John Bruni reviews Shatter Dead

Shatter Dead 84 min., 1994
Written by Scooter McCrae
Directed by Scooter McCrae
Language: English
My rating: ★★★

GOD HATES YOU.

* * *

The Angel of Death fucks an ordinary woman and gets her in a family way. As a result, the dead now walk the earth, and nothing can stop them, not even a bullet to the head. If you thought the zombies from RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD were hard-cases, you won’t be able to get your head around the zombies living in the world of SHATTER DEAD. Meanwhile, Susan, the protagonist of the story, is trying to get home to her boyfriend.

Not that you’d get ANY OF THIS from watching the movie. Sure, you get a few images that throw you a bone in a sense, but without reading the copy on the back of the box, you would be lost as to what is happening and why.

But that’s all right. The words “zombie apocalypse” encompasses a lot. You’ll be fine. That is, if you can get around the mom-n-pop feel of this movie. It is definitely an independent attempt, and it shows with every foot of film shot (at least it is film; this was shot in 1993, when digital was just a dream).

It’s hard to talk about where this movie goes wrong. There are too many points. However, this film has heart, and that goes a long way, so far that most viewers would be willing to forgive a lot of transgressions on the part of writer/director Scooter McCrae.

First of all, there’s the opening scene, which is just about the most unbelievable sex scene ever put to film. The Angel of Death, by the way, is a chick with a dick. From what we can see, she’s obviously a she, yet she’s fucking the mortal girl doggie style, which means she’s packing something. And if she can get this girl preggers, she’s obviously packing something that shoots a load.

But never mind that. It doesn’t matter, since we never meet the child such a union creates. In fact, it’s barely mentioned later in the film. Instead, we get a pretty cool premise. The zombies in the aforementioned zombie apocalypse? They’re the same people they were when they were alive. Just folks. They’re not lusting after brains or flesh or anything. They’re just undead. You’ll find most of the zombies begging for change in various storefront openings, just like itinerants. And headshots do nothing. No matter what you do to these folks, they’re not going to die again. They’re here to stay.

Meanwhile, there’s Susan, who is fighting to get home to what she thinks will be a normal life. Unfortunately, there’s the Preacherman in her way. He’s a fella who believes that the zombies are God’s new plan. You see, the dead are the new way of life. The point is to get the living to choose of their own free will to join the ranks of the dead because it’s the beginning of a better way of life. Something beautiful is beginning here, according to the Preacherman, played expertly by Robert Wells.

Granted, a lot of the problem with this movie rests with the dialogue, which blows 90% of the time. However, the wooden friends-of-the-director acting can take most of the blame. There are very few exceptions to this rule. For example, Susan is, for the most part, a dead woman. Her empty eyes show us the zombieland she’s fighting through, but here’s the thing: sometimes, she doesn’t need empty eyes to convey aspects of the plot. Actress Stark Raven can’t turn it off when she needs to.

Very few of the actors know what they’re doing, but there are a couple who excel in this way. John Weiner, who plays Jack, the guide at the home Susan finds herself in on her journey, delivers his lines in a very natural way. He’s just one of the guys. Sadly, McCrae wanted him to masturbate at a keyhole, through which he was seeing nothing worth spankin’ it to. There isn’t much sense in a thing like that, but it’s obvious Weiner was stuck with this role. He did the best he could, which is what any director could ask. Too bad it was just a bit part.

However, Flora Fauna knocks it out of the park as Mary, Susan’s roommate. Fauna truly makes you feel sorry for her character. There is just the right amount of desperate sadness to her that completely sells you on her point of view. She’s dead, which is pretty obvious, but as stated above, she’s a regular person. She just wants to preserve her old lifestyle, and all she needs to do this is a bar of soap to stave off the stink of decomposition.

For all of his flaws, McCrae is aware that some people might not want to tune in to his version of the zombie apocalypse. To cover his bases, he fills this film with plenty of nudity. And that goes for both sexes. Not only is there a shower scene between Susan and Mary, but there is later a scene with Susan’s boyfriend, where he bares his cock for the world to see.

SPOILER ALERT: In the film’s most visceral scene, Susan, who has finally found her boyfriend (only too late, because he’s a zombie), can’t let her love go. Since the dead have no blood flow, they can’t get hard-ons. To remedy the situation, Susan straps a gun around her boyfriend’s waist with the belt of his robe. Yes, there is a very graphic scene in which she lets him penetrate her with the gun (full of symbolism, to be sure), but this is the only time Susan actually smiles. It should be mentioned that the mere penetration wasn’t good enough for her; her fingers feverishly work her clit to get the job done. END OF SPOILERS.

That is to say nothing of McCrae’s vision for this movie. There is a particularly beautiful scene in which Susan is dreaming of walking through a cemetery. While the sensible part of her wanders like a robot, the real version of her frolicks like a teenager, all happy-happy-joy-joy.

Granted, there’s a lot not to like about SHATTER DEAD, from the awful sound effects to the cheesy fake guns to the bad acting and continuity problems (to mention nothing of the bad sound quality in general). But when McCrae is on, he’s fuckin’ ON. It’s a movie full of grand ideas and images. Ordinarily, a flick like this would earn a mere star, but like stated before, there’s a lot of heart here. Heart counts for a lot. Heart counts for an entire star here. McCrae’s got a lot to learn, but he’s got a lot of potential here. Don’t let SHATTER DEAD fall by the sidelines. Give it a whirl.

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About John Bruni

John Bruni is the author of DONG OF FRANKENSTEIN (New Kink), POOR BASTARDS AND RICH FUCKS and TALES OF QUESTIONABLE TASTE (StrangeHouse) and STRIP (Riot Forge). His short work has appeared in anthologies like A HACKED-UP HOLIDAY MASSACRE (Pill Hill), ZOMBIE! ZOMBIE! BRAIN BANG! (StrangeHouse) and the critically acclaimed VILE THINGS (Comet). He edited STRANGE SEX 3 for StrangeHouse, and he was the editor and publisher of TABARD INN: TALES OF QUESTIONABLE TASTE. Find out more at www.talesofquestionabletaste.com and www.talesofunspeakabletaste.blogspot.com.
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One Response to John Bruni reviews Shatter Dead

  1. Lackey says:

    Never heard of this one…might have to check it out.

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