Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Review: Zombiethon

This review originally appeared at

Ah, Zombiethon, how I love you. This movie and I go way back. How far? To the big box VHS days, that’s how far. I used to rent this flick from my local video store on a regular basis. I’ve always had a thing for zombies. My zombie obsession predated the current fad. I was zombie crazy before it was cool. I have zombies on vinyl. Sorry, I went hipster there for a moment. If it happens again, just smack me. Anyway, I was originally drawn in by what is still some of my favorite cover art of all time (Wizard Video always had killer cover art), rented it, and fell in love with it. A couple of years later, I happened to find a copy on sale for 5 bucks. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve watched it. I also couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve lamented how obscure and hard to find it is. Well folks, thanks to Full Moon’s Grindhouse Collection, Zombiethon is finally available on DVD. Now you too can own a copy and witness the nostalgic 80’s flesh munching glory for yourself.

See? I now own two generations of Zombiethon.

Zombiethon is one of many horror compilation tapes released during the home video heyday. These featured clips from horror movies, presumably all the best parts, with some sort of framing device. They were advertised as “all killer, no filler.” Probably the best known flick of this type is Terror in the Aisles. That one featured short clips from A-list fright fare interspersed with Donald Pleasance saying a bunch of pretentious, pseudo-intellectual crap like “Perhaps we invent artificial horrors to help us cope with the real ones." Zombiethon features clips, and in some cases whole scenes, from b-movie zombie (mostly) fare, almost all of them involving gore and nudity, interspersed with some of the wackiest and most bizarre zombie scenes ever filmed. Now you tell me which one you’d rather see. Yeah, that’s what I thought. Zombiethon by a landslide.

There’s really no worry about spoilers here, as there’s really not a plot, so let’s just jump in brains first, shall we? We start off with a woman in a schoolgirl outfit being chased by a zombie. The camera spends most of the time looking up her skirt by the way. Charles Band, who owned Wizard video, never has been one to skimp on the sleaze. He chases her all the way to The El Rey Theater, where she goes inside, sits next to a bunch of other zombies, and proceeds to watch a truncated version of Lucio Fulci’s Zombie. This review may break the record for the most uses of the word zombie in one post. Anyway, all the good stuff is here, aka the nudity and gore. The zombie vs. shark fight is here, as is a smorgasbord of undead mayhem, including the scene that had a big hand in me renting this over and over. You see, I have an unhealthy obsession with the infamous eyeball scene from Zombie, and my video store didn’t have that movie, but they did have Zombiethon. Then we cut to a bikini clad girl on the beach, who is attacked by what I’m guessing is a robot zombie. No, it doesn’t make any sense, but who cares? This is Zombiethon! She runs away to the El Ray, where we now see clips from Zombie Lake. We start off with some underwater skinny dipping footage that can only be described as rather, well…gynecological. Lots of “Nazi Zombies attacking naked women” goodness ensues, culminating in some flamethrower action.

Then, in my favorite moment of the flick, a woman in a sheer white dress spouts some bad goth poetry on a beach. There’s something about a voodoo doll, and she takes off the dress. Then a zombie rises out of the sand and picks her up in his arms. As she embraces her undead date, she coos seductively into his ear “I want more out of life. Let’s go to a movie.” Guess where he carries his topless bride. Yep, to the good ol’ El Ray! This is one of my favorite ridiculous moments in cinema history. What does any of this surreal random crap mean? Your guess is as good as mine, but it’s brilliant in its weirdness.

After some footage from Oasis of the Zombies, another zombie chases a woman and her young daughter into the theater. Then the zombies watch scenes from Fear, aka Murder Syndrome. This flick is notable for two reasons. One, it’s the only movie in this movie (damn that sounds weird) that I haven’t seen. Two, it’s not even a zombie movie. I have no idea why it’s in Zombiethon. There are some gory murders, including one by chainsaw that I particularly enjoy, but no zombies. Hmmm. We then thrill to the hijinks of the incredibly fake looking zombies in the theater, including the zombie projectionist who is having a hell of a time switching reels. Some of the cheesiest music ever recorded plays over this “hilarity.” The Invisible Dead is up next, and it doesn’t have any zombies either. What the hell? It does have some terrible dialog, 70’s bush, and a semi-invisible gorilla however, so you can’t be too mad. In the meantime the little girl is playing with the zombies; who throw popcorn, remove each others heads, raise hell, and generally act like the usual Friday night crowd at your local multiplex. It was the 80’s, so at least they weren’t texting. After that there’s some footage from Virgin Among the Living Dead. Then, with just a touch of its burning hand, Zombiethon sends its Astro-Zombies to rape the land. Prime directive, exterminate the whole human race. If you don’t get that reference, I don’t think we can be friends any more. Anyway, the zombies decide to throw a party in the theater and it’s time to go home.

There is nothing I don’t love about this movie. Some of the zombies look awful. The music is cheesy as hell. The cutscenes make no sense. It’s so ludicrous that it’s beautiful. You also have the best parts of Fulci’s Zombie, which is one of the best undead flicks ever made, Oasis of the Zombies, which is one of the worst undead flicks ever made, and five more in between. The picture quality in some of the recycled video footage is sub-par, but that’s part of Zombiethon’s charm. It will take you back to the days when you didn’t have pristine quality prints of foreign gore films. This is how many of us started watching these movies, on worn out VHS tapes. The Hi-Def snobs can shut the hell up.

Those who grew up on this stuff, those who respect the history of the genre, and those after a retro horror experience will dig Zombiethon. It’s the perfect time capsule of the golden age of the video store. There’s plenty of shlock, blood, guts, and tits. Who could ask for more? For me, it’s a fun ride down memory lane, and I am ecstatic that Full Moon has made it available again. Now I can stop worrying about my VHS copy giving out on me. Two severed thumbs up. Nathan says check it out.

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