Thursday, August 25, 2005

FEEDING THE MASSES

Remember the first ten minutes of George Romero's original DAWN OF THE DEAD, set in the Pittsburg television station where the news crew struggles to maintain a semblance of order while society crumbles around them? Well, Richard Griffin's shot-on-video FEEDING THE MASSES (2005) for EI's Shock-O-Rama line takes that one scene and builds an entire movie around it.

A plague triggered by something called "the Lazarus Virus" has broken out in Rhode Island, reanimating the dead as flesh-eating zombies. Martial law has been declared, and a remote news team and their military "protector" go rogue, determined to bring the truth about the extent of the epidemic to the public, despite the government's censorship and insistence that everything is under control.

Trent Haaga's script (Haaga is an actor, too, and starred in SUBURBAN NIGHTMARE, which I reviewed a few columns back) is fairly smart and has some solid ideas (the zombie sex club was interesting), but is repeatedly undercut by the shoestring budget. While there's a couple decent action scenes, this zombie film is somewhat short on zombies, with never more than a dozen or so ghouls showing up at any given time. The shots of the supposedly zombie-infested city are unconvincing; you get the feeling that if the camera moved just a bit more to the left or right, you'd see busy streets. But I don't want to denigrate the efforts of the filmmakers – I'd rather see them be over ambitious than not try at all.

The performances are okay, about on the level of a soap opera. The make-up effects and costuming are inconsistent, with some zombies looking pretty good while others look like half-assed Halloween partygoers. Gore effects – obligatory in a zombie flick – are plentiful and mostly well done. Overall, it's a pretty decent effort considering the shoestring budget.

EI's DVD presents the R-rated vidflick in a clean 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer. Supplements include a commentary track by the director, behind-the-scenes featurettes, the usual EI trailers, and a short retrospective on the Shock-O-Rama line's first year.

There's a lot to like in the movie, even if it's not 100% creatively successful. Zombie fans and fans of low budget horror should check it out.

BUY: Feeding the Masses