nosh) - review

1998 (USA)

Contains spoilers.

I've got to begin this review with a confession. You see, I really enjoyed FleshEater, though I know, deep down I shouldn't have. It's amateurish lazy film making, badly edited with campy b-movie acting and dialogue. It's embarrassingly exploitative, delighting in baring the young titties of every girl on cast at every opportunity. It's also painfully derivative with director / producer / writer and chief ghoul Bill Hinzman happy to brazenly steal narrative and genre staples from all and sundry but mainly the film that gained him his notoriety in the first place. It's a bad film with little to objectively praise it except… and here it is; it's a hoot from start to finish. It's constantly entertaining, there's plenty of gore and blood and seeing cute young things bare themselves is never dull however uncomfortable one feels it should be. FleshEater is another of these zombie bad-good film that you can't but help smile along to.

Bill Hinzman is the eponymous zombie that depending on how you look at it kind of started the whole thing off. His macabre shuffling towards Barbra in 1968 devoid of the influence of voodoo, master or divine power marked a change in direction that came to have not only a profound influence on the genre, but possibly the whole modern zeitgeist. Now one could argue that Romero's creation was inevitable with society hurtling from religion and superstition towards a world of science and objectivism, and Matheson amongst others with I Am Legend had already challenged the entwined notion that undead should be linked with mysticism, but it was Bill Hinzman, flesheater with his autonomous hunger and primal drive that firmly planted the flag.

It was with all this in mind, that an eyebrow was raised when his black suited ghoulish frame was introduced to the screen with the breaking of an ancient magical seal and a warning not to. Still, with the cast of young amateur and extremely unlikable misfit kids out on a Halloween hayride to drink, cavort and obviously die it was obvious I really wasn't supposed to be taking it all that seriously. The film almost plays out as one would expect. Teenagers do what teenagers do, Flesheater does what a flesheater would and before you know it half the kids are dead and back up staggering about and the few little brats that survived are running about and screaming for their lives. It's lively, the blood and gore is gratuitous and if you're not over critical, the acting and dialogue, whilst hokey is quite agreeable. 

It almost plays out as one would expect but Hinzman obviously has ambition, or at least delusions of. Thinking I was watching a zombie Friday The 13th wannabe it soon turns into Night of the Living Dead with the group holding out in a nearby deserted farm house complete with nails, hammer and wooden boards (ridiculously close to hand) and all the same interpersonal conflict and fisticuffs. The transition wasn't smooth if I'm honest but it's low budget and Hinzman is at least trying. There's also another scene with more miscreant kids having a Halloween party in a barn, and a totally gratuitous and unnecessary (though this could be debated) urban house shower sequence. It jumps around and there's no real rhyme or reason to any of it, as if each scene was penned before they had any idea how they would stitch it together; but it's lively and fun, and as a series of camp entertaining gory death rooms it achieves its goal with aplomb.

Never really able to shake the tall gangly non-descript role he only received for being a camera man in the right place, at the right time, with the right old suit, Hinzman died in 2012 with Night of the Living Dead, a few other b-movie parts and this plus one other feature film as director to his name. Here, aged 52 he struts about chasing and chomping with vigour and panache; like a man who understands how to play a zombie, yet while he's never dull to watch, I couldn't help but feel a little sorrow, that after all this time here he still was staggering about snarling with his arms out stretched in a rough b-movie as if he could never escape the undead road Romero started him on. Still, in some ways I'm glad he is, as sure, the film is a bit of a confusing mess throwing ideas around, and baring boobs, like an angry teenager, but it's light, lively and trashy, in an enthralling and hilarious way, and it's all down to Bill. A masterfully bad great zombie film, 6/10.


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