With 13 Days of Shot On Video I’ll be reviewing a new shot-on-video horror film every weekday for the last two weeks of October. You can view all entries HERE.
I’ve said this many times before, but SOV horror movies are not for everyone. One of the biggest factors in deterring the average viewer is the overall aesthetic: bad editing, even worse acting, junky sound, and just a general aura of cheapness. Redneck Zombies is sort of the exception to the rule, however, as it was released by Troma Entertainment — the film company who prides themselves on their no-budget, laughable productions. So in a way, Redneck Zombies was safeguarded from the usual expected shortcomings that plagued the average SOV horror movie; suddenly, those limitations were now strengths. I assert that Redneck Zombies just may be the crossover hit that bridged the gap between shot-on-video and the collective hip consciousness. I can’t name many (if any) friends who have seen SOV gems such as Sledgehammer or Killing Spree, but all of my friends know what Troma is and have seen many Troma films, and even a handful have seen Redneck Zombies. Whodathunk. Redneck Zombies, a vanguard film!
The movie doesn’t reinvent the zombie genre, but it definitely has fun with it. It opens with an army officer transporting some toxic materials by truck, when one of the barrels falls off the bed. The contents of the barrel contaminate a moonshine still that’s hidden in the woods. Eventually the hillbillies who run the still bottle their booze, unaware of its dangerous contents. They drink it and sell it to some locals — who also drink it — and one by one they all start turning into zombies. Meanwhile, a group of campers have set up in the woods where all the rednecks have started to turn. Soon, they’re descended upon and that’s when the fun really starts.
Redneck Zombies is at times both an homage and parody of the films that inspired it. It’s one part Return of the Living Dead, one part Evil Dead and one part The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and at many points recalls the early work of Peter Jackson (who, at the time Redneck Zombies was made, was filming his own blood-soaked zombie debut, Bad Taste.) But the references don’t just stop at horror movies — the makers of Redneck Zombies are obvious film fanatics and included a wide range of references and quotes that cover the genre spectrum.
Their greatest influence and inspiration however is glaringly apparent: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. From the opening crawl to the cannibalistic hillbillies that occupy the film, there are references to the Tobe Hooper classic all over this thing. There are two notable scenes: one where a hitchhiker is picked up and begins rambling about his family’s barbershop. He talks to the driver about how the “old way” of shaving people is better than the new way. He then produces a little Bic razor and begins shaving, and eventually slices open the driver’s arm. This is all beat for beat from the hitchhiker scene in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
There’s also an incredibly specific (and incredibly random) reference wherein a girl discovers a remote farmhouse due to the loud, sputtering generator in its front yard. The people that made Redneck Zombies have an obvious love and appreciation for specific allusions.
Despite being so goofy and over-the-top, there are a few fairly clever and inspired moments. At one point, there’s a guy who finds himself surrounded by zombies; as they close in on him, he extends his arms stiffly in front of him, cocks his head to the side, and starts moaning and lurching, aping the crowd about the eat him. The zombies get confused and decide not to eat him, thinking he’s a fellow zombie. This same trick would later be used in Shaun of the Dead (which is just about the most clever zombie flick in my book.) There’s also a great line when one of the campers refers to the poisonous moonshine as “monster mash”. Clever!
As I said before, it’s a pretty typical zombie movie. The last 15 minutes of the movie are the most impressive, both in action and the level of gore. While the whole movie features some average low-budget splatter, it’s too bad all the really good stuff happens at the end, but I suppose with a limited budget that was probably intentional (and unavoidable.) Whether you’re a fan of SOV horror or not, I think everyone can enjoy something about Redneck Zombies.