Directed By: David P. Barton
Starring: Stephen O'Mahoney, Tom Hoover, Debbie Rochon, Trent Haaga, Jeff Dylan Graham, Barbara Katz-Norrod.
Country of Origin: United States of America
Like most Americans, I no longer own much in the way of video cassette tapes. Long gone are the ways of the VCR and VHS formats, save for some beautiful gems yet to be released on DVD. The upcoming film is likely not one of them. Looking over my options for tonight’s review, I came across not one, but two entries from Full Moon Studios, the production company known most notably for the Puppet Master cult phenomenon. In fact, when you look at the history of Full Moon, you can look no further than Puppet Master, because over the years, it’s the one franchise that has kept them in business and making money.
Full Moon was a company intentionally founded on the ideals that a lower budget film could still mirror what a big budget smash had to offer, and, for the most part, Full Moon delivers on exactly what it promises. Tonight’s selection, Dead & Rotting, is a great example of such b-grade schlock. This movie fits into about three or four subgenres of horror cinema, including Full Moon. Truth be told, the main subgenre that this picture falls into is the woman-on-a-rampage-out-to-get-deadly-revenge-genre. Mostly explored through vintage exploitation movies, it had a more recent renaissance with the release of Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof. But tonight, this one finds itself so low on the totem pole, it makes Deadly Daphne’s Revenge look like Alien or Aliens, specifically if Ellen Ripley was involved.
Our story, as it begins, is about three men looking to punish an old witch rumored to live out in the woods. And while you might say that I’m calling her names, the truth of the matter is that everyone in this small, possibly-inbred town believes she is indeed a witch. They refer to her house as the witch house. The townspeople accuse her of the usual kind of mischief: razor blades in apples, terrorizing the youth, failing to water the grass or mow the lawn. You know, really evil, murderous kind of shit. She seems like a sweet lady to me, except that she treats her son like he’s a cat. And that too, is because he is. He transforms into one. I can’t make this shit up. That kind of motherly care inevitably leads to trouble, however. When her son is beaten down for being awkward by the three drunken stooges, she concocts a plan of revenge that promises to make them feel like they are “dead and rotting.” By the next day, all three men experience hallucination and begin to grow boils on their face that look more like everlasting gobstoppers. I hope somebody informed Mr. Slugworth.
But once the random influenza passes, the men plot a revenge on her once again, and, in true redneck fashion, fail to believe that she cursed them. They blame poison ivy instead, and in their overzealous state, they boil the cat (remember, that’s the witch’s son) on the stove as a present. Now who in their right mind isn’t rooting for the witch 20 minutes in? I mean, if the internet anonymous and social elite has taught us anything, its that you don’t fuck with cats. Everybody loves cats. Cut to her new plan, a revenge that turns out to be far worse than a simple spit of dust and two-day flu bug. She’s transformed into a beautiful young woman, and she plans to seduce the men to their doom.
Not surprisingly, the movie itself is very, very low grade and in parts, very stupid. When cutting costs on your budget and suppressing the need for quality, you create some horrible conceptual anomalies. After having sex with all three men, our harrowing witch can be seen giving birth to a bloody-crawfish type thing (keep in mind she had sex with them one day earlier) that she puts into a skull, and then puts that skull inside of a pumpkin. Then she buries the pumpkin. Think of it as an unholy nesting egg. And voila! Her army of undead super soldiers is born, ready to wreak havoc on those three rednecks. In an attempt to detail just what is going on this movie, I prove my point by realizing how terribly overambitious this project is becoming. It is all parts bizarre, and not in the “unintentionally funny” sort of way. The acting is third or fourth rate, the camerawork is reminiscent of a 3rd grade Paul Greengrass, and even the makeup and special effects, if I haven’t mentioned it before, look more like candies than blood and guts. Even the blades her minions are using to pick off the unsuspecting farmers are just...well...plastic. I mean they're clearly never going to break the skin, and it doesn't translate realistically to the viewing audience. They'd have been better off putting in 20 bucks for a digital depiction via James Cameron's favorite moneymaker, CGI.
And as if all of this wasn’t enough to get you to turn it off (or me to stop watching the VHS), we incorporated a second witch and a spell that might as well be named "Deus Ex Machina" to fight off the original spell caster. Happy endings, and not just in the sexual way!
Quote of the Film:
“That was the best I’ve ever had with a woman…as beautiful as you are.” -Eric, Wormy Redneck (Nice Save)
Did I ever mention that one of the best parts of an old, crappy horror VHS is the old, crappy, horror trailers for other films in front of the feature presentation? Bumping Dead & Rotting were trailers for a stripper-vampire-skin flick called Cryptz, a reality television splatter fest that borders on the supernatural called Hell Asylum, and the genuinely horrifying clown slasher sequel, Killjoy 2. Amidst all of the badness that I’ve just viewed, I wouldn’t mind watching these three movies as well. Full Moon seems to understand that when you’re bad and on a tight budget, you’re allowed to get away with pretty much anything. When the surviving men killed the witch in this movie, I formulated a week-long alternate ending that seemed to be highly more logical and ended with the witch getting the best of these horny bastards. Of course, my ending also involved semen, but I think that’s the joy of watching Full Moon schlock. If they can get away with anything, I can write a review saying so and even incorporate my own alternate semen-ending and have it be just as plausible.