How many of us can say we've made a film that was banned in England on the Video Nasty List, and thus, (ironically) immortalized (especially after just getting our friends together to make a flick)? Not many. Looking at the list of the 74 total Video Nasties, only 73 directors appear (note, many of the films had more than one director and many of the directors had more than one banned film). One of those directors was Charles McCrann and his only film (on or off the list) most certainly has the feel of a bunch of friends getting together to make a movie just for the hell of it. Bloodeaters, which was banned in the UK under its original working title of Forest of Fear, takes its place among films like Unhinged, Night of the Demon, Delirium, Frozen Scream and Don't Go Near the Park in the list of truly amateurish Nasty Videos. Yes, Forest of Fear (now available in the USA under the title Toxic Zombies) is a bad movie. But, although this is far from a spoof, I have to believe that's what McCrann was intending, or, at least, expecting when he made it.
To start with, Forest of Fear is not a "Cash Cow", nor was this (necessarily) his first foray into a larger film career. McCrann was a lawyer, a graduate from both Princeton University and Yale School of Law, which is impressive to anyone except a Harvard Man (which I'm not... but LSU isn't a bad school either, man). He was also a Senior VP for a legal firm important enough to have offices in the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Unfortunately, Charles McCrann did indeed show up for work on September 11, 2001, which is why he's no longer with us.
So why did this guy make a horror film in 1979 (released in '80)? Simple... he wanted to. By all accounts the man just loved Horror Movies, apparently especially this kind, and so he got some friends together and made a Zombie Flick... which is, quite frankly, what I would do. Kids, his tragic end aside, this is far from an unfitting legacy (and considering what else he did with his life, this is far from the only legacy the guy's got) because he certainly seems to have made a film he wanted to make on a hell of a low budget. The only real comedy here is Ironic. Even the acting is bad.
But it's fun. It's the kind of fun, silly, throw-away movie that he probably got into himself. Seeing as how it was released in at least six countries, it probably made him some spending money as well. Though maybe not as much of the English Coin after the Video Recordings Act of 1984 wreaked its havoc. And to think he didn't even contest it in court.
After all, it was his film... he wrote it, produced it, directed it... and even starred in it as Charles Austin ("Austin" being his middle name). His character Cole works for the government and has a very hot wife named Polly (Beverly Shapiro). He gets to script and direct himself tearing off her clothes and grabbing her all over at random times. Maybe that's why he made the movie. Unbeknownst to him, his agency is pulling some other covert ka-ka behind the scenes in their attempts to weed out the weed growers up in the hills.
Yes, there are Hippies in Dem Dar Hillz... Hippies who only want to GROW MORE POT! And we see a lot of them. Well... Technically, we see a lot of ONE of them, seeing as how actress Debbie Link starts her stint in the movie by giving herself a sponge bath, nude in the middle of the woods using a bucket. And then the Drug Enforcement Goons had to break up such a lovely scene by storming the camp.
And when that doesn't work, they hire Pilot Bob Larson to fly over the place and drop a butt-load of deforesting chemicals all over their stash. Clearly they didn't quite realize what it would do to the victims, though they knew a lot more than they would admit to (it's called "plausible deniability", folks... this was directed by a Lawyer, you know). To be fair, it's rather hard to predict that this Agent Orange knock off would do what it did. I mean, seriously, who could possibly expect that a Pesticide could turn people into Cannibalistic ZOMBIES? Well, I guess anybody who has seen The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue could have, but who else?
That's what happens, though and soon we've got one thing that I guarantee we haven't had enough of so far in this kind of film: ZOMBIE HIPPIES! Yeah, man! The closest thing we've actually gotten to that so far was the Beatnick Zombies from... Oh, yeah... The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue!
Moving on. Naturally the first person to really find this out is the Pilot's Wife (Hariet Miller), but it's not long before the rest of the "Commune" starts thinking something might be amiss. You can almost hear Debra O'Leary thinking: "That's Odd! Dennis Graber never tried to eat my brain at home!"
To add coincidence to implausibility, it's right then when Cole and Hottie Polly decide to go camping in the same damned hills that are soon to be overrun by the undead. To add Purina Zombie Chow (chow, chow, chow) to the feast, a Mother and Father (Pat Kellis and Roger Miles, respectively) have dragged their daughter Amy (Judith M. Brown) and their "differently abled" son Jimmy (Kevin Hanlon) out for a grown up expedition, hoping that this will teach them to be more self sufficient. I'm not sure about you, but I get pretty damned self-sufficient any time Zombies are chasing me.
The rest is pretty predictable, from the zombie attacks on cars to the holing up in a zombie-surrounded cabin, only to find that the hermit who lives there (Dennis Helfend) is a Jackass. These Zombies, however, aren't your standard dufus Zombie, nor are they the athletic "I'm Dead But I Run Marathons" zombies of the latter day flicks. These guys are rotting and hungry for human flesh and they're certainly not normal, but they can still use weapons and hunt their prey with torches. Because of this, Forest of Fear is considered, by some, to be more of a "Cannibal Exploitation" flick than a Zombie Flick.
As Zombies, however, the "Ghouls" look pretty good (meaning, pretty bad) for such a low budget film. Its a credit to Makeup Artists Craig Harris and Gerald Cullen that these dead guys worked so well, especially when they actually sort of look like the corpses of The Eagles. I'm not joking. Check out the bell bottoms and Western Shirts. That one Zombie who breaks into the Pickup Truck looks just like Joe Walsh, man! If... Joe Walsh was Dead, of course. I guess that'd be Farewell Tour II.
Yeah, I'm being rather kind to this film. Like I say, "the difference is why". That said, it's still a bad movie with trite and tried situations, bad acting and grainy film stock. On the other hand, it did have a Cameo Appearance by Romero-Favorite John Amplas, which adds an extra layer of credibility here. Still, McCrann is no Romero and his use of "Zombie Metaphor" here just isn't cutting the mustard gas. It's a bit obvious, but doesn't really hold up. Yeah, this was an amateur film, yeah, it had some decent enough makeup effects, yeah, I kind of like it, yeah, I realize what the guy was going for, yeah, it's still a Dog! It's neither the kind of Dog that should be reviled as a mean-spirited carpet stain, nor is it the kind of Dog that you just pity because it was so horrible. It's just a Dog, a Bad Movie and that's... okay... because... Well, I can't finish that sentence and make it both funny and accurate. But seriously, how many people can say they've even gone this far or done this much? Man... I want to make a movie that gets banned in England. Until then, see you in the next reel.
The Hills have CORPSES
So run to the Valleys or the Plains...
Nah, hell, just run to this Link
Click it and enjoy an army of UNDEAD reviews!