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…
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!”
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.
College students on an overnight hayride come across a group of man-eating zombies and must fight for their lives while trying to escape.
— Angus Kohm (@AngusKohm) December 29, 2021