Today's selection, the 2004 Irish zombie horror-comedy-grossfest Dead Meat, comes to us from deep within Fangoria's "Gore Zone". It is my understanding that the Gore Zone is located right down the block from Vanessa Williams's Comfort Zone.
Martin (David Ryan) and Helena (Marian Araujo) are toodling around the Irish countryside in their Saab one fine day. Martin takes his eyes off the road for an instant and before you can say ker-splat, he's run over someone and done killed the poor fella dead. Spying a house just over a hillcrest, the distraught couple decides to take the body there and find some help. Before you can say holy fucking wow, I never saw that coming, the dead man springs back to life and takes a chomp out of Martin's neck. Martin dispatches his attacker in a noisy fashion and sends Helena on to the house to fetch help for him.
The farmhouse is empty but for some rotting food and one very dead owner, and before you can say this movie is simply FULL of surprises, Martin comes shuffling in ready to do some chomping of his own. After a struggle, Helena kills her boyfriend by...umm...sucking out his eye and brains with a vacuum cleaner, I think. At any rate, the immediate threat is over but there are more zombies shuffling in the door, intent, one can assume, on getting up to various deadly zombie shenanigans.
Helena beats feet and soon meets up with Desmond (David Muyllaert), a local gravedigger also on the run. As the two take off for the perceived safety of Desmond's house, we're treated to a long stretch of walk, zombies, walk, walk, zombies, walk, zombies.
Before you can say omigod I totally never woulda guessed that, the pair arrive at Des's place and find that it's not safe at all- it's been overrun! Fortunately, they meet up with a few more survivors. These folks have an SUV, and the group decides to head to the emergency shelter they'd heard about on the radio. At this point in the proceedings, we're treated to a long stretch of drive, zombies, drive, drive, zombies, drive, zombies. BUT! The SUV soon gets stuck in the mud, so we return to walk, zombies, walk...you get the idea, right?
As they attempt to reach safety, the group slowly dwindles in numbers until, in a shocking turn of events, the scant survivors remaining end up cornered and most of them die. Then a hazmat team comes in guns a blazin' and...the end.
So, Dead Meat. You may have gathered that watching it felt a little like I was watching a zombie movie I'd seen before, only at times the dialogue was indecipherable due to heavy Irish accents. It's true, all the zombie staples are present and accounted for: the various grody methods of disposing of zombies, the feast scene, the band of survivors, the final zombie siege, blah blah blah. It's worth noting, I suppose, that the zombies in Dead Meat aren't really zombies, but rather infected people- much like the "zombies" of Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later. This time around, the infection stems from a virulent strain of Mad Cow Disease which has leapt from the bovine ilk to the homo sapiens ilk, giving the infected bad skin and an odd new appetite. This could make for an interesting bit of social commentary, as the source of the outbreak is traced back to bad farming practices. The ideas are tossed around briefly but not really explored or given a chance to become anything meaningful- it's really just an excuse to get zombies onscreen.
Writer/director Conor McMahon follows not only the trail blazed by George Romero but also that of a young Peter Jackson and pours on liberal amounts of gross-out humor. At times it works well- there's no denying the joy that can be found in a zombified cow attacking a human. That's just cinematic gold, people. At other times, however, the humor feels forced and out of place, as when Helena suddenly turns all ninjas and kills a zombie by throwing her shoe at him with a newfound strength.
While a love for Romero's zombie films has spawned innumerable filmmakers who want to take a shot a telling a zombie tale, the majority of these efforts come up far, far short of hitting the mark. To me, it's because people seem to miss the point of Romero's films- that they're not about the zombies, but rather about the people trying to survive. Obviously Romero (and Tom Savini) don't shy away from explicit gore, violence, and zombie munching parties, but he spends far more time of character development and group dynamics. When Barbara is dragged to her death by her brother in Night of the Living Dead, we care because we've been with her from the film's beginning and we've seen her stuggle through the nightmare. When zombie Stephen emerges from the elevator in Dawn of the Dead, we feel for Franny and it seems like there's no hope left for any of them. The horror in Romero's zombie films is enhanced by the drama that surrounds it, and when a film lacks that drama and character development, we simply don't care. The movie becomes nothing more than an excuse to trot out all the aforementioned zombie set pieces. The plot shuffles from A to B to Z- we've seen it all before and it's just...sort of...there. This is Dead Meat's biggest flaw, in my opinion. It was an 80 minute diversion with a few highlights, but I didn't really care one way or another about any of it. I give it 6 out of 10 well, it's better than e coli, that's for sures.
In other news, I say enough. I've watched 12 movies so far this month and while I've certainly enjoyed my fair share of them, none of them have been scary beyond a brief sequence here and a creepy shot there. What the f, I say...what the f! I watch horror movies to get scared, dammit! And so...tomorrow I'll be taking the ultimate heart-stopping plunge to partake in the I Want To Be Scared, Dammit! Marathon. Whatever will I be watching during said endurance test? I'll be watching some of my favorite scary movies, that's what...movies that have actually kept me awake at night. Some of these flicks might not live up to my wide-eyed memories of them, but it's worth a damn try. Oh, and incidentally, I'll only be watching movies I haven't yet reviewed for Final Girl- maybe I've mentioned them, but I've never written much about them beyond that. This means there'll be no Halloweens or Friday the 13ths even though some of them are among my favorites, for I reviewed all those movies last October during my marathons of madness. Also like those marathons, I'll be reviewing each movie after I watch it, so check back from time to time during the day. Not only will you get to see me descend into sore-ass, sleep-deprived insanity, but you'll find out what some of my favorite horror movies are. Wow! What a Saturday!