Trash Or Terror Tuesday: FleshEater (1988)

It’s time for #TrashOrTerrorTuesday

…when I examine a film that’s been languishing in my personal library to determine if it is #Trash or #Terror

– or more importantly, if it deserves to stay in my collection.

And so, out from the dusty shelves of #VHS tapes & DVDs comes…

DVD cover for FleshEater (1988)FleshEater (1988) by #SWilliamHinzman AKA #BillHinzman

College students on an overnight hayride (is that a thing?) come across a group of man-eating zombies and must fight for their lives while trying to escape.

“He lived, he died, he’s back, and he’s hungry!”

#Horror #Zombie
#NightOfTheLivingDead offshoot (or should I say ripoff?)
#TrashOrTerrorTuesday

For those who don’t know, Bill Hinzman was the first zombie seen in the very first modern zombie movie  – George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968). He’s the one who attacks Barbara and Johnny in the graveyard at the very beginning of the film. Hinzman worked with Romero on many of his earliest films, including industrial films and the recently rediscovered The Amusement Park (1975). Hinzman usually worked as a cinematographer, photographer, grip, and other behind the scenes jobs. But he also acted in a number of different films, usually in tiny roles such as “Drunk Guy in Bar” or “Mustachioed Archer in Tree”.

Apparently, Hintzman went to a science fiction convention sometime in the 1980s to visit a couple of friends who were appearing there. As he walked through the crowded room he discovered that people were recognizing him from his famous Night of the Living Dead appearance. They were excited to meet him, and perhaps even wanted his autograph. This made Hinzman think “Hmmm, maybe I should do something about this…”

So, Hinzman decided to more or less reprise his role as a zombie in a new movie called FleshEater (1988). He looks pretty much the same as he did in Night of the Living Dead, but a bit older. Oddly enough, he always seemed older than he really must have been in Night of the Living Dead  – perhaps in an attempt to be a more credible dead guy. In FleshEater he is finally the right age for the part.

FleshEater (1988) is clearly an offshoot (or should I say ripoff) of Night of the Living Dead. There are scenes and moments that are virtually remakes of the original film. Normally this would be a major turnoff, but because it’s Bill Hinzman doing it, he kind of gets a pass.

The acting is pretty amateurish in FleshEater, and most of the performers never did anything before or since. Vincent D. Survinski seems to reprise his role as Vince, a Posse Gunman from the original Night of the Living Dead. A few others had appeared in previous Romero, Hinzman, or John A. Russo films.

The script is pretty bad, and lacks a clear story or any kind of character development. In fact, there aren’t really any main characters, as the films drifts from one unlikely scenario to the next. A couple of the characters recur throughout the film, but we don’t really focus on them.

What FleshEater does have going for it is some pretty fun and imaginative low budget gore effects – and some surprisingly over-the-top sleaze, including a full frontal shower scene that leads to a fully naked zombie. This could be a throwback to the naked zombie in Night of the Living Dead, although that was more tasteful and implied. One can’t help but wonder if it was an attempt to recreate the magic of Linnea Quigley’s turn as Trash in The Return of the Living Dead (1985), which had made a major splash just a couple of years before Hinzman started making FleshEater

So what’s the verdict?

FleshEater (1988) is Trash – but it’s the fun kind of Trash. It’s no The Return of the Living Dead, which is a masterpiece of campy comedy and a clever satire of zombie movies. Hinzman’s style seems a tad closer to Al Adamson than George Romero or Dan O’Bannon – but those who know me, know that I love Al Adamson. 

Put another way. I can’t call FleshEater Terror, because I can’t imagine anyone ever being the least bit scared by it. It generates more laughter than suspense – and probably only for those with a taste for the trashier side of cinema. Viewers looking for a serious descendent of Night of the Living Dead will undoubtedly be disappointed. Those looking a slick and hilarious good time like The Return of the Living Dead will probably also be disappointed. Those, however, who can appreciate flawed oddities like Al Adamson’s The Fiend with the Electronic Brain (1967) or Ted V. Mikels’ The Astro-Zombies (1968), might find some undiscovered treasure in Bill Hinzman’s film. I, for one, was completely won over by the end (the first 20 minutes were a bit touch and go, however).

Incidentally, the Shriek Show DVD that I have includes some nice extras, which somehow seems to elevate to entire experience. Needless to say, I will be keeping FleshEater (1988) in my permanent collection.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: I Drink Your Blood (1970)

I remember finding a shitty-looking black and white photocopied looking clamshell VHS box of I Drink Your Blood (1970) on the shelf of my favourite video store many years ago. I had never heard of the movie, which made it interesting, and the shitty-looking box somehow made me all the more curious about it. It looked like the owners of the video store had made the box themselves – and probably the movie, too. It just looked like an ordinary blank VHS tape with a sticker slapped on it. The sticker just had the title of the move on it – not a fancy designed looking version of it, but simple looking text probably done on a typewriter.

Black and white add for I Drink Your Blood (1970)I figured that I Drink Your Blood (1970) must be some kind of special movie for somebody to have gone to all this trouble. Maybe it was so extreme that no official company would release it. I immediately took it up to the front to rent it

The guy behind the counter looked at it and said, “I’m not sure if this version is uncut or not. Let me know.”

“Okay, ” I said – but had no idea how to even tell if the movie was uncut of not. I had never seen it before. I’d never read about. I didn’t know what was supposed to be in it. How could I tell if something was missing?

I suppose if it had been really obvious, like someone is in the middle of saying something: “Alright man, I’m gonna take this axe and -” – when suddenly there’s an ugly looking cut in the film, and then we’re watching some dude’s horrified looking face as he says ” Whoa, man, why’d you go and do that?! You didn’t have to chop him thirty-seven times!”

Maybe then I would have thought that something had been cut out of the movie. As it was, I just didn’t know. I enjoyed the  movie, however.

A few years later, a friend invited to a bad movie night with some of his other friends. He asked me to bring some crazy movies. So I went to an independent store that had a lot of crazy movies in it. I mean rare bootleg tapes with cheapass photocopied covers, a lot like the one that I had rented years ago. And lo and behold, they had a copy of I Drink Your Blood. This box stated very clearly “Uncut Version – Never Before Seen!” So I rented it, along with a copy of other crazy looking movies, and took them to the all-night-movie-watching event.

Unfortunately, those guys already had so many movies that they wanted to watch, that they never even considered looking at anything that I brought with me. And I had to return the tapes the next day, so I didn’t even get a chance to watch them on my own. I had wasted my money that day, and the store went out of business shortly after that. I never did see the uncut version of I Drink Your Blood.

Now, thanks to Grindhouse Releasing, I own the super-deluxe Blu-ray of I Drink Your Blood, and it contains two different cuts of the movie; the uncut X-rated version, and the director’s cut. The director’s cut is actually a longer version of the movie – but not because there’s more gore and violence. It contains more story. Honestly, I’m not sure which version of the movie is better, so I am thrilled to have them both in my collection.

I Drink Your Blood was one of the first films to be heavily influenced by Night of the Living Dead (1968). Instead of zombies, I Drink Your Blood features people infected with rabies. The effect is similar, but almost more like the fast moving zombies of the distant future (such as in Dawn of the Dead (2004)). 

The villains in I Drink Your Blood, and the first ones to become rabid maniacs, are a group of satanic hippies. This might sound like a ridiculous and campy idea (satanic hippies?!) but at the time the movie was made, some people were actually afraid of hippies. Their music, their fashions, their use of drugs, their rejection of normal society – this all seemed strange and dangerous to “respectable” people. They just didn’t understand hippies, so it wasn’t a big leap to imagine that hippies might worship Satan, or be part of a cult.

And let’s not forget that Charles Manson and his murderous crew were basically hippies gone wrong. And they had just committed their crimes the year before I Drink Your Blood was released. Hippies were definitely ripe for exploitation by the horror genre at that moment.

I Drink Your Blood features Lynn Lowry in one of her earliest film roles. She may have made Lloyd Kaufman’s The Battle of Love’s Return first, but it came out after, so I’m not sure. In any case, she was pretty much unknown when she made I Drink Your Blood. Her part was small, and her character was basically mute, but she really stands out from the rest of the cast. That’s not to suggest that the other actors are bad. I actually think that many of them are quite good, but Lynn Lowry somehow makes the strongest impression. She has a lot of screen presence, and manages to draw focus in every scene that she is in. It’s no surprise that she would go on to legendary cult status, thanks to films like The Crazies (1973), Score (1973) Shivers (1975), Cat People (1982) – and this one, of course.

Lynn Lowry dropped out of film and TV acting for about ten years in the mid 1990s, but since 2005 she has appeared in more than a hundred movies – many of them independent horror and other other genre films. Here’s hoping she makes another hundred.

I Drink Your Blood (1970) is legendary #NotQuiteClassicCinema that every fan should see at least once. I’ve already seen it three or four times, and I will look forward to many more. It will always be a welcome sight on a #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Trash Or Terror Tuesday: Cult (2007)

It’s time for #TrashOrTerrorTuesday

…when I examine a film that’s been languishing in my personal library to determine if it is #Trash or #Terror

– or more importantly, if it deserves to stay in my collection.

And so, out from the dusty shelves of #VHS tapes & DVDs comes…

DVD cover art for Cult (2007)Cult (2007) by #JoeKnee

w/ #TarynManning #RachelMiner

While researching a local cult, four college students uncover the existence of a supernatural power that may take their lives…and their souls.

“Once You’re In, There’s No Getting Out!”

#Horror

#TrashOrTerrorTuesday

 

I picked up a DVD of Cult (2007) in a bargain bin somewhere, and I must have watched it, but… coming across it on my shelf, I had no memory of it whatsoever. So, even though it’s a little more recent than a lot of the movies I choose for this honour, I decided to put it to the #TrashOrTerrorTuesday test.

I could try to describe the plot, but that would only give me a headache. Basically, a bunch of students decide to do a project about a weird cult that had a big murder suicide incident a few years back in their home town. Their professor seems a bit concerned about this, and says “Let me know if you find anything like…”

“Like what?” the head girl, Mindy, says.

“Just let me know if you find anything.”

Well, what are the odds that this project is going to unearth some weird secrets, perhaps having to do with this very student, Mindy’s past? And what are the odds that this attractive female professor is going to turn out to be seeing Mindy’s father – and therefore have inside information about this student’s past? And why is this student so determined to keep digging into this cult, even after one of her friends, and fellow students,  is mysteriously murdered in the shower (one of the faint highlights of this movie, by the way) -and that her death was seemingly somehow predicted by a book that this Mindy is reading?

Confused? I know I am. And I watched the movie (twice, apparently).

So what’s the verdict?

Cult (2007) is Trash. There was no terror, in my opinion. Perhaps somebody, somewhere would have found this movie scary or suspenseful, but not me. There is a bit of gore. Several of the female cult members (and maybe people who are possessed by cult members? Or maybe just controlled by the cult leader?) stab themselves in the eyes as a tribute to Kwan Yin, who was blinded and murdered by her father many years ago in China (or something like that).

Cult seems like a movie with trashy sleaze potential, especially when a bunch of female cult members, wearing some kind of funky white lingerie, gather around to performa a ritual of some sort, but sadly, it’s all just foreplay for eye-stabbing. And if you stare at this movie long enough, you might just be tempted to join in.