Thursday 4 July 2013

Chopper Chicks in Zombie Town (1989)

Another horror, courtesy of Opai who screened this in a triple bill with 'America 3000' (1986) and a classic episode of 'Knightmare'.  Its big selling-point, according to the DVD box, is the presence of Billy Bob Thornton, who was so excellent as 'The Man Who Wasn't There' (2001) and so Republican in 'Love Actually' (2003), but who's in this so briefly (and at so comparatively young an age) that I didn't notice him at all.  Thankfully the film was mis-selling itself on this point, and had boons in other areas.

I mentioned the film to my friend Rob Reed, who lectures in film and delights in zombies - so, really, his opinions ought to be more valid than mine on this whole topic - and he condemned it as very terrible, to my mind unduly.  Now, admittedly I only saw it because Opai was screening some wilfully shonky B-movies, but I feel there are merits to this film that could be missed by anybody watching it with senor Reed's eye for the undead.  I'd venture that 'Chopper Chicks in Zombie Town' is not really a zombie movie, but a biker movie which happens to feature a zombie attack, and that only briefly.  This is a film about a gang of strong, independent women who have left their lives behind for whatever reasons and decided to tear across America rockin' and a-rollin', and what happens when they inadvertently drive into the old home-town of one of their members.

A midget undertaker manually updates the town's population.
Rural America is still a Western, y'see.
So, there's a gang of bikers, who call themselves the Cycle Sluts.  They reason that's what they'll be called anyway, so they pre-emptively reclaim the phrase.  Their travels may happen to include 'some reeaaal good coitus' (as it's here termed), but it's by no means their raison d'être, and this being a drama and a comedy, rather than a sexy film, it's implied rather than shown.  They roll into the town of Zariah where it so happens that a popular scientist at the centre of the community is arranging murders and reanimating the corpses in an abandoned mine.  I forget quite why he's doing this, but it all seemed relatively sensible and innocent.

The zombies, when they emerge, move authentically slowly, and take most of an hour to shamble the ten or so miles from the mine to the town, meaning the real story of the gang and the people of Zariah can play out with the corpses as a time-bomb, rather than an immediate threat.  And whenever we cut to the stumbling zombies, the incidental music strikes up a comedic accordion rendition of Danse Macabre, which I found to be as enjoyable as it was ridiculous.

I can't remember the character names, but she's the boss.
Wikipedia manages to give a lengthy plot summary with no names in it.
A complication arises when we discover that, half-way between the town and the mine, is a home for blind orphans, fer goodness' sake.  I suppose, in an in-bred town full of murder, such a thing isn't inconceivable.  Endogamous marriage is the primary cause of blindness in Egypt, or so I've heard, oh fact-seekers.  Anyway, the orphans deport themselves well, not being the weepy woobies one might fear in a film of this level of crudeness, but taking up firearms against the invisible menace.  Says one orphan, with an excellent dead-pan: 'Blind, no parents, and now this.'

It's a fun film, and not heartless.  I can see why an advocate of zombies may find that this fails as a zombie horror, and anybody believing the cover and watching for the sake of Billy Bob Thornton would likewise be thrown by the film they get.  The film's about the chopper chicks.  It seems relatively unusual to see a horror film based around female heroes without obviously being geared to a male audience.  It's still a genre I know little, though I seem to be catching up on it this last month or so.

P.S. This is the last Troma film to reach the cinemas.  They made low-budget trash movies before they were cool, and for that they deserve some kind of salute.

Here it is on DVD, if you fancy it.

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