Thursday, February 9, 2012

REVIEW: Flesheater

Director: S. William Hinzman
Year 1988

Flesheater is a low budget zombie flick that rises above the throngs of Z-grade genre efforts, by establishing a unique atmosphere provided by the colorful characters that serve up as entertaining meals for the bloodthirsty zombie horde. Directed by and starring Bill Hinzman, the legendary first zombie in the original Night of the Living Dead, the film has many parallels to Romero’s universe from the Pennsylvania locations to the rustic overall look of the era, yet it lacks any sort of capable actors making for an uneven but enjoyable zombie film.

The movie starts out with a man discovering a grave marker in the middle of nowhere. Being curious and ultimately stupid, he digs up the grave to see what’s inside. What he finds is a pissed off zombie in the form of actor/director Bill Hinzman. Hinzman, being the flesh eating beast that he is, rips the throat out of the unsuspecting hick and then proceeds to wreak havoc on anyone who crosses his path, turning everyday 80’s teens into ravenous zombies. I’d mention the rest of the cast, but there really isn’t much to say. They basically only serve one purpose and that’s zombie food. Overall the film is fun as shit, mixing elements of Slasher flicks with the tried and true staples of the zombie genre.

Let’s delve deeper into Hinzman’s role, both in front of the camera and behind. Having passed away last week at the age of 75, I felt I needed to write something up about the man seeing that he was always a joy to talk with at the conventions and seemed like an all around stand up guy. I’ve always enjoyed his turn as the first zombie in Night of the Living Dead and I wholly appreciated his efforts in bringing Flesheater to the masses. The film may not be critically acclaimed, but there are some very positive aspects to the production that are sadly brushed off by most viewers as being amateur and repetitive to what Romero brought to the table. Despite this familiar aspect of the film, I felt it was a nice homage to his iconic role while at the same time bringing an expanded look into what other creative and entertaining things his zombie character could get into. If anything can be said about the film, it’s a fun zombie romp.

How can you complain about a movie that brings that first memorable zombie from one of the genre’s most classic films, and then let him loose on an unsuspecting town? Even if some of the execution or acting chops of the performers is sub par at best, we still have Hinzman bringing the ravenous fury and that’s all I really wanted to see in the first place. You can tell the man loves what he does, and he brings that crazy zombie munching love in full force, often developing his character as a sort of serial killer that just so happens to infect his victims with the same flesh craving hunger.

Often at times, the film feels like a Slasher movie. For instance, in the beginning of the film, we are introduced to a group of kids that are preparing for a night of partying in the woods. The stage is set as if the production crew was expecting Jason Vooress to stumble into frame at any moment. Even Hinzman’s uber zombie tends to mimic some of Voorhees’ killer tendencies. Multiple times, Hinzman opts to stab his victims with weapons instead of going for the old trusty chompers, giving him more of a cerebral edge over the average zombie archetype. This isn’t as far fetched as his character in Night of the Living Dead, seeing that he used a brick in that film to bash a car window in, but in this movie it is taken to a more unmistakably human level of thinking. It’s a bit different and maybe an evolution of his character prior to this film, but I like it and feel that it fits in perfectly with the Slasher films of that time.

What also fits in perfectly with the time period is the atrocious acting by the main cast of teens. If this was an award winning drama I would be highly disappointed with this film and write it off entirely, but come on, this is a low budget zombie film that is spun from the success of George Romero’s masterpiece. It will never live up to that exceptional film and frankly it isn’t trying to. It also isn’t trying to be a classic such as the original Friday the 13th or Halloween, but instead it’s aiming to be what Slasher flicks and most horror movies were at this moment in time and that’s pure fun and gory entertainment. I for one enjoyed the campiness of films during the late 80’s and felt that his movie provided that unique brand of 80’s horror that unfortunately died out long ago. If Flesheaters would have tried to play it straight, then the movie would have been an entirely different beast and that’s not what Hinzman and company seemed to want to produce. Hell, its fun and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

For me it adds to the atmosphere of the film and provides a whole other level of weirdness that wouldn’t be present if the acting was something more substantial. These kind of low budget productions always have a genuine feeling to them. It’s not something that makes us believe that these horrors are happening in reality, but instead in a place that only exists in some weird cinema world where characters make bad decisions and only want to screw at the most inappropriate times. Ultimately it’s this kind of outlook that eventually stereotyped the horror genre as a whole, presenting to genre outsiders as horror being one big Slasher filled joke, but in my mind these type of films are just plain old fun and are not meant to be taken too seriously or judged by a scale that it’s not trying to measure up to. My advice would be to check this movie out only, and I stress that notion only, if you want to have a fun and gore filled time.

Flesheater is a low budget blast that takes Hinzman’s Night of the Living Dead zombie and lets him loose on a blood filled rampage. The tone is grim but filled with tongue and cheek moments that only serve to add to the fun. Acting wise, the movie is a void, but that never takes away from the sure enjoyment of the film.

If you are intrigued by a movie with the title of Flesheater, then I suspect that you aren’t going into this cinematic experience to view an Oscar nominated performance or award winning production values. Instead you get what the title implies and that’s a whole hell of a lot of flesh eating provided by Hinzman and a large group of his ravenous friends. Give it a chance and you just might like it. As for me, I’m going to remember and honor this cult legend the best way I can, and that’s by popping this flick into the player and enjoying some…..

The gangs all here!

Note to self, don't move head stones with crucifixes on them.

Hey there sleeping beauty.

Peek A Boo!

Hinzman's really sticking it to the MAN.

Look into the eyes of a maniac.

Dinner time!

It's zombie nap time, sponsered by John Deere tractors.

Hinzman turned this guy into a human popsicle.

Say one more crack about my jean jacket and you're dead!

Where's the zombie women at?

Honey you look like shit.

Die you zombie bastards!

Talk about a bad hair day.

Bet he has a splitting headache.

Trick R Treat!

That's one hell of a trick Hinzman.

Stop in the name of LOVE!

This film is as fun as a hole in the head.

Laugh it up Dracula. You're about to DIE!

OK everyone! Just act like a stereotypical hick!




It's the literal interpretation of Cronenberg's Naked Lunch.

Rest In Peace Hinzman. You're the man!

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