Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Corpses (USA, 2004)

Many years ago there was a wall that divided the city of Berlin, but it eventually fell.
What’s that got to do with Corpses, Rolfe Kanefsky's shot-on-video, direct-to-DVD movie from 2004? Not much, actually, but for some reason this flick sent me down memory lane to my life here in Berlin shortly after Germany reunified.
Directly after the West finally swallowed the East, three guys I knew opened a bar in the former East on Oranienburgerstrasse in an old fruits and vegetable shop, the first "hip" bar on that side of the city opened by "Wessies." Called "Obst & Gemuse" — after the shop's old back-lit glass signage that still was installed above the storefront — the place was a huge hit, and for a long time it really brought in the bucks for the owners. I worked there for many a year and probably have never earned as well anywhere else since then.
As a way of building employee morale, once a year the bosses would organize a joint holiday for all the bar employees, usually to some obscure East German location where we would all drink and take drugs for a week to ten days. Once, an old school pal of one of the bosses tagged along and brought an early HD Super 8 video camera with him. And I, in a moment of stoned
brilliance, suggested we film a home-made horror film, a trashy incoherent little mess in which every employee bit the dust one after the other, the murderer being revealed at the end as one of the bosses. A fun time-waster that only those involved ever enjoys sitting through, our special effects consisted of ketchup and pieces of grill meat.
At the next year's vacation, I repeated the event, only this time the plot concerned how almost everyone got fucked to death by one of the female bartenders until the bar's Don Juan screwed her to death and then flew off to heaven. (Some of the staff also died in other ways: I pulled my cock off while jerking off in the shower and bled to death, my best bud fell down the stairs while sleepwalking and John Denver's Country Roads drove the bar stoner to kill himself.) Again, another film that is fun to watch only if you were in it.

So, what's all this got to do with Corpses? Well, Corpses sort of feels like a group of actors and their neighbors got together one weekend, smoked a lot of pot and then suddenly decided to make a horror film just for the hell of it. OK, they obviously also decided to spend both a bit more time on the plot and filming as well as more money on the props, effects and locations, but then, as actors (of sorts) they should have higher expectations when doing this sort of thing than bartenders.
The final result, I am happy to say, is that as stupid and infantile the film might be, the film is at least also relatively fun to watch even for those people who were not involved in the multi-weekend project. Which is not to say that Corpses is a good film, for it really isn't, but it is a fun film and is particularly well-suited for a pot-heavy DVD night with the undiscerning and non-demanding boys. But, damn it, even the boys will probably bitch about those annoying computer-generated swipes used to change scenes and the fact that scream-queen Tiffany Shepis didn't show more tit (for a woman that supposedly has "no problems with nudity" she sure keeps her bra on waaaaaay too much). And, maybe, if the minds aren't heavily fogged by Mary Jane, the guys might also slag off about what a lousy actor Jeff Fahey is… man, the depths that man has fallen since Psycho III (1986). Really, just when you think you've seen his worst acting yet, he comes out with another film that even tops the level of incompetence he showed in the prior film. But maybe we shouldn't judge too hard here: not only is he at least better than he was in Lawnmower Man (1992), but Corpses is, after all, a just-for-fun weekend project. Or at least I hope it was.
Corpses takes some basic plot lines found in any given suburban soap opera (money grubbing woman leaves man for man with more money who, blinded by his love for the bitch, plays along in destroying the livelihood of the ex-husband who, in turn, although still hot for his ex-wife, now plots revenge against her even as she sets out to both get all her ex's money and also get rid of the bothersome daughter of her new man who happens to have a relationship with the deadhead helper of the wronged man, etc etc) and crosses it with the basic plot device (and serum colour) of Re-Animator (1985) and its sequels. The final result is a hit-and-miss comedy with a few truly inspirationally humorous gore sequences and a lot of so-so chuckles. The acting is broad and on occasion truly abysmal, but Robert Donovan is appropriately cheesy as the wronged mortician Fred, Tifany Shepis is, well, fuckably hot as Rhonda, the daughter of the local police chief Capt. Winston (Jeff Fahey), and Lorielle New as Bas, the hooker zombie, walks away with the film every time she's on screen: a junkie while alive, Bas is a junkie for the serum while undead. Her best scene is that in which she kills another hooker and a john while… well, hell, go rent the DVD yourself.
The junkie aspect, actually, is a running joke and catalyst of the film: Fred's magical revival serum only remains effective for an hour, so come 60 minutes the given zombie is scratching its arm for the next fix. But when the last of the serum gets dropped, the zombies go on a rampage...
In any event, Corpses is a tackily cute, cheaply gory, and professionally made cheesy little home video that manages to get enough laughs to make up for its numerous flaws. If you like movies like Dead & Breakfast (2004), you'll probably find this one OK, too. But still, to borrow that great banned radio tag-line from Cheech and Chong's Up in Smoke (1978): "Don't go straight to see this movie."

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