GRAPEVINE, Tex., Oct. 3 -- OK, let's talk zombies.
It seems to me we don't have decent zombies anymore. The last truly original zombies were created by Sam Raimi in his "Evil Dead" trilogy, and that was way the heck back in the 1980s.
Zombie movies were once considered the quickest way to break into the film industry. All you needed were a few punk actors who already looked dead anyway, plus a decent special effects makeup guy and a graveyard you could sneak into with a 16-millimeter camera.
It helped if you had a script full of voodoo explanations for The Night They Came Out Of The Grave, but even that was not entirely necessary. Somewhere about the time Hair Bands died out, we had come to accept zombies as part of the American moral universe, and they could just show up as your next-door neighbor. Being a member of the walking dead had become just another alternative lifestyle choice.
That's why, in many ways, "Shatter Dead" is the ultimate zombie movie. In this underground shot-on-video cult favorite, it's difficult to tell just exactly how the world became full of zombies, but it has something to do with God deciding he won't take any more people into heaven and so he just lets people live forever in their moldy mutilated bodies.
The last women left alive is constantly cajoled by the other zombies to make the intelligent choice and go ahead and kill herself while she's young and doesn't need assisted-living health care.
Stark Raven -- yes, that's her real name -- plays the lead and has the dead eyes of a girl who's been to way too many raves and toyed with drug-induced anorexia as a lifestyle. She packs an armory of rifles in the trunk of her car and is not hesitant about putting bullets through the foreheads of zombies wherever she finds them -- they're hard to spot, sort of like the friendly aliens in "Invasion of the Bodysnatchers" -- and further messing them up for posterity.
There's a weirdo preacher wandering the streets, spouting apocalyptic slogans as he calls on the living to join the dead, and the towns are empty except for grotesquely deformed beggars asking for passersby to take pity on their lost limbs and ravaged faces.
Stark Raven's goal: to fight her way back to the trashed apartment she shares with her boyfriend. But first she has to face down an army of zombies who surround her car, a zombie rooming house where she grapples with a harmonium-playing lesbian zombie roommate, a guns-blazing zombie S.W.A.T. team, and a weird beard nekkid angel who infiltrates her dreams and tempts her to suicide.
It's one of those movies where half the time you don't know exactly what's going on, but the gritty video makes it realistic and scary enough that you don't really care. The production values are pretty abysmal, but the New Zombie World created by director Scooter McCrae is relentlessly depressing and a gore hound's feast. Just don't show it to your mother.
Twelve dead bodies. Fourteen breasts. Angel aardvarking. Multiple body parts. One flaming zombie. Skinned-alive bonesaw surgery. Zombie storm-trooper massacre. Rifle-butt zombie head-bashing. Gross-out zombie aardvarking. Kung Fu. Zombie Fu.
Drive-In Academy Award nominations for Robert Wells, as the Preacher Man, for saying "I claim this vehicle for our people in the name of the Lord!"; Flora Fauna, as the beautiful young soap-coveting girl who learns to like zombie life, for saying "What's wrong with the choice I've made? I still think and feel"; Daniel "Smalls" Johnson, as the suicidal boyfriend who wants his lover to join him; and Stark Raven, as the confused survivor who gives a whole new meaning to "to be or not to be."
Three stars. Joe Bob says check it out.
Ordering information for "Shatter Dead": b-movie.comhttp://www.b-movie.com.
To reach Joe Bob, go to joebob-briggs.commailto:joebob-briggs.comor email him at JoeBob@upi.commailto:JoeBob@upi.com. Snail-mail: P.O. Box 2002, Dallas, TX 75221.