Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Shatter Dead (USA, 1993)

The director of Shatter Dead claims the initial inspiration for making his film came from having read Roger Corman’s autobiography: so impressed by Corman’s legendary ability to write and shoot his classic, low-budget genre films within a period of days and with little cash, Scooter McCrae decided that if he couldn’t write and direct his film within 31 days, he most likely needed to find a new career.
In the end, he supposedly wrote and shot his film over a total period of 39 days using "friends and friends of friends" for the cast and with a final production cost of about $4,000, a cost that makes most other "low-budget" films seem like major Hollywood productions. Shatter Dead went on to win the award for Best Independent Production at the Fantafestival in 1995.
Opening with a pleasantly artsy-fartsy soft-core scene of a big-breasted angel taking a woman from behind, Shatter Dead narrates the odyssey of Susan (Stark Raven), a living human, who lives at a time when God has gone on vacation and there is no more room in heaven (and hell, one can only suppose, though it is never said). When one dies, their soul has nowhere to go, the result being that the dead walk the earth as second-class citizens — something that they want to change, especially since living people are a minority. Susan, heavily armed and with her day’s worth of shopping, wants to get home to her boyfriend, but when some dead dude siphons the gas from the tank of her car, the going gets tough. Stranded, she first has her car stolen by "The Preacher Man" (Robert Wells), an undead religious leader, and later, at a "safe house," she lives through a blood-spattered shootout as the only remaining living person before finally getting home to find that her mildly good-looking, mentally unbalanced boyfriend Dan (Daniel "Smalls" Johnson) has slit his wrists....
The film includes a variety of wonderfully gory, truly perverse blood-and-guts scenes, the best undoubtedly being a pregnant woman getting her belly shot through and then giving birth to her living dead baby (a plastic doll, actually) through the gaping hole in her stomach. Likewise, the scene in which Susan straps a gun around the waist of her erectionless, undead boyfriend (no blood, no erection) and fucks him gets applause for its bravado. But prize winner or not, for all Corman’s supposed inspiration, Shatter Dead lacks a variety of features that are to be found in most of Corman’s low-budget films: continuity, atmosphere, narrative tension and creative visual direction. Much of what is lacking might be traced back to the fact that the film was filmed directly on video and had absolutely no budget, but it seems almost too easy an excuse to explain why the camera direction is so consistently dull and uninteresting, generating little if any visual tension. Similarly, the story is for the most part so predictable that it offers no surprises or suspense; when something happens that one hasn’t expected, the event seems more to lack logic than to be a creative twist of events. It seems that some film festival juries are easy to please....
Truth be told, though, Shatter Dead was made to be low-budget splatter film, and if nothing else, that is indeed what it is. So watch it for the gushes of blood and forget about any other qualities. Night of the Living Dead (1968/trailer) it ain’t; nor, for that matter, is it The Little Shop of Horrors (1960/trailer), but blood splattered it is.

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