Zombies. We love them. That's why we call it Zombie Club. But the funny thing is, we very rarely show zombie movies at Zombie Club. Why? Well, there are so many other trashy goodies out there that we feel it would be unfair just to limit our films to zombie films. This is why we bring all manner of shit to Zombie Club - Italian movies, monster movies, cheesy 80s horror, wild 70s kung-fu, blaxploitation, you name it - all in the name of entertainment. Ours mainly.
But tonight we're actually bringing two zombie films to Zombie Club. How about that?
The first is The Dead Pit by Brett Leonard, who later went on to direct Lawnmower Man (wow!) and Man Thing (oh....) and the slightly risky Feed. We went to a press screening of that actually and Mr Leonard was there, but he was wearing a big leather trench coat so we didn't speak to him and got smashed on the free booze instead. The Dead Pit was his debut flick though, and I always remember it because I quite liked it and because it featured loads of scenes with the lead girl running up and down corridors in big pants.
The second is Zombie Nosh, also known as Flesheater in the States, although that version is a cropped widescreen version of Zombie Nosh, which is full screen but that is the OAR. And I'd never watched this before tonight, but I did know it starred the guy who played the first zombie in the sacred Night of the Living Dead, so it must have some merit surely?
Let's get on with it.
Tonight's Zombie Club is bought to you by Bill 'Cashin'' Hinzmann's foundation for ripping the shit out of the most famous zombie movies ever made. In association with Jim.
The Dead Pit (1989)
Plot A long dead mad doctor resurrects zombies from a dead pit under a mental hospital. There's a nun in it, a guy who likes to blow things up and a girl with big pants that are not flattered by the aspect ratio.
Jim Once upon a time, somewhere in the late 80s, there was a good doctor called Dr Swan and a bad doctor named Dr Ramzi who both worked at a mental Asylum. They were friends too, until Dr Swan found out that Dr Ramzi was conducting weird mind control experiments in a big pit underneath the asylum that glowed green a lot, so Dr Swan shot Dr Ramzi in the head and boarded up the entrance to the pit, which happened to be at the back of an old cupboard. That was the end of that, or at least it was until around 20 years later when a freak earthquake broke the seal reawakening the dead Dr Ramzi, which incidentally was after a young girl they named Jane Doe was admitted to the Asylum with amnesia, although she claimed that wasn't it and she'd had her memories taken away from her.
Cue a mental Asylum with a motley crew of low budget nutters. We've got mild mannered Chris who likes to blow things up, a mad nun who prays constantly ("I'd get annoyed with that nun, I really would." - Zomblee), a token white bearded oldie ("Always have a man with a big white beard in a mental Asylum!" - Rawshark) plus a few others, watched over mainly by the hot Nurse Robins, and the not so hot Nurse Kiger. And they're all receiving therapy from Dr Swan, with Jane's treatment consisting of hypnotherapy to help take her back to before she lost her memory. She also seems to run up and down corridors a lot in her bra and big pants ("I don't know whether to look at her pants or her top, I'm confused..." - Rawshark) which do nothing to flatter her figure ("80s women did have big fat asses, it's those high waisted trousers." - Zomblee)
Anyway, one thing leads to another, Dr Swan works out the dubious connection between Ramzi and Jane, and mental patient zombies pour on to the screen at 1 hour and 3 minutes ("I quite like the zombies." - Rawshark, "They look like try really hard zombies though, from the Bruno Mattei school." - Zomblee). What follows is your standard zombie rampage with most of the peripheral cast buying it, a gross bit of brain torture and an unconventional plan to kill them involving blessing a water tower, but at least it neatly wraps all the loose plot strands. Mind you, what we couldn't figure out was if Ramzi was behind Jane's memory loss, how come he was woken from his slumber after she was admitted to hospital? Hmmm...
"Dead breasts aren't as good as live breasts."
Rawshark The debut film from a certain Brett Leonard (The Lawnmower Man, Virtuosity and Feed), The Dead Pit is a bit of a mish-mash of a hundred and one zombie films and Halloween, but for all it’s faults remains mostly enjoyable with flashes of talent shining through.
Cheryl Lawson is Jane Doe, a young girl taken to a mental asylum suffering from amnesia, or as tells is, ”my head was open and my memory was cut out”. Whilst there she is treated by the resident Dr Gerald Swan (and pre-credits hero), makes friends with pyromaniac inmate Chris, wears a skimpy night time outfit and gratuitously dreams about being hosed down by an evil nurse (”Can you call that breasts at 22 mins – yes you can” - Zomblee). However, the real threat is the return of red-robot eyed Dr Ramzi, awakened from his basement research crypt by the earthquake at the start of the film. With excessively long fingernails and a pointy spike, Dr Ramzi subsequently spears Nurse Robins and one of the other inmates, with only Jane Doe aware of his return.
Coming across as a cross between Dr Carl Hill from Re-Animator and Michael Myers (“You run, I’ll walk, but I’ll still catch you” - Zomblee), Dr Ramzi finally unleashes his zombie army after the hour mark, leaving it up to Jane Doe, Chris (and his trusted stick) and the Nun to save the day. The gore quotient is high (special mention to the scene where needles are inserted into Dr Swan’s exposed brain – squirmy stuff indeed), and the final scene involving Chris’ explosive skills as well as the Nun’s holy water blessing ability (”it’s like a big toilet flush” - Jim) is genius, combining two of our most loved special effects here at Zombie Club – miniature sets and melting. Flawed, but fun.
”Think your last thought Doctor”
Zomblee Recently we realised that we just don't bring enough asylum-set horror movies to Zombie Club. How can that possibly be? This is a mine of fun we need to explore right now! If you've just read Jim's entry above, you'll see that he has applied a capital 'A' to the word, 'asylum' - that's how much we're liking then right now. Where better to kick off with an asylum-set zombie movie...can such a treat possibly exist? Apparently so, and it comes in the form of yet another ZC movie I hadn't seen before tonight, The Dead Pit, which is about a dead pit. Under an asylum.
For a horror flick from the late 80's, this ain't half-bad. What we have here is essentially a quite hot chick (seen wearing skimpy pants on the DVD menu) with amnesia turning up in a mental hospital ("I think that's the woman with the pants from the DVD menu" - Jim), which is the kind of a place where you would be best advised to keep the whole "someone's stolen my memory" hypothesis to yourself. Anyway, we knew things were looking quite positive for The Dead Pit when she meets she meets a pretty likeable nut case called Christopher Myers who "likes to blow things up". That can only be a good thing, right? After an earthquake awakens the dead pit and releases the undead Dr Ramzi (from the beginning of the movie, which Jim and Rawshark told you about), our Jane Doe sees him outside at night, which then leads to one of those scenes where the mental patients are stripped of their clothes and hosed-down. That'll be breasts at 22 minutes.
Between 22 minutes and 63 minutes, Dr Ramzi appears here and there, then Jane has a lot of visions of her childhood via hypnotherapy, and at some point Rawshark re-named the small asylum-style truncheon as the "trunch". Jane then wisely throws away her thorazine at around the one-hour mark, shortly after which we were quite relieved to actually see some zombies, none more than Jim: "Thank fuck for the zombies!". Rubbish zombies, it has to be said, but zombies all the same. This is when The Dead Pit really gets moving, and someone comes up with the absurd-yet-effective idea of blessing the holy water tank, then blowing it up with explosives to kill all the Bruno Mattei-style shufflers. Which is where, predictably, the nut case who loves to "blow things up" gets to blow something up. Hoorah.
Above average for its time, The Dead Pit definitely shows promise on a budget. The story itself is a little creaky - you'll probably have guessed the twist at least halfway through, but at least it's all decent fun, and niftily edited. But the zombies really are shit.
"So, have you been to the new donut shop yet?"
Director Brett Leonard
Cast Jeremy Slate
Stephen Gregory Foster
Runtime 95 mins
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Zombie Nosh (FleshEater) (1988)
Plot Oh give me a break.
Zomblee "The evil which will take flesh and blood from thee and turn all ye unto evil..." or:
"The plot and characters which ye shall take from other films and turn it into your own film..."
If you consider yourself a connoisseur of the modern zombie film, you really should seek out this effort if only to marvel at how low it stoops to clone the undead ethos of George Romero. As you're probably aware, Zombie Nosh was helmed by one William Hinzman - the man who made history as the first ever modern zombie in those preliminary graveyard scenes in Night of the Living Dead all those years ago. Since then, he seems to have worked (very) intermittently in movies, and if this is the only testament to his directorial prowess then thank heavens for small mercies.
From frame one we are in a familiar Pennsylvanian landscape. Deep in rural Romeroville, the younglings are out for a good time, and within 5 minutes (probably even less), I took a huge dislike to all of them. Their dress sense, a lot of stonewash denim and bad hair, is the fashion equivalent of the acting standards. After maybe 10 minutes of inconsequential inanity one of them finds a coffin with an undead Bill Hinzman in it. He looks suspiciously like the cemetery zombie from Night of the Living Dead, and does what zombies do - bites people and shuffles about. Before you know it, there are a few more zombies around, biting folk on tractors, which is when some of our zombie fodder arrive at Spence's Farm, where they find a very useful tool shed ("Tool shed! - Jim). It was around this time we started almost enjoying Zombie Nosh. But only a little.
At 35 minutes, virtually all the characters from the beginning are dead. At 37 minutes, we get full frontal female nudity ("I wasn't expecting the muff!" - Rawshark), and shortly after that, we're treated to "the most unconvincing death discovery I've ever seen" (Jim). Jim was also the first to notice "a whole new bunch of characters at 56 minutes...", one of whom was a policeman named Sgt. Lynch, who gets some angry locals together to hunt down the zombies ("That really is a Lynch mob!" - Rawshark). And wouldn't you know it, in true, shameless Romero-ripping form, the lynch mob mistake the only two remaining survivors for zombies and shoot them in the head.
Pretty bad eh? This is one of those movies that, despite being a stinking piece of cinematic shit, has a suspiciously high rating on imdb.com. Granted, it has some decent if nonsensical gore ("zombies don't kill with pitchforks!" - Rawshark), but almost every idea and location is borrowed from Romero's first three zombie movies. The soundtrack is abominable, too - a tawdry synth-piano score which never seems to stop.
"I'll bet these woods get pretty damn scary at night."
Rawshark What do you do if your greatest claim to fame is being the first zombie to appear in a film 20 years previously? Well, if you’re William Hinzman, or as Zomblee called him, ”Cashing-inzman”, you pitch the idea of directing a zombie movie, writing a script yourself that effectively rolls (read rips off) Night, Dawn and Day together into one movie and then cast yourself as the lead zombie. It’s bound to make big bucks surely!
Well, in the case of Zombie Nosh (what sort of a title is that anyway?), the filmmakers forgot the simple fact of actually making a good film. For the opening 10 minutes ”it’s all bloody tractors and bad jeans” (Jim) as we meet the unlikeable cast of zombie-fodder out on a hayride, with breasts and crap acting both being evident fairly quickly. Then one guy stumbles upon Bill Hinzman’s coffin, and before you know it there are five zombies running around, killing people with pitchforks and all sorts.
This sets up a siege scene as the surviving 80s teens retreat to a workshed (”It’s like NOTLD with stone-wash!” - Zomblee) and arm themselves with axes and rubber hammers that don’t have the appropriate sound effect when used. Meanwhile, back in town, it’s Halloween, and Bill Hinzman manages to attack and kill a naked girl fresh out of the shower (”Oh Bill – did you write this scene then?” - Jim) before taking out the whole family. The rest of the film is a fairly fun game of ‘sport the Romero reference’ as we cut around to a TV Studio (Dawn), a surge of zombies attacking (Day) and back to a lynch mob shooting the ”double-shouty couple” (Zomblee) at the end. Cheap but not very cheerful, even though it was quite funny to see the zombie chicken get killed. Twice.
”I think you’ve seen one too many cheesy zombie films man”
Jim I don't really know what to say. I could give you my take on the plot of this movie, but Rawshark and Zomblee have explained it quite clearly. And if I did go over it again, I'd essentially be retelling the plot of a movie that in itself shamelessly retells the plot of the three most famous zombie movies ever made. Except, like, not as good and with bad hair and stonewash. But I'm not that shameless, and particularly not as shameless as the should-be-ashamed-of-himself Bill Hinzman.
Oh alright, I am that shameless. A bunch of teans we hated (except for the one that Zomblee noted had big hands - "Is it me or has she got massive hands?") talk inane bullshit dialogue. Then they find Bill's grave and all consequently get turned into zombies or die within the first 30 mins. Then there's a bit I like to call 'The Middle of the Film' where there's no real narrative save the fact that Bill's ripping of bits of Romero's movie (rednecks shoot zombies, zombies attack TV station, etc) before a whole new cast of characters appear at 56 mins having a Halloween party in a shed with a clock on the wall that tells the same time as the guy on the radio says it is ("I like the fact that the clock was actually correct." - Rawshark). Then they all die too. I think. I can't remember actually, I kinda switched off around then.
I do remember the very last scene in the movie ending with a close-up freeze-frame of Bill 'Cash' Hinzman's snarling zombie face filling the screen, just to add insult to injury. Shame on you young man. In fact, it's so shameless that I'd recommend every zombie fan watch this movie just to see what an outrageous rip off it is. Be prepared to be very offended. And don't buy it, just mail me and you can have my copy.
"They're the ugliest hands I've ever scene at Zombie Club."
Director S. William Hinzman
Cast S. William Hinzman
Leslie Ann Wick
Charis Kirkpatrik Acuff
James J. Rutan
Runtime 88 mins
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So we had some cool stuff tonight, and some not so cool. The first movie went down a lot better than I thought it would, but then movies with zombies climbing out of a pit under a mental asylum always go down well at Zombie Club so I don't know what I was thinking. That nun blessing the water tower before the crazy guy who likes to blow things up blew it up was just icing on the cake.
The second movie was something we had to do, so we make no apologies. I won't be watching that piece of tosh again though, not in a long time. Shame on Bill Hinzmann.
Tune in next week when we catch up with an old Zombie Club friend who hasn't been to Zombie Club since Without Warning over two years ago. And I'm not talking about Jack Palance (although ironically he is in next weeks Zombie Club, just to confuse things).