The latest threesome I checked out expecting straight-up zombie movies had some surprises in store for me.
DEVOURED: THE LEGEND OF ALFERD PACKER (2005)
I guess you could say I’m not saving the best for last. So glad this one showed up on Amazon Prime or it would have completely passed me by. Going in knowing it was released by Troma, I had the worst expectations. So, by the time I was finished, I was thinking, “This should have been released by any company but Troma.” I guess that’s not totally fair. Over the years, Troma has distributed genuine low budget horror movies that have definitely delivered, but these days, the name has become synonymous with two hours of fart and shit jokes. Having the Troma name slapped on a valiant horror effort kind of does it a disservice.
Devoured: The Legend of Alferd Packer is based on the same real-life cannibal settler that was the subject of Cannibal: The Musical (blog here), but Devoured creates a fictional zombie story around him. When the film started, I did cringe at the voice-over and the opening scene of a substitute teacher informing students that he’s forcing them to go on a field trip to the place where all the cannibal’s “meals” were eaten. It appeared this was going to be an awful piece of crap.
Man, was I wrong. Minutes later, when they arrived at an old mine and set up camp, I realized this is so my kind of film, in an awfully good late 80s/early 90s way. From what little information I could find online, the movie apparently was made back then, even though it was only released on DVD by Troma in 2005. I kind of believe it. The vibe is so genuine it would make Ti West envious if it were a newer film.
Devoured in no way takes a comic approach. The low budget look, atmosphere, and style gave me that unsettling feeling I got as a kid when I first watched Evil Dead and a bevy of trippy Euro horror films. There’s very little pointless characterization before the teacher performs some sort of ritual and corpse spirits rise from the ground in slow motion.
The movie is perfectly dark, with splashes of neon colored lighting here and there, loads of fog machines, dramatic and eerie music, and tight pans through shadowy tunnels.
“Plot” is almost nonexistent, like the best of 80s Euro horror. There’s very little dialogue once the kids head into the catacombs, after which, chaos ensues. You kind of have no idea what’s going on or who’s actually being killed off as they are terrorized by a freaky figure that looks like the killer from Miner’s Massacre.
He hacks victims up, he feeds on flesh, he collects body parts—and he’s brought his undead minions with him. Roaming and crawling throughout the tunnels in pursuit of the kids, they remind me more of demons than zombies.Which kind of makes sense, because I think these aren’t actually the cannibal’s original victims, but recent victims that are now possessed by the souls of the original victims. Not sure, and it doesn’t even matter. That’s the beauty of it.
Throw in a dude who rips off his shirt to take on the zombies, and this is one film I ordered on DVD the second it was over.
It’s a shame Devoured: The Legend of Alferd Packer will never get the cult status it deserved back in the day.
DEAD WEIGHT (2012)
The outbreak in Dead Weight is virtually implied. Forget the zombies, because all you get here is a what looks like a dead one on a floor, the legs of a small horde as seen through a crack in a shed wall, and one fleeting swarm in an alley. That’s it.
Dead Weight is actually about Charlie, a sort of slacker dude—who’s also really cute. At first, it seems as if this is going to be a kind of Shaun of the Dead zombedy. Charlie is at home eating cereal and reading comics when his girlfriend calls from work to tell him disaster has struck. He instructs her to meet him in a certain town then heads out to rendezvous with her.
Interspersed throughout the film are flashbacks of the couple’s tentative relationship. But mostly, we travel with Charlie and the handful of survivors he’s teamed up with as they encounter the usual desperate and dangerous human foes that come with zombie apocalypses. However, the movie takes a bizarrely dark turn, exploring instead the possibility that one of the people in Charlie’s well-meaning group was crazy before the apocalypse, and will do anything to survive.
A true oddity, Dead Weight is essentially a mean-spirited character study set in a horror universe. Plus, instead of our leading man being on a journey of redemption, he becomes more pathetic and unlikable as the film progresses! Add to that a painfully dismal conclusion, and you wonder why you even watched the film. Yet, you can’t look away once you start. Well played, filmmakers. Apparently, the cast and crew got very close during filming….
BIGFOOT VS. ZOMBIES (2016)
While this may essentially seem like an awful low budget b-movie, having seen plenty of films by horror trash filmmaker Mark Polonia, I’d have to say this is one of his best!
A local lab is dumping toxic barrels near a police body farm. Soon, the dead start rising, and they are wearing some of the coolest zombie masks you’ve never seen in stores.
They’re almost as good as the mask of Bigfoot, who is roaming the woods and feels compelled to team up with the scientists when he sees a lab chick being threatened by the zombies.
There’s something charmingly 80s about the look of this film, which takes place mostly during the day, making no apologies for the lack of a special effects budget. Red liquid is tossed around, rubber body parts are thrown in front of the camera, and when a zombie rips the “guts” out of a victim, it’s simply a long piece of cloth drenched in red liquid. WTF? Buy a fucking liver from the grocery store!
Aside from the fact that the entire premise is absurd and laughable, Bigfoot vs. Zombies doesn’t delve into much idiotic comedy or farce—there’s barely a single joke delivered, which is a refreshing change of pace for this kind of garbage. On the other hand, as always, this wouldn’t be a bad b-movie if it didn’t resort to cheap, cliché fart humor, which feels way out of place here considering the movie doesn’t otherwise stoop to Troma levels of stupidity.