October 01, 2007

Best Zombie Flick Ever Produced for Under $30,000

DVD coverWhen I rented the low-budget zombie horror-comedy Hide and Creep I wasn't expecting much. If anything, I figured it would be another one of those movies that's so bad it's good for cracking a few jokes and then forgetting about the whole thing soon after viewing.

I was thus quite surprised to find that despite the whole movie being shot for a total budget of less than $30,000 and including some of the cheapest zombie makeup ever, Hide and Creep turned out to be a hidden gem. It's got a wicked sense of humor based on only the slightest exaggeration of small-town Southern culture and feels like what might happen if George Romero and Kevin Smith collaborated on a project. The directors, Chance Shirley and Chuck Hartsell, are clearly influenced by both and genre fans won't be disappointed in what they came up with.

The story is set in the small town of Thorsby, Alabama. A UFO has appeared and kidnapped a couple; the opening scene is of a naked guy in a tree trying to figure out how he got there. While we never find out how the UFO and the zombies are connected, they are somehow and it isn't long before they begin invading. Dead guy!  Call Chuck.The first attack takes place in a video store wherein the owner is listing off classic zombie flicks to a caller who has what seems like a bizarre theory about why the videos have all been rented already. If you've never seen a zombie clubbed into unconsciousness with a VCR, Hide and Creep is worth seeing for this alone.

The movie is laced with references to George Romero's Night of the Living Dead, including a protagonist named Barbara and a zombie who looks just like her brother from that movie. The character is such a touch, total bitch that she quickly became my favorite, although the other main protagonist, Chuck, is a close second because of some of the lines he delivers. For instance, in one Kevin Smith-like moment, Chuck goes to a diner for breakfast and orders a Coke. When asked if Pepsi would be OK, he delivers a diatribe of the sort that I've always wanted to speak but never actually have.

Is Pepsi okay. Is. Pepsi. Okay? No, ma'am. It most certainly is not. Pepsi, the so-called choice of a new generation, is nothing but a charlatan. A fraud. An impostor, and a poor one at that. The Pepsi-Cola company has somehow, through years of advertisements featuring well-known recording artists and pseudo-scientific research, convinced the world's population that Pepsi-Cola is comparable to, if not better than, Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola being the first carbonated cola drink, truly the real thing. You know, I've been another place where they don't let you choose what you want to drink. Red China.
Barbara's coming to get you, they! As a Southern man, Chuck isn't just obsessed with soft drinks, of course. He also fumes over local TV stations canceling the broadcast of a college football game just because the world may be coming to an end. Michael, the naked guy in the tree at the beginning of the movie, obsesses over the love of his life — a "64½ Mustang" that he's been restoring and without which life isn't worth living. There's also Rick and his gun club, the main function of which appears to be watching the Spice Channel without Rick's wife finding out. The scene in which Rick gives his daughter fatherly advice about how to shoot an intruder before asking to borrow her night goggles shows a bit of potential for the writer someday giving us some classic dialog. Perhaps best of all is the skewed look at Southern religion, with the church as a much-utilized repository of public property and general hypocrisy. The scene toward the end of the movie in which Reverend Smith delivers his sermon on the wonders of people showing up is one of the film's funniest moments.
Well. Well. Well. Is today Christmas? Is it Easter Sunday? Well? Is it? Somebody tell me! Then tell me who or what I can thank for this wonderful turnout! I mean, I can't remember the last time I've seen this many people in our little country church. Where have you sons of bitches been hiding and what brings you here today?
Zombie Girls Gone WildHeck, we even get one scene's worth of hot girl-on-girl zombie action. How can you go wrong? And unlike most of the low-budget zombie flicks hitting DVDs lately, this one was actually shot on film rather than with a cheap hand-held camcorder. It makes the film look a good deal more polished than it otherwise might have and allows for some actual consideration for production values — thing like lighting and blocking, little details that elude most of the down-and-dirty stuff that comes out these days.

When all is said and done, Hide and Creep is a very promising first effort from directors Chance Shirley and Chuck Hartsell. I'd like to see what one or both of them could do with a real budget, which they richly deserve based on this film. Investors need to pony up for these guys. It doesn't appear to be the case that they've found this cash yet, though. Chance Shirley is currently at work on another low-budget feature with the working title Interplanetary. He's writing a production blog for his latest effort, Everybody on Mars is Dead. I've subscribed to the blog and look forward to reading about the travails of an independent and under-funded director's effort to make his second full-length movie, and I'm also looking forward to seeing that sophomore flick. If Hide and Creep is any indication, it's quite possible that Shirley and his Crewless Productions will someday deliver us some classic horror... especially if they can find some investors.

Horror fans with disposable income might just want to keep that in mind.

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