Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Halloween Havoc: FLESHEATER (1988)

The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival. And watching FLESHEATER, because it rocks. - Aristotle

The ancient Greeks knew what they were talking about. Bill Hinzman’s FLESHEATER (aka REVENGE OF THE LIVING ZOMBIES; ZOMBIE NOSH) is awesome.  If you don’t like this movie, than you are no friends of mine.  I first became aware of the film in 1989 when I saw an ad for it in Variety as REVENGE OF THE LIVING ZOMBIES (with only one dead guy to spare).  This movie must rock!  My teenage brain was also savvy enough at the time to recognize Bill Hinzman as the guy who played the original cemetery zombie in Romero’s classic NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, which had just celebrated its 20th anniversary.

It was in 1990 that I finally got a chance to rent it on video at the Farm Fresh supermarket (remember when they had video stores in them?).  The video box (again sporting only one zombie) promised the “original uncensored version” so I knew I was in store for a treat. Little did I know the fifty-plus director Hinzman was operating on the same level as a fourteen-year-old.  Working as a pseudo-sequel to George Romero’s original film, FLESHEATER follows the blueprint closely but adds all the things Romero truly wanted like nudity and over-the-top gore.  It was truly my id brought to life!

The plot is as simple as can be – a group of college kids are taking a hayride up to Spence’s Farm for a little Halloween campfire fun involving beer and making out.  Along the way their tractor passes a farmer in the woods pulling out a huge tree stump.  As the kids head to their destination, the farmer is able move the root ball and unearths a coffin underneath it in the process.  On top of it is a wax seal basically saying “do not open” or else.  He, naturally, pops the top and finds Flesheater (Hinzman) – if that is your real name – inside.  The zombie opens his eyes and takes a huge bite out of the poor guy’s throat.  Oh, it is on now!

Meanwhile, the kids – wearing more flannel than should be legally allowed and sporting generic names like Bob, Sally Ann, Eddie, Carrie, Ralph – are all enjoying their Iron City beer-laced heavy petting sessions.  Two of them head to the nearby barn to really get it on and are interrupted by my main man Flesheater.  He kills them and chows down on a human heart.  The resurrected dead farmer attacks the hayride driver and some of the kids catch him in the act.  They split and go to warn the others.  It is chaos from then on as the remaining kids make it to the abandoned farm house.  Sound familiar?   It gets better.  Eddie proves to be cinema’s most fair-weather friend ever as he refuses to let Bob and Sally Ann in after they have nailed one board to the door.  “Go find someplace else to hide” he tells them.  Harry from the original NOTLD would be impressed, kid.  Did I forget to mention there are windows covered in plastic that they could easily squeeze though?  This kid is hardcore.

Bob and Sally Ann decide to hide in the cellar of the house while the kids upstairs find a working phone.  They call 911 but the operator gives them crap since it is Halloween and all. Rule #1 when calling the cops during a zombie attack – lie your ass off!  Just say some crazed redneck attacked you, don’t say it was some kind of monster.  You are only opening yourself up for a witty retort from the operator like was it a “Gozilla-type or Frankenstein-type of monster?”  Not that it matters as the zombies and one of the girls bitten inside attack and the kids are quickly wiped out, paying for Eddie’s sins, no doubt.  Amazingly, the operator did send a cop car out that way (a cinema first) and he is besieged by the living dead.  From this point on, it is just a non-stop zombie jamboree as Flesheater and friends make it into the suburbs and kill anything that moves.  That ranges from little kids to nubile young ladies who just happen to be taking a shower.  And this zombie makes sure to rip off the girl's towel before biting here.  Yes, Hinzman is the man.

Believe it or not, this film is my Halloween staple that I watch every year.  Some folks pop in HALLOWEEN (the original, you pukes) or something else with the spirit of All Soul’s Day.  But this one has just endeared itself to me. For one thing, it actually takes place on Halloween so that is a huge bonus right off the bat.  Second, Hinzman really captures the fall look in rustic Pennsylvania locations. That really puts me in the mood.  Hey, that sounded wrong.  Also, how can you not love a film that delivers so much in the gore and nudity department?  Please don’t misinterpret my enthusiasm for this film as making it out to be some kind of classic along the lines of NOTLD, DAWN OF THE DEAD (the original, you punks) or RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD.  It is not.  It is, however, a perfect example of a 80s horror movie that has no other motive than showing flesh – both torn and bare. He knew what sold and made sure to get as much of it as possible in his film.  You have to admire any zombie movie when the zombie attacks but always makes sure to lift up the girl's shirt before sticking his hand through her sternum.

"What Sheriff? We can't hear you!"
Hinzman knew he wouldn’t ever top NOTLD so he just did what would sell.  Namely, he exploited the hell out of it.  He cashed in on his iconic image as the world’s first flesheater and mimicked the original film right down to having NOTLD posse sniper Vince Survinski reprise his role as the guy who takes out innocent folk by mistake.  Damn, poor Vince.  The film is not going to suddenly replace NOTLD in the Library of Congress National Film Registry archives as something “culturally, historically or aesthetically important.”  However, it will get logged into the Video Junkie Archives for said reasons.  Now where is FLESHEATER II: THE RETURN OF FLESHEATER dammit!

2 Reactions:

  1. I remember seeing some of these images in Fangoria but never checked it out, thanks again for infecting me with a new cinematic virus to catch

  2. I just saw it and a review will be up soon, it's also in the Deep Red catalog


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