365 Days of the Dead Revisited: The Stink of Flesh

(Note: This post initially appeared as Day 23 of 365 Days of the Dead. The complete 365 Days archives can be found at http://www.365daysofthedead.blogspot.com.)

Zombie films get the Penthouse Forum treatment in this 2005 release from writer/director Scott Phillips. Taking the apocalypse-survival scenario and turning it on its, um, ear, FLESH seems on the surface just another slice of sleaze and gore. But the more exploitive elements are simply a mask to a surprisingly serious look at the complexities of human relationships.

Kurly Tlapoyawa is Matool (given the subject matter, a dirty pun as much as a Fulci reference), a bespectacled badass who prefers a hands-on approach to killing zombies. He’s taken to a ranch house in the New Mexico wasteland by Nathan (Ross Kelly), as a playmate for his wife Dexy (full-figured beauty Diva). You see, Nathan and Dexy practice an “alternative lifestyle,” something that’s been rather difficult to do with the world being overrun with the living dead. It seems like the perfect situation for everyone; days are spent killing zombies, while at night Nathan watches as Matool services Dexy (accompanied by Dexy’s sister Sassy, who’s got a Belial-like “twin” attached to her side). Everybody’s happy, until a trio of soldiers show up, one of them infected by a zombie bite, looking for shelter. And though it’s Christmas for Dexy with a couple of extra studs on hand, Nathan starts to experience the first pangs of jealousy.

THE STINK OF FLESH rises head and shoulders above the usual ultra-low-budget fare, thanks mostly to the skill of director Phillips (it doesn’t hurt that he’s had extensive film experience, his resume starting with RED DAWN). He presents Nathan and Dexy as real people, treating their relationship as an honest expression of human sexuality; he does an admirable job with all of his characters, in fact, allowing their interpersonal relationships to develop and drive the story (the only exception is Sassy, who really isn’t defined beyond her deformity, and is poorly-acted to boot). And though Phillips refrains from making a cheap T&A gore picture, he does throw in a few gruesome elements (such as the naked zombie girl Nathan keeps chained in the barn) and raunchy humor (most of which is actually funny). My only real gripe is the ending which leaves a couple of issues unresolved, but doesn’t really detract from the unsettling conclusion the story’s been building up to.

In a market deluged with shitbombs like DEAD CLOWNS and DIE YOU ZOMBIE BASTARDS!, THE STINK OF FLESH stands out as a shining example that a movie doesn’t have to be unrelentingly stupid just because it has no money. I’m looking forward to seeing Phillips’s follow-up, GIMME SKELTER.

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