THE STINK OF FLESH - 2005
Rated: USA: R
Back in the nineteen eighties and early nineties, there was this cool little show on the SciFi channel called Mystery Science Theater 3000. Born from midnight movie audiences like The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Phantom of the Paradise, as well as several amateur Cable Access shows around the US, MST3k lived to make fun of the various movies it presented each week. More often than not, these movies weren't Hollywood productions, but independent clunkers with horrible scripts, bad direction, and acting to match. If memory serves me correctly, the small captive audience of MST3K never made fun of a Troma movie. How can you make fun of something that is busy making fun of itself?
And that leads up to my review of THE STINK OF FLESH. Right from the outset, TSOF starts with a sex scene, that inexplicably leads to a guy fighting fisticuffs style with a zombie. Neither the zombie or the guy fighting it, one human by the name of ZAM! BANG! Matool! (Kurly Tlapoyawa: CROSS), has squat to do with the folks in the previous scene.
It soon becomes clear that Matool isn't fighting to save his own skin, but because he gets a kick out of beating up the living dead. When he finally delivers the coup de grace to the zombie, he pulls a screaming girl (Tanith Fiedler: SEEPAGE!) out of a car, fights off a few other zombies, who are more annoyance than anything else (like those earnest kids who come to your door trying to sell you magazine subscriptions), and takes her to the closest shack they can find. The shack is already occupied with a child molester and two boys. But when you're living in a time of walking hungry dead, you run into a lot of strange characters. Matool is only interested in a sexual reward from the girl he rescued, but the girl dismisses him as a four-eyed creep - which he is. The girl is obsessed with finding her brother - who she clearly saw getting eaten by zombies - so Matool eventually gives up on her and does what Ben should have done to Barbara in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD.
The zombies bust into the shack and Matool escapes, only to be whacked by a passing pick-up truck.
When Matool wakes up, he finds himself duct taped in the back of a truck. Soon he is taken to a house where his kidnapper presents him to his dumpy but amorous wife. One of the creepy kids from the molester's shack is also there, having made his escape right on Matool's heels. This kid (Brian Gallegos) is a survivor.
The husband is Mandel (Billy Garberina: FEEDING THE MASSES), and he collected Matool so his wife Dexy (Diva) can continue her alternate sexual lifestyle in the manner they once practiced prior to whatever on earth happened that made people zombies. Dexy has no thought for anyone but herself and, to a lesser extent, her sister Sassy. All other people are just worthless - if they are women - and sex objects - if they are men. When a trio of male soldiers, carrying a bleeding comrade who was severely wounded in a fight with zombies, comes to the door, her first expression is a smiling "Is it Christmas?"
At this point, the most interesting character; the one so loudly annouced and the only one who drives the movie, Matool, becomes a tertiary character in exchange for... the dullest character in the film, Dexy. In a normal Horror Thriller movie, Dexy would be one of the first to go. She's a lazy, self-centered slob of a villain who
flops around the house like a termite queen. There is a reason why documentaries on hive insects lightly pass over the queens and stay with the workers and warriors. That's what is interesting. Dexy isn't an interesting character. She is written into the movie as the person who interrupts the action or humor to whine or beg about not getting any sex. Or not getting enough sex. And because this isn't a porn film, we don't actually see much sex (a little soft-core but nothing to write home about), we only hear about it a lot. Dexy's mutant sister is more interesting. At least she has a homunculus.
As I alluded to earlier, the writing, direction (by Scott Phillips: HORRORVISION, CRYPTZ) and acting is bad - really bad. And the cinematography and special effects - those things that actually require money - are worse. What saves THE STINK OF FLESH, indeed, makes it worth watching, is the soundtrack, which is perfectly timed with the delivery of a punch line zinger or anytime there is a fight or sex; and the inventiveness of the tale. Life is bad enough in a time when zombies have taken over the world, but things go from bad to worse in STINK, and then go from worse to weird!
And then from weird to weirder! THE STINK OF FLESH is part of a short line of really bad micro budget movies that have survived to find an audience. From IT'S ALIVE to BASKET CASE to ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES to THE EVIL DEAD (and its far worse sequel EVIL DEAD 2) to THE TOXIC AVENGER, THE STINK OF FLESH is worth watching thanks to its music, imaginative ideas, and the enthusiasm with which they are delivered. THE STINK OF FLESH is a fun movie that only bogs down when it takes itself too seriously. As such, it sputters often between fun and drama. But in the realm of So Bad Its Good movies, THE STINK OF FLESH gets three negative Shriek Girls.
copyright 2006 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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This review originally appeared in
Girls and Corpses Magazine.
Horror Fan Trivia: Watch for Gunnar "Leatherface" Hansen's daughter, Kristen Hansen, as the "multi-purpose" Sassy. Also watch the zombies, some are meant to look like famous monster movie zombies for the truly hardcore horror fan.