Friday, January 6, 2012

#508. FleshEater (1988)

Directed By: S. William Hinzman

Starring: S. William Hinzman, John Mowod, Leslie Ann Wick

Tag line: "He lived, he died, he's back, and he's hungry!"

Trivia:  The title is taken from one of the original titles for Night of the Living Dead, which was "Night of the Flesheaters"

You know Bill Hinzman, right? Well, even if the name doesn't ring a bell, I'm sure you're familiar with his work. He was “Zombie #1” in George Romero's 1968 classic, Night of the Living Dead, the guy who terrorized Barbara and Johnny at the beginning of the film.  Twenty years later, Hinzman still had the “zombie bug”, which led him to 1988's FleshEater. Only this time around, he does more than just growl. His name is all over this movie: writer, editor, producer, director. Oh, yeah, he's also zombie #1 again, only this time, it's more than a cameo appearance. 

It's Halloween night, and a group of teens are heading into the woods to party. On their way, they pass a farmer (David A. Sodergren) pulling up an old tree stump.  Underneath it, the farmer finds a coffin, chained shut, and with the following inscription: “This evil which will take flesh and blood from thee and turn all ye unto evil.” (besides being a bit wordy, this message is also pretty vague. Why didn't whoever put it there spell it out plainly: “Warning: monster inside. He will eat you”?)  For some unknown reason, the farmer thinks its a good idea to open the coffin. Naturally, there's a zombie (Hinzman) inside, still very much alive, and the farmer becomes the creature's first snack. Soon after, the farmer himself is one of the walking dead, and it won't be long before a slew of others join him. 

I always feel like a creep when I talk about the acting (or lack thereof) in low-budget films like FleshEater, but the teens at the beginning of this movie are gawd awful; their delivery of dialogue is bad enough (one tries to scare the rest of them with some lame-ass story about a local unsolved murder), but the scene where they "dance" was just too much. I found myself hoping the walking dead would pick up the pace and finish these kids off in a hurry. There's also an effect towards the beginning that fizzles, where Hinzman's zombie, after chomping on the farmer's throat, tosses the body out of his coffin (you can clearly see the strings attached). So, maybe Mr. Hinzman didn't know much about directing actors, and maybe he wasn't a master of special effects, but one thing he did know was zombies, and that's where FleshEater shows its real strength. 

For starters, they look very good; kudos to make-up artist Jerry Gergety, who took what little he had to work with and turned it into a whole lot. There's plenty of gore as well (my favorite moment is when the drunk kid in the vampire costume gets his nose bitten off), yet what really impressed me was the way Hinzman carried the “zombie outbreak” forward. Eventually, the kids in the woods (the ones left alive, that is), make their way to an old tool shed, and barricade themselves inside. They don't last very long, though, and before you know it, most have joined the ranks of the living dead. We next visit a house in the suburbs, where a mother (Bonnie Hinzman) is getting her two kids, Chris and Heidi (Chris Bross and Heidi Hinzman), ready to go out trick-or-treating, while the housekeeper (Susan Marie Spear) takes a shower upstairs. There's a knock at the door, and when little Hiedi, looking so pretty in her angel costume, opens it, she finds Hinzman's Zombie #1 staring back at her. He lifts the girl, bites her neck, then proceeds to 'turn' the rest of the family as well. By the time poor old Dad (Allan T. Bross) gets home, he's greeted by his loved ones, who are now looking to make a meal out of his hide.   Unlike many zombie movies, where a mess of walking dead suddenly turn up out of the blue, we witness just about every transformation in FleshEater, so when the inevitable posse shows up at the end, we recognize everyone they're shooting through the head. 

So Bill Hinzman wasn't the next George Romero. So what? He still made a pretty decent zombie film.


Unknown said...

"So what? He still made a pretty decent zombie film."

Couldn't agree more! It's great to see Flesh Eater getting some good attention, thanks for the great review!

DVD Infatuation said...

Jonny: Thanks for the comment!

I'd actually never heard of this one before, but was pleasantly surprised. It's got me interested in checking out Hinzman's other directorial effort, THE MAJORETTES, which he made a year before FleshEater (although, from the looks of it, that one's a slasher, and not a zombie film).

I appreciate the kind words, and thanks for stopping by!