Saturday, 24 March 2012

From the archives: Feeding the Masses

These days one look at amazon reveals that there seem to be at least 834 new low budget zombie movies being released on cheap DVD EVERY MINUTE. I wrote this seven or eight years ago when such finds were extremely rare and usually had to be sourced from America.

"No-one remembers the guy who filmed the Hindenburg disaster, but we all remember the footage."

I totally love zombie films of all shapes and sizes but there is a reason why I like some way more than others. A lot of people rate Lucio Fulci's 'Zombie' (AKA 'Zombi 2' AKA 'Zombie Flesheaters') very highly and I do like it a lot for the gore factor but my favourites are the ones that drive home the apocalyptic message through exploring the reaction of characters as the world around them is falling apart. The first ten outstanding minutes of the remake of Dawn of the Dead (and the incredible credits sequence set to Johnny Cash's When the Man Comes Around) is a great example of what I'm talking about. My favourite bits of Romero's first two zombie flicks are the media bits, perplexed newscasters struggling to report on and rationalise the end of the world. It makes for fantastic drama. The Ddddy of them all of course is the original Dawn of the Dead with the chaotic TV studio scenes and that's the perspective that 'Feeding The Masses' attempts to tackle, that of the weary TV workers feebly attempting to document disaster in the face of personal danger, conflicting emotions and government interference.

Our main protagonists are..
Torch, cameraman for a small TV station in Providence, Rhode Island, he wants to record the end of the world for posterity instead of filming features on the effects of the zombie plague on mom-and-pop businesses such as coffee shops;
Sherry, aspiring TV journalist who wants to be a serious journalist and save the lives of viewers by reporting accurately the true extent of the zombie outbreak;
James, video engineer who hasn't slept in days and is feeling a bit under the weather, more so since the Government took over the TV station;
Roger, military escort to the TV crew, he REALLY wants to get in Sherry's pants.

As society collapses around them James ends up in charge of the Station under the close eye of a government agent with dreams of TV stardom, Roger and Sherry find they are not on the same wavelength and Torch leaves his weed at home. Meanwhile the army are shooting everything that moves, the virus is becoming more virulent by the day, and one of the gang is hiding some disturbing fetishes.

"When I lost my wife to cancer six months ago it was the worst moment of my life... until I saw her reanimated body being dreagged down Main Street behind a motorcycle!"
Customer testimonial for

As soon as the film opens it is obvious that this is no 'Dawn Of The Dead', it looks and sounds exactly like the indie film it is but that just seems to add to its charm, its all very Troma in fact, but Troma on Digital Video and with a more sophisticated sense of humour. It's a good job too because it's the sense of humour and sharp script that elevate the film well above other, way more expensive efforts at the zombie genre. The faux advertisements that punctuate the action are hilarious and reminiscent of Ed Neumeier's darkly witty ads in Robocop and Starship Troopers, and the film delights in taking stabs at the Fox News obsession with maps and alert levels and assuring us that the government is in control and has our best interests at heart.

As in
The Stink of Flesh the acting performances vary in quality but overall are buoyed up by the deliriously wild-eyed and infectiously energetic Billy Garberina. The gore is functional rather than spectacular and a few cheap CGI effects simply do not work but all of that is largely irrelevant thanks to smart writing by Trent Haaga and creative direction from Richard Griffin. The DVD extras are great and provide a cool insight into the lengths indie film-makers will go to to see their vision come to fruition.

Bottom line, if you expect gloss on your movies and cannot suspend disbelief when confronted with a bit of cheese then avoid. However if you want to watch a refreshing take on a beloved genre and can forgive low production values for the sake of good gags and entertaining characters then you may just find that, like me, you've stumbled across eighty minutes of fried gold.

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