Indie regional horror can be a bit of an acquired taste - so to speak - but with Philidelphia native Bill Hinzman, it’s a zombie munching pastime with FleshEater. A tribute and sort of pseudo-sequel to Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, Hinzman returns as the infamous grave ghoul to wreak bloody havoc on a group of campers. Vinegar Syndrome resurrects FleshEater for 4K Utlra HD Blu-ray. The HDR10 transfer is impressive for this rare gem with serviceable audio and a nice smattering of bonus features. No zombie movie collection is complete without it - Recommended.
A group of young campers is out to have a great time on Halloween night deep in the rural Pennsylvania countryside. As the coeds move around the area to find the perfect place to copulate, a local farmer stumbles upon a grave in the woods with an ancient Satanic seal. When the farmer breaks open the coffin, the FleshEater (Writer/Director/Star Bill Hinzman) is unleashed! Now with the number of zombies rapidly reproducing with every victim, the whole of Pennsylvania must once again grab their rifles and shotguns to stop the zombie horde from spreading.
When it comes to low-budget amateur gore-fueled horror, FleshEater is a gas. Made to exploit the growing video store rental market, this film pretty much wears every cent on the sleeves of the cheap costumes and burst blood packs. Performances come in the form of amateur first-timers and regional theater troop actors. For some of the line reads there couldn’t have been enough 16mm film stock to get more than one or two takes at best. To the credit of Hinzman and his cinematographer Simon Manses they went a long way toward shooting the film to look like a color cousin of Night of the Living Dead.
And that’s the charm of this film - the name itself FleshEater or Flesh Eater Revenge of the Living Dead - depending on which title was used on the video release you might have rented, this is a fitting tribute and pseudo-sequel to Romero’s 1968 iconic horror film. Even the title is a callback to one of the original titles intended for Night of the Living Dead. Hinzman is the most obvious reference but you get all sorts of great callbacks to NOLD ranging from actors trying to board up their shelters to hiding in basements, to the mob of hunters out to kill the zombies. It even features the delightful return of trigger-happy sharpshooter Vince (Vincent D. Survinski) for another nice little nod to NOLD
To that end, this might not be a great movie but it’s a hell of a lot of fun. Hinzman is in spry shape returning as his famous toothy ghoul that made an indelible mark on the history of horror. He’s certainly in better form here than he was in the terrible Night of the Living Dead 30th Anniversary extra sequences. The film features heaps of blood, gore being ripped out of rubber bodies, and plenty of nudity to satisfy 80s horror fans. It’s all a big ball of cheese but it’s a fun ride. Far from the greatest piece of cinema, FleshEater proves to be a delightful and entertaining piece of regional independent horror. It's a perfect party flick for a squad of friends to hoot and holler at.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
FleshEater follows a growing line of rental store favorites to get the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray treatment from Vinegar Syndrome in a new two-disc - 4K UHD + Blu-ray set. The discs are housed in a standard sturdy case with identical slipcover art and reversible insert art. The slipcover is limited through VS only. The disc loads to an animated main menu with basic navigation options.
Sourced from the original 16mm elements, this 2160p HDR10 1.33:1 transfer is arguably far better than this film has any right to look - but we’re here and it’s a beauty. Given the low-fi production and 16mm source, film grain is thicker than your average 35mm flick by nature, but it looks organic and well-defined. Details are pretty impressive showcasing fine facial features, the film’s limited costuming and production values, and of course the copious rubberized gore effects. It’s pretty gnarly stuff but at the same time, it’s charming how much of the effects work you can see on screen.
HDR10 grading is well handled giving a little more life to black levels and whites. The film is pretty bright to begin with, the last time I saw this was ages ago but it’s never been one for dynamic lighting. For the first half of the film, outdoor or indoor sequences are pretty garish with only a few arty shots to highlight the cinematic appeal. That said black levels are well resolved to allow for a lovely sense of depth and dimension. Visuals pick up later into the film when it moves to night sequences and all the zombies start attacking people in their homes. Primaries are nice and strong with healthy blues, yellows, and plenty of bright reds. Flesh tones are healthy without being too overly pink. And red blood is very red highlighting that gorgeously cheap tempera paint sheen. As I said, this is probably a far better transfer effort than this film deserves but I’m glad Vinegar Syndrome and their team went that extra mile!
FleshEater arrives with a DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono track that’s best described as "good as can be." Given the nature of the production, the audio for the film is a bit on the cheap and stilted side. Dialog comes through okay. It doesn’t have a lot of spit and polish and it can be a bit raspy but it gets through. Sound effects are equally dicy with some canned effects mixed in with the rough on-set recordings. There’s not a lot of life or dimension to the track in that regard. Those canned sound effects are pretty humorous - when a sexy young lady gets out of the shower and is toweling off, the effect sounds like she’s rubbing down with a sheet of #40 sandpaper! Those are the kinds of charms you can expect from this film.
Not to leave anything in the grave, Vinegar Syndrom delivers a great assortment of new bonus features to eat through. The new audio commentary, in particular, is a great listen and well worth the time. Then you have a host of new interviews with various cast and crew members and you’ve got some fun materials to enjoy once the credits roll.
4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc
Made at a time when Night of the Living Dead’s copyright status was being exploited left and right and video rental stores needed new content, FleshEater was Bill Hinzman’s way of reconnecting with fans of his original graveyard ghoul and make a little cash since he wasn’t going to see a royalty check as the cinematographer of the 1968 classic. A low-budget friend and family made flick; this is regional independent horror filmmaking at its gloriously low-budget best. The cast and crew gave it their all and it’s a fun energetic ride with plenty of entertaining gore effects. Vinegar Syndrome resurrects this little zombie flick for an excellent new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release featuring an impressive native 4K HDR10 transfer, decent audio, but packed with a graveyard full of fun bonus features to pick through. If you love zombies and Night of the Living Dead, your collection isn’t complete without FleshEater - Recommended