Written and Directed by: : Henry Weintraub
Starring: Patrick OĎDriscoll, Leif Fuller, and Lilly Maher
Reviewed by: Brett G.
ďSomeone's gonna have to put this stick in his ass...Ē
"So it looks like he was raped, stupid!"
"So it looks like he was raped, stupid!"
Appropriately enough, I guess you could say zombie movies have been done to death by now. In fact, there have been so many of them that there are practically sub-genres within it now. One of these is the sort of weird, quirky films that focus on the zombie itself as a character; whereas most zombie films portray them as antagonistic hordes to get mowed down by shotgun blasts, films like Fido and Colin take the opposite approach. Into that same tradition steps Melvin, who also represents the nerdy sector of the undead in this bloody tale of revenge.
Like so many unfortunate geeks in horror movies, Melvin (who probably weighs in as a 98-pound weakling) falls victim to a prank at the hands of bullies. In this case, itís fatal; no problem though, because heís able to come back as a zombieÖand a ghost? At any rate, he makes contact from beyond the grave with another nerd named Norton and basically uses him to get revenge on those who killed himÖand even some random people who didnít!
This is one of those films where itís obvious that everyone involved has seen a bunch of cult movies in their time and have been inspired to pick up a camera because of it. Youíll find all kinds of references to stuff like Army of Darkness and even Shaft; however, itís most obvious that these guys and gals have spent a lot of time in Tromaville because thatís where it feels like Melvin strolled in from. If the title characterís name wasnít enough of a call-back, one of the characters wears a Toxie shirt just to make sure you got it. To hammer the point home, Lloyd Kaufman himself shows up as the title character in Night of the Driller, a movie that the characters watch (on VHS, of course!). These two segments are an especially fun homage to Driller Killer and come complete with Grindhouse-style faux scratches, pops, and over-the-top bloodhsed; itís absolutely gratuitous and only serves an excuse to reference other junk these guys love, but it works well.
Melvin also shares many of the flaws of some of the films that inspired it, such as spotty acting and a fairly weak script that doesnít do a whole lot of interesting things with its characters. It sort of tries though, and the movie might surprise you a bit because itís got a lot more in common with American Werewolf in London than it does any zombie flick. I say this because Melvin appears to Norton the same way Jack visits David in American Werewolf; the only problem is that there really isnít enough time spent establishing the two. The movie does some weird, sort of confusing things with its narrative, as it jumps back and forth in time with reckless abandon before you kind of figure out whatís up. This sort of results in the whole thing being a sequence where the three ďgoodĒ characters (Melvin, Norton, and Melvinís sister) constantly clash with everyone else, who can be separated into two categories: doofuses and assholes.
As such, youíre really just waiting to see the former take revenge on the latter. And it is admittedly some glorious, gory comeuppance with some great splattery effects. Most zombie films are content to have the undead chew up their victims, but itís almost like they turn into the T-800 here, as the undead practically plow through the living. Principal Richard ďThe BullĒ Vernon never dreamed of cracking skulls so viciously. Before I completely misrepresent the film as a simple exercise in gore, I should also note that itís a pretty stylish one that boasts some pretty decent production values. It just would have been nice to see the film do a bit more--I think there was room to make an awesomely poignant Revenge of the Living Dead Nerds type flick had they gone that route; instead, the movie is just an hour long romp that either feels like an unnecessarily padded short or an undercooked feature.
But I guess thatís probably okay too--after all, this is the type of movie that could easily wear out its welcome. Itís obviously crass and exhibits little in the way of good taste, so be prepared. Itís been on the festival circuit for some time and has seen one DVD release already, but Chemical Burn is bringing Melvin home again with a new release this June. The screener provided me boasted a nice transfer and soundtrack, plus an introduction from Kaufman just like the oneís youíre used to seeing on Troma DVDs. Iím not so sure how Troma didnít end up with this one themselves, but itís to Chemical Burnís benefit because this is easily the best film Iíve seen from them so far and is definitely worth a look. Rent it!
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