Saturday, July 8, 2017

#2,380. Zombiethon (1986)

Directed By: Ken Dixon

Starring: Karrene Janyl Caudle, Tracy Burton, Paula Singleton

Tag line: "Shambling shapes! Crawling creeps! Fleshless fiends! The liveliest Festival of the Dead is about to begin!"

Trivia: Features clips from such zombie-themed films as Lucio Fulci's Zombie and Jess Franco's Oasis of the Zombies

A pretty young woman (K. Janyl Caudle), wearing a schoolgirls uniform, is walking through a forest when she spots a zombie in the distance. In a panic, she runs, eventually crossing Wilshire Blvd and ending up outside Los Angeles’s El Rey movie theater. Afraid that she’s been followed, the girl darts inside and takes a seat in one of the crowded auditoriums. She becomes so entranced by what’s playing on the screen, which happens to be clips from Lucio Fulci’s 1979 horror film Zombie, that she doesn’t realize the entire theater is filled with the walking dead, and they are closing in on her… 

Thus begins producer Charles Band’s Zombiethon, an anthology of sorts featuring select scenes from a variety of zombie films, all tied together by a framing story (make that “stories”) centering on the El Rey movie theater. Along with Fulci’s Zombie, there are clips from Jean Rollin’s Zombie Lake, Jess Franco’s Oasis of the Zombies, and Ted V. Mikel’s Astro Zombies, just to name a few. Most of the scenes lifted from these movies contain lots of nudity and gore; the sequences from Zombie include the naked scuba diver that is attacked by an underwater ghoul (which, soon after, gets into a fracas with a man-eating shark).

Yet what I found particularly perplexing about Zombiethon wasn’t so much its penchant for the extreme as it was the selection of films it presented. Most do, indeed, feature the living dead, but also included are excerpts from Fear (aka Murder Syndrome), which, by the looks of it, is a psychological horror film; and in spite of its title, The Invisible Dead appears to be about an invisible ape-man that likes to rape women, with nary a zombie in sight.

Even stranger than the movies were the various segments that make up Zombiethon’s framing story. Aside from the schoolgirl mentioned above, there’s an extended sequence in which a beautiful woman walks along a beach as a narrator (we assume it’s the girl herself speaking) spouts some new-age mumbo-jumbo. Before long, she’s grabbed by a zombie that sneaked up from behind. As the zombie is carrying the woman off, she turns to him and suggests that they take in a movie, at which point they immediately head to the El Rey. Towards the end of Zombiethon, we’re even treated to a series of comedic moments involving the living dead themselves, which have invaded the theater (in one, a zombie projectionist has trouble handling some film canisters, causing the undead audience below to impatiently clamor for him to start up the movie).

Running a scant 73 minutes, Zombiethon is an easy enough watch, and if you’re a zombie aficionado it’s a must-see.

As for me, I thought Zombiethon was fun while it lasted, but I can’t shake the feeling my time would have been better spent re-watching Fulci’s Zombie instead.

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