365 Days of the Dead Revisited: The Flesh

(Note: This review was initially posted as Day 223 of 365 Days of the Dead. Again, the complete archives can be found at http://www.365daysofthedead.blogspot.com.)

One of the more interesting aspects of 365 Days of the Dead was interacting with filmmakers whose work I’d reviewed. Some, like Mike Lombardo of Reel Splatter Productions, went on to become good friends; others called me a meanie poopie-head for saying anything negative about their baby (“My mom said the ending was good!”). Several weeks after I posted the following review I received an email from John Demars, the short’s director; not only did he respond to my scathing critique without resorting to childish name-calling or excuse-flinging, he thanked me for including his work alongside that of Romero and Fulci. It was a refreshingly professional and mature reaction, one you rarely see in the ego-entitled realm of student and amateur filmmaking. Hell, had I known he’d be such a good sport I wouldn’t have been so hard on him (so much for journalistic integrity, I suppose).

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Yet another student short zombie film, this time for a 2007 production class at NC State. According to director Johnny Demarsico, the assignment was to create a two-to-three-minute “narrative film.” Well, I don’t think Demarsico quite grasped the concept of narrative, since the term implies the presence of a story–something that THE FLESH definitely does not possess. (And don’t even try to argue that length was a factor, lest I beat you upon the head and shoulders with a copy of Michael Arnzen’s excellent flash fiction collection 100 JOLTS.) I’m just hoping Demarsico’s professor graded him on technical and not creative accomplishment, otherwise somebody’s financial aid is getting rescinded.

Demarsico shot THE FLESH in 16mm, so at least the film doesn’t look like shit, but unfortunately that’s really all it has going for it. Well, that and foxy brunette Angela Guinane as a terrorized jogger, but when a character is so oblivious she doesn’t notice a zombie RIGHT BEHIND HER not once but three times in as many minutes, it makes you yearn for a real scream queen like Debbie Rochon (who would’ve torn some shit up, even in a piddling affair like this).

Yet even in a film as complex and profound as a toothpaste commercial, Demarsico manages to screw up the minimal gore (such as a shallow or non-existent arm wound–depending on the angle–that spews blood like a severed artery) and soundtrack; though filmed without natural sound, sparing us from the presumably miserable dialogue, THE FLESH lifts for its score Goblin’s DAWN OF THE DEAD theme (which has not only been co-opted ad nauseum by amateur productions, but in this context it’s like using Michaelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam” for a paint-by-numbers class) and the Cranberries’ “Zombie” (a good song, but laughable in its inappropriateness).

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