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FleshEater (Vinegar Syndrome) UHD/Blu-ray Review

    Ian Jane

  • FleshEater (Vinegar Syndrome) UHD/Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: April 26th, 2022.
    Director: Bill Hinzman
    Cast: Bill Hinzman, John Mowod, Leslie Ann Wick, Kevin Kindlin, Bonnie Hinzman, Heidi Hinzman
    Year: 1988
    Purchase From Amazon

    FleshEater – Movie Review:

    Directed by and starring Bill ‘First Zombie’ Hinzman, 1988’s FleshEater is a low budget 16mm production shot around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, just like George A. Romero’s original Night Of The Living Dead, the film where Hinzman turned in an iconic performance as the first zombie to attack poor Barbara out in that old cemetery.

    In this film, Hinzman essentially reprises his role (right down to the makeup and wardrobe!) as the main zombie when a worker comes across a coffin chained shut out in the woods and decides to open it. That proves to be a fatal mistake, as the zombie chomps down on the poor bastard’s neck, leaving him dead in the brush… until he isn’t, because soon enough he’s wandering around as a flesh eating corpse. This doesn’t bode well for a group of teenagers (mostly played by people who are clearly not teenagers) out in those same woods overnight looking to party down and get it on.

    In true zombie movie fashion, one zombie bites a victim, that victim turns and then bites another and the plague starts to spread. The cops get called out to the scene and it makes the local news, but as our group of intrepid teens start getting whittled away and the horde of undead walkers gets larger, can survivors Bob (John Mowod) and Sally (Leslie Ann Wick), who take solace at a Halloween party happening nearby, make it through the night alive?

    Made on an obviously modest budget and with a cast and crew that may not have had as much experience as you’d expect, FleshEater is, warts and all, a lot of fun. Hinzman, clearly a little older than he was in the original Romero film, is a blast to watch as the impetus for all that happens, skulking about and tearing out throats, ripping off clothes and just generally making a bit old pest of himself. He’s far and away the best part about the movie, the rest of the cast is just sort of there, but for the most part they make perfectly fine zombie fodder.

    The production values are okay. The gore is, thankfully, done the old fashioned way with red paint and organ meat and the movie is all the better for it. It’s also pretty plentiful, as a lot of people get killed in this movie! Hinzman also throws in some unexpected nudity courtesy of a few of the nubile actresses cast in the picture, upping the sleaze factor a fair bit by doing so and adding to the movie’s exploitative qualities.

    The movie might owe more than a little bit to Night Of The Living Dead, originality is not a strong point here, but Hinzman and his team, to their credit, did churn out a pretty entertaining B-movie with FleshEater.

    FleshEater – UHD Review:

    FleshEater comes to UHD in an HEVC encoded 2160p 4k transfer with HDR10 “newly scanned & restored in 4K from its 16mm original camera negative” and framed in its proper 1.33.1 aspect ratio. It’s hard to imagine the movie looking much better than it does here. Detail is very strong, the film’s natural graininess completely intact but never distracting, things resolve very nicely here. There’s really strong depth to the picture and the color reproduction is excellent. There are no noticeable problems with any compression artifacts nor are there any issues with obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement. The image always looks properly filmic and natural, but at the same time, it’s pretty much spotless in that, while the grain is there, there isn’t much in the way of print damage at all. FleshEater looks fantastic on UHD.

    The 24-bit English language DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio mix on the disc is also very good. Everything is clean, clear and nicely balanced. There are no problems to note with any hiss or distortion and the dialogue always sounds nice and clear. Optional subtitles are available in English only.

    The only extra on the UHD is a brand new commentary track with cinematographer Simon Manses, composer Erica Portnoy, and producer Andrew Sands. It's an interesting track that ties the production of FleshEater to George A. Romero's The Amusement Park (which will hopefully get a proper Blu-ray release one of these days), how each participant came to know and befriend Bill Hinzman, what Hinzman was like to work with both as an actor and a director, how and why the filmmaker got various family members involved in the production, where various scenes were shot, what the Pittsburgh filmmaking scene was like at the time, what the different cast and crew members were responsible for during the shoot, effects work, budgetary issues and their thoughts on what works in the film and how they feel about it decades after it was made.

    That commentary is also included on the Blu-ray disc in the set, which also contains a host of other supplements, starting with Zombie Nosh LLC which is an interview with producer Andrew Sands that runs just shy of the twenty minute mark. He speaks about how he came on board the production, Hinzman wanting to take advantage of the colorized Night Of The Living Dead movie, his own connection to Romero in his younger days, how he wound up being a producer on the feature, what he did on set and the family vibe that existed throughout the making of the movie.

    Cinematographer Simon Manses is interviewed in All Roads Lead Back To FleshEater, an eighteen minute piece where he talks about working with Romero on Amusement Park and learning as he went on that production, then working on a few other Romero movies before then taking the gig on FleshEater, the film's quick production schedule, what it was like on set and how he wound up appearing in the movie.

    The Family Continues Remembering Bill With Bonnie Hinzman is a seven minute piece where Bonnie Hinzman, Bill's widow, talks about her relationship with him and with Romero, how they came to collaborate and the films that Hinzman would work on without Romero's involvement.

    Carnage in Compositions interviews composer Erica Portnoy for eight minutes to cover how she came to get the job creating the score for the film, he education and what it was like working on a film that was, at times, somewhat limited by budgetary constraints.

    Actress Heidi Hinzman is interviewed in Family Of FleshEaters for nine minutes. She talks about appearing in the film when she was just a kid, how much fun she had on the set and enjoying getting into makeup, her father's legacy and how much he truly loved his fans.

    Crushed Pink Grapefruit Brain gets special makeup effects artist Jerry Gergely in front of the camera to talk for almost fifteen minutes about being influenced by Savini and Dick Smith, how he got into the effects business, how he wound up working on FleshEater in Pennsylvania after moving to Los Angeles and what went into creating some of the props and gore effects featured in the movie.

    To Live and Die In PA is an interview with actor John Mowod where, over nine minutes, he reviews how he came to know Hinzman, getting cast in the film, what the director was like to work with, how things were on set and how he feels about the movie in hindsight.

    Unit manager Paul Giorgi is interviewed in Meatballs And Missing Actors, an eight minute featurette that goes into detail on his connection to Romero, how he came to know Hinzman and appear in the film, some of the difficulties that he and his team ran into on set, how one cast member simply vanished during the shoot and how the low budget affected the film's catering.

    Minor Budget Majorette interviews hair stylist/makeup artist Terrie Godfrey for seven minutes about how she landed the gig on Hinzman's The Majorettes shortly after graduating from beauty college only to wind up starring in the movie, how she got to know and become fond of Hinzman and what she was responsible for on FleshEater.

    Last but not least, the disc includes an extensive behind-the-scenes still gallery, menus and chapter selection options.

    As far as the packaging for this release goes, Vinegar Syndrome offers up some reversible cover sleeve artwork and, for the first four thousand copies purchased directly from Vinegar Syndrome’s website, a super awesome limited edition embossed slipcover designed by Robert Sammelin.

    FleshEater - The Final Word:

    FleshEater may not feel like the most original zombie film ever made because it’s not, but despite the fact that it’s pretty derivative, it’s also a whole lot of good, gory fun. Vinegar Syndrome has done a fantastic job bringing the film to UHD and Blu-ray with an excellent presentation and a really solid array of supplements that document the making of the picture, making this one easy to recommend to anyone with a love for old school zombie movies.

    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized FleshEater Blu-ray screen caps!

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    Ian Jane
    Last edited by Ian Jane; 05-16-2022, 08:29 AM.
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