Sunday, August 12, 2007

Over The River And Through The Woods...

I’ve seen my fair share of backwoods horror films and I mean that in as many ways as possible. I mean films set in, filmed in, and for the most part only viewed in the backwoods of America. They are gruesome, stagy, silly, gory and for the most part fairly original. The most famous exemption of this trend is of course The Evil Dead, which received an unprecedented bit of spotlight. Everytime I watch one of these I am either left reeling from staggering Jackassery or pleasantly surprised. I have little expectation of these movies (except the ones that wound up banned in the UK) and so when a good one comes along, or one with some kind of flair or uniqueness in execution. Just Before Dawn springs to mind as one with flair (the color, presentation and locations make this a standout among post-Friday the 13th slasher films), and Don’t Go Into The Woods…Alone comes galumphing into mind as a grimly inept example of this kind of movie. Very few of them concern themselves with Zombies and when they do, I take special care to seek them out for immediate viewing. The subject of this installment is a colorful little film called Toxic Zombies or Forest of Fear, banned in the UK as part of the Video Nasties scare and it wasn’t easy tracking her down. All in all the search wasn’t entirely warranted; plot thin, acting half-ok, effects not great, lighting poor. It wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever seen, mind you, but for all the time I spent reading up on the thing I would have liked to see a bit more scare and a bit less scale.

Toxic Zombies
by Charles McCrann

Our story begins with two casually dressed FBI agents who drive up into the middle of nowhere to shoot ‘em some hippies. The cannabis growers are just about ready to pick their crop and the man wants to put the kibosh on that before any fun is had. They get there and kill a pretty blonde hippie just after her obscene bathing scene (the film’s only spot of nudity). The rest of the crew retaliates and then gets paranoid. Apparently this one goes all the way to the top; before the bodies have been uncovered some big cheese at Langley gets it in his head that destroying this pot crop is priority number one and sends an order down to make sure it gets destroyed. So they tell there field man to stay out of the area and send an old crop-duster a canister of experimental pesticide with which to kill the crop, and with luck, those tie-dye wearing interlopers. Well as anyone could have guessed, the crop duster drops the goods and everything goes very, very wrong. The old man wakes up the next morning with a craving for his wife’s flesh, but she’s too used to his bullshit to let him take her alive. The hippies become groggy and sick and before long they too become zombies. It’s about this time that the field man the FBI warned to stay away gets hounded by his annoying wife to go camping. Go fucking figure. So he, his wife and his less-than-mature brother go out to hippie-zombie land for the weekend to help two stranded and recently orphaned kids get to safety.

What surprised me most about this film was the acting from some of the hippies. There are no names in the cast (unless you count John Amplas) but some of these guys act naturally. I couldn’t catch any of their character’s names and consequently can’t say what any of their real names are, but when the one of them gets angry and insists on leaving, it was really good. I guess why I’m stunned by this is because of the wooden acting of all the leads (Director McCrann especially) and the ridiculousness of the storyline that surrounds these small performances. Alone in a much better film I wouldn’t have thought twice, but good acting in bad movies is like spotting the most beautiful girl at a party. That alone, I’m afraid is not enough to recommend this film as it lacks decent pacing or any real scares. One highlight that I haven’t seen duplicated outside of a Mel Brooks film is the manner in which the crop-duster talks to his wife. The way in which he swears at her is absolutely hysterical. The way he injects pauses before his hilarious pronunciation of “bitch” is brilliant. Unfortunately for me and the film he is killed before he is allowed too much screen time. The last point I want to bring up is the aforementioned scale. Don’t bring in the FBI if you can’t afford identical suits and sunglasses. Don’t tell me the oldest of your drinking buddies is the head of his department at the Federal Bureau of Fucking Investigation. There is simply no reason to make your plot unbelievable because you need to validate the creation of undead hippies. The zombies come before the plot, not the other way round.

This one definitely should have been left off the banned list if for no other reason than to stop me from looking for it. Oh well, one more zombie film down, not too many to go.

No comments: