Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Toxic Zombies (1980)

...aka: Blood Butchers
...aka: Bloodeaters

Directed by:
Charles McCrann

A flatly photographed living dead cheapie made in rural Pennsylvania with minimal skill and talent. Forget Romero, this thing doesn't even manage to muster up half the entertainment value of Bill Hinzman's laughable (though oddly enjoyable) 1988 rip-off REVENGE OF THE LIVING ZOMBIES (aka FLESH EATER). About a half dozen marijuana harvesting yahoos camping out in the woods are sprayed with a toxic chemical called "Dromax" by a passing helicopter (sent out by some corrupt federal agents well aware of what they're doing). Most of the pot growers start getting sick by the next day, cough up blood and then become raving lunatics who kill random people for their blood. A man (played by Charles Austin McCrann; the director, writer, producer and editor of TOXIC ZOMBIES) going on his annual fishing trip with his very whiny and irritating wife (Beverly Shapiro) and his brother (Phillip Garfinkel) end up getting caught in the middle. There's also a family of four (husband, wife, teen daughter and retarded teen son) on a camping trip that get attacked, as well as a hermit, a trucker, the copter pilot, his wife and a couple of others. The drug enforcement agents (including John Amplas, star of Romero's MARTIN) show up at the very end to complicate matters.

For starters, the enticing re-release moniker TOXIC ZOMBIES is a bit misleading. This was originally filmed under the much more accurate title BLOOD EATERS. In other words, if you like your zombies to actually look like zombies; you known with rotting flesh make-up applications or even a coating of blue or gray or white or green paint to give them an undead appearance, you're sure to be disappointed by the minimal look of the ghouls here. They basically just look like dirty people. Dirty unshaven hippies with a few boils on their faces, to be exact. They grunt, use weapons (basically a machete in one scene and a rock in another) and even burn down a shack with torches at one point. The fact there are only a few of these blood-hungry maniacs lurking about at any given time doesn't really help the fear factor any. None pose much of a threat and are easily disposed of when the time comes. As far as gore is concerned, there are a couple of cheap effects, such as a hand being cut off, a head shot and an eyeball stabbing, but the gore quotient is almost as minimal as the "blood eaters" makeup.

So sadly, fellow zombie fans, all we're really left with here is an inept film that not only looks ugly from an aesthetic standpoint but is also dull from an action/guilty pleasure stance. The first five minutes, which should be attempting to capture our attention, consist of two camera changes of a car driving down a dirt road, followed by two guys walking in the woods carrying rifles. The acting is terrible, there's an irritating, generic and repetitive piano score, silly dialogue not worth listening to, one out-of-nowhere topless shot of a woman sitting by a bucket of water scrubbing her breasts and lots of scenes of people running through the woods... and out of the woods onto the road... and then back into the woods again... It's probably worth a single watch for cheap movie lovers and zombie film completists (some parts aren't too bad and others are amusing in a bad movie kind of way), but most will want to rightfully steer clear.

The writer/director/producer/editor/star was an ivy league graduate (Princeton; Yale Law) employed at Marsh & McLennan Company in the World Trade Center and, sadly, was killed during the September 11th terrorist attacks. R.I.P. to him.


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