The once beloved word Grindhouse has been so overused as of late when it comes to cult film that it is all but meaningless. Does it refer to the time period of the seventies before the mandatory “R” rating of all modern day film where nasty hyper sexualized violent movies played in double, triple features in small filthy theatres or small town drive-ins? Does it refer to the Planet Terror/Death-Proof double feature by Rodriquez and Tariantino which sought to reclaim the authentic feel of a double feature from long ago by using stressed film, fake trailers and a finished hardcore product which still packaged the same tame lame MANDATORY R rated viewing experience that might as well have been filmed on digital all along? Whatever the true, “according to Hoyle” meaning of grindhouse, Full Moon has recently released a ten volume series of movies which hopefully will introduce this overused phrase once again to a whole new generation of moviegoers most of whom, who cannot remember when it actually meant something.
ZOMBIETHON is a collection of kill scenes from assorted and long forgotten Zombie movies from the sixties, seventies and eighties. As always, the potency of any such compilation (or clip show) rests with its source material and here are the individual films which are sampled to make ZOMBIETHON.
Zombie Lake (1979)
Oasis of The Zombies (1981)
The Invisible Dead (1970)
Virgin Among The Living Dead (1973)
The Astro Zombies (1968)
One thing from this title that you might not expect is that it is chock full of female nudity, even and especially full frontal. So what you have is endless scenes of guys in rubber masks in make-up, chasing, attacking and ripping apart naked women with their bare hands. In some ways this is the worst one note synopsis of the entire survival/ horror genre or is it perhaps the ultimate thoughtful “five hour energy shot” high octane distillation of what made each of these films so popular to begin with? It was as if someone could somehow pour sex and violence onto a roller brush and have someone vigorously slop it across your sensibilities for 90 minutes. Where was this film when I was sixteen? Oh that’s right, on Wizard Video VHS tape.
One thing sorely missing from this compilation is a form of Narration to bind the clips together into a new common theme. In FILMGORE, we got Elvira. In THE BEST OF SEX AND VIOLENCE we got John Carradine. ZOMBIETHON has no narration whatsoever except for a series of occasional, original vignettes of various women being chased into a theater where they watch the movie along with us, peacefully in a theater filled with (you guessed it) exclusively populated by a bunch of zombies. One woman even brings her little girl to the show and she passes the time by tormenting the other zombie patrons with a party noisemaker. The zombies don’t seem nonplussed by theses antics proving once again in a movie that the undead are anything if not playful. In time this mythical movie theater is filled with nothing but hot women and zombies and everyone seems to be having a good time, at least until the bewildered, incompetent zombie projectionist accidentally breaks the film at the end. Whatever will these folks do for fun now?
This one is difficult to review because the word “quality” means something different when reviewing films like this. It’s plotless, exploitative and pointless. It earns a Hard R both for its bizarre unrepentant depictions of brazen (bushy) depictions of vintage female nudity along with scads of scenes of innocent people having their faces torn off. As for the original scenes where women, children and zombies quietly sit in a theater and watch transfixed; utterly enthralled as footage of men in bad rubber suits murder defenseless naked, pretty young teenage girls is the epitome of bad taste and poor humor. Admittedly, because of these reasons alone I must admit that there aren’t many films made post 1980 which so capture the very letter and spirit of the laws of Grindhouse. Sure it is an absolutely unoriginal; comprised almost entirely of filler stolen from the best scenes of better films, but the lore of zombies was never meant to be high concept, complicated or clean. For what is a zombie if not a just a human who doggedly refuses to face his own obsolescence and lack of brains by crudely lashing out in a violent and often disgusting ways? This film is kind of like this.
Three stars for being the authentic stale, rotten mess you would expect from a repackaging of zombie films from this era.
Extra Features include a trailer vault and Charles Band telling you what “Grindhouse” means. (That somehow gets funnier to me every time I say it, and I have said it nine times now)