After starting in Washington D.C. nine years ago Horror Movie Night has expanded to include chapters in Austin, Dallas and Chicago. Horror’s Not Dead’s own Brian Kelley is the originator and programmer of this illustrious weekly Wednesday night tradition which features a “classic” horror film. Each week I will be reviewing/commenting on the past week’s selection so do your best to find the film, most of which have not made it past VHS, and follow along. Better yet, start your own chapter!
There has always been something a little off about suburbia. Many people all over the country live in or around some suburb, with all the happy little homes and kids playing in yard or riding bikes. These are supposed to be safer places to raise a family outside of the big cities, but we horror fans know that danger lurks everywhere. Over the years films and TV shows have given us a glimpse into the suburb and we see that it too has a seedy underbelly. Crime is still present, bad things can happen and mothers eat their children. Wait, what? That’s right, in James Aviles Martin’s 1988 film Flesh Eating Mothers the housewives go cannibal – often to hilarious results.
A quiet neighborhood is soon turned upside down when a virus infects the mothers and turns them from nice, normal humans into vicious cannibals. Babies are eaten and the teens, who were fast enough to get away, have no idea what to do. Someone is trying to cover up what is really going on and the only person out there to help is a rogue cop, who’s being blamed, and a rather short medical examiner.
Rinaldi: My mother told me never to deck a lady, but she didn’t say shit about a cannibal.
One might wonder how this virus got started, and that’s a very interesting tale. It’s an STD. Who knew that cannibalism is something you could get after a quick roll in the hay? It seems that men are carriers who show no symptoms but females who have bore children are the only ones affected. All of the women getting this disease stem from one sexual partner – a philandering suburban hunk named Roddy. When he tells his wife he’s going jogging he’s really hitting up one of the many other houses around their block and getting it on with the woman of the house. Are all of these adulterous ladies being punished for their deeds? Is this some sort of Biblical plague/message wrapped in a horror flick? Your guess is as good as mine.
Roddy is a dirty, dirty man and I can’t believe all the women fall for him. He must have a certain charm that doesn’t translate out of the bored housewife circle. Still, he’s pretty damn sleazy. At one point he rushes to the aide of a woman who’s drunken abusive husband has staggered off after shoving her to the ground. He makes sure she’s not hurt too bad, makes a pass at her, offers to help her inside and then asks if the husband will be gone for a while. She seems very receptive.
The film itself is quite fun and interesting but it suffers a bit from some very slow moments. Even though the body count is impressive, it speeds up in the middle and we’re left with a rather bloodless last act – unless you count the scene where two of the deranged moms are playing tug-of-war with a poor alley cat and rip it in two. This last act also features one of the slowest, longest montages ever set to the equally unexciting sounds of some music by Sherri Lamar (whoever that is). I’m not saying her songs aren’t great, because I love the track “Eat Raw Meat” as much as the next guy, but they’re just not the upbeat rocking tunes you want for a montage. However, it does fit in nicely with the rest of the jazzy MIDI score for the film.
Speaking of sound, these filmmakers must have taken a cue or two from people behind The Abomination, another great low-budget title we’ve screened this year at HMN, in the sound department. A few moments in this film are so over-the-top when it comes to the foley work that it’s hard not to laugh. Just take a peek at this scene below where one of the moms is first struggling to fill that new hunger.
Then we have the special effects, which are sort of a mixed bag. On one hand there is very little on the extremely gory side of things, but some of the make-up is quite fun and interesting. The majority of the people who die at the mouths of the munching moms seem to do so from bites on the arm. I don’t think we’re supposed to assume that these women are passing on an infection or creating zombies so I’m unsure as to how some seem to die from a fairly superficial wound on the arm. There are times, however, where the attack is stepped up a notch. One of the cops, named Hitchcock (heh), is ripped to pieces by a group of cannibal ladies. And we mustn’t forget the final death involving a ripped off face followed by an impressive blood spurting. We also get to see a woman gnawing on the severed arm of her adolescent child; if only we got a glimpse of the mom feasting on her infant.
See, there are a couple good gore gags but the real winner in the effects department are the women’s transformations. The longer they are infected with this sexually transmitted cannibalism the more deformed they become. At first their teeth turn dark and they get circles under their eyes. But before you know it, they’ve all been lathered with foam latex prosthetics. Each of the mothers has a great look but it’s hard not to snicker when you realize they all vaguely resemble Jack Nicholson’s Joker in Batman. For me it just made it that much more enjoyable.
It has been a few weeks since the HMN selection has been so goofy, but it’s a welcome return to the fun form. The insane sound FX and the Joker resemblance have already been mentioned, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. For fuck’s sake, just look at the premise. This is cannibalism passed along as an STD in adulterous suburbanites! I’m not really sure how big this town where they live is supposed to be, but they must fuck a lot. At least enough to necessitate their own friendly neighborhood VD clinic. A place where the doctor gives Roddy the hook-up for a good time at a local establishment with some “working girls.” Not only does this shining member of the American Medical Association try to get his patients laid, but he also has some great homemade signs about VD to comfort those in need. Remember – Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Al Capone, Adolf Hitler, and Idi Amin are among the famous people who have been afflicted with VD.
Jeff: Hey Rinaldi, what happened to your head?
Rinaldi: My mother’s on the rag again.
The characters in this film border on the ridiculous at all times. Most of the actors behind any of them never went on to much else in the industry, and that’s easy to guess. The acting is very stiff and non-professional, but that’s what really gives Flesh Eating Mothers the charm that it needs to be so fun. It also helps when you have a character like Rinaldi Vivaldo who has a name that any of the wastes of space on Jersey Shore would kill to have. He has a wonderful scene where his mother, Rita, tries to soften/fatten him up like a veal calf with milk and then proceeds to uncontrollably bite his forehead. To this he replies, “that’s it ma, this time I’m really running away.” I don’t really know what Rinaldi’s life was like before his mom tried to eat him, but it’s a safe bet that this would definitely be the last straw.
If you’d like to see Flesh Eating Mothers, I suggest you find a way to do so ASAP! Elite Entertainment did put out a DVD a few years back, which seems to be available for pretty cheap on Amazon from private sellers or directly from Elite’s website. Of course if you can find the VHS you might prefer watching that; the fuzzy aesthetic can only help. This movie is a lot of fun, just make sure you have a few beers to get you through all of the slow moments.
Until next month* – wrap it before you tap it.
Body Count: 12, and one cat
Number of Cannibal Moms: 7
Best Death: Last Minute Facelift
Greatest Secondary Character’s Name: Frankie Lemmonjello
Coming soon to Horror Movie Night (Chronicles are posted one week after screening):
– 9/21/11: BYE week for Fantastic Fest
– 9/28/11: BYE week for Fantastic Fest
– 10/5/11: Demon Wind (1990)
– 10/12/11: Ragewar (1983) aka The Dungeonmaster
* There won’t be a Chronicles post for the next couple of weeks due to the majority of HMN crew attending Fantastic Fest in Austin, TX. Things will get started up again soon.