Welcome to a new, Halloween-centric feature, trick 'r treaters! The Arrow in the Head staff (along with some special guests) will be recommending obscure fright flicks throughout the month of October, hopefully enhancing your "31 Days of Horror"! Welcome to UNSEEN HALLOWEEN!
PLOT: Twenty years after playing the Cemetery Ghoul in George A. Romero's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, Bill Hinzman essentially reprises the role to cause an all new zombie outbreak in the Pennsylvania countryside on Halloween night.
REVIEW: In 1968, the term "zombie" was re-defined when Bill Hinzman shambled onto the screen as the Cemetery Ghoul in George A. Romero's classic NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. We all know that NIGHT received a remake in 1990, but did you know that Hinzman directed, produced, co-wrote, co-edited, and starred in his own zombie film two years before that? If not, it could be because the $60,000 indie got lost in the shuffle when it was released direct-to-video in 1988. Maybe it's because it went by too many titles to really catch on - REVENGE OF THE LIVING ZOMBIES, ZOMBIE NOSH, FLESHEATER: REVENGE OF THE LIVING DEAD. It's most commonly known simply as FLESHEATER, but for a decade and a half I knew it by the LIVING ZOMBIES title. Or maybe it fell into obscurity because early viewers judged its flaws too harshly. The laughable lines of dialogue, the poor line deliveries from some of the amateur actors. For me, however, those flaws are charms, all part of why I find FLESHEATER to be one of the most entertaining movies ever made.
Hinzman was inspired to make the film after realizing in the mid-1980s just how popular NIGHT had become. He decided to play a reworked version of his Cemetery Ghoul role in a movie that pays homage to NIGHT in many ways, but doesn't try to emulate its serious tone, even though its zombies are much more evil creatures than Romero's sympathetic ghouls. Instead, Hinzman made it very tongue-in-cheek and in a style that was overwhelmingly popular in the horror genre at the time: he made it like like a slasher, with college student characters, copious amounts of nudity, and as much gore as he could splatter across the screen.
If you haven't seen FLESHEATER, or need to revisit it, October is the perfect time to check it out because the movie is set on Halloween, and having been filmed during a midwestern fall it perfectly captures the look and feel of Halloween in the midwest. It's a beautiful setting for a horrific story, which begins with a group of college students taking a hayride into the woods, where they plan to camp out and drink the night away. Their good times are interrupted when a nearby farmer unearths a coffin on his property and, thinking it's a prank, opens it up. Hinzman's eponymous FleshEater is released from within and a plague of flesh-eating ghouls has been unleashed in Pennsylvania farmland. The film briefly looks like it will simply be a copy of NIGHT's "trapped in one location" scenario when the students seek shelter in a tool shed, but that falls apart quickly. From there, it plays out in a series of violent vignettes as the surviving students run for their lives and the zombie outbreak spreads. There are scenarios involving an unlucky cop, a trick-or-treating family, a horse rancher, and my favorite, a costume party in a barn, all building up to a climactic zombie hunt, just like in NIGHT.
FLESHEATER doesn't aspire to be anything more than a good time for horror fans and gorehounds, and it totally succeeds at being that. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is one of my favorite films, the movie which I have watched more times than any other, and FLESHEATER is its perfect exploitation companion.
BEST BLOODY BIT: FLESHEATER was released unrated and contains a lot of gory goodness to behold. Corpses mutilated beyond recognition, hearts ripped out, chunks of flesh bitten off. That said, my favorite bit of bloodshed is a simple one: when a trick-or-treater played by Hinzman's daughter Heidi opens a door to find FleshEater standing on the other side, father-zombie picks the little girl up and takes a bite out of her, her blood dripping down onto a dropped Krunch candy bar.
WHERE TO FIND IT: The movie is readily available on Amazon, as Shriek Show has graciously given it special edition releases on DVD and Blu-ray. If you want to get more zombie movies for your buck, it's also bundled with ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST and BURIAL GROUND in a triple feature set.
HALLOWEEN DRINKING GAME: Take a drink every time
- Someone gets killed by a zombie
- Breasts are bared
- A line or its delivery makes you laugh