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Meat Market   C

Sub Rosa Studios

Year Released: 2000
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Director: Brian Clement
Writer: Brian Clement
Cast: Claire Westby, Paul Pedrosa, Teresa Simon, Chelsey Arentsen, Cam Pipes, Ken Peters, Clifton Mitchell, Bryn Johnson.

Review by Michael Scrutchin

How can a film that pits two super-cool rebels, three lesbian vampires, and a masked Mexican wrestler against a world overrun by flesh-eating zombies feel so uninspired? Maybe it's because writer-director Brian Clement's motivation for piling on the B-movie clichés isn't so much in the name of parody, commentary, or homage as it is in the name of laziness. After all, how much thought does it take to steal elements of a dozen horror and exploitation films and put them in a blender to puree?

In Meat Market, an epidemic of bloodthirsty zombies is spreading fast. Well-armed ex-security agents Argenta (Claire Westby) and Shahrokh (Paul Pedrosa) scour the city knocking off the living dead and trying to find Argenta's sister, who is probably already one of them. In their travels, they run into three leather-clad lesbian vampires packing heavy artillery and welcome them into the fold. Eventually they pick up a kooky Mexican wrestler to round out their zombie ass-kicking squad. Sure, it sounds like fun -- and occasionally it is -- but this is a film that's merely going through the motions, borrowing elements from Romero, Fulci, and other staples of horror and exploitation (yes, there's a fair amount of exposed female flesh here) without finding its own voice amid all the tired clichés. Just because the filmmaker has his tongue firmly in his cheek doesn't automatically make the film a brilliant commentary on B-movie conventions.

Then again, maybe I'm missing something. While the cardboard characters and lifeless acting inspired in me nothing other than occasional boredom, Allen Richards at offers an interesting take on this: "The heroes are so lifeless and wooden that the zombies come off as XTC-fueled ravers by comparison. Clement isn't merely stereotyping, he's commenting on whether society is already dead and if there is a need to carry on the fight."

Nice analysis, but I didn't see it. Color me skeptical.

Meat Market isn't bad, though, and there are sequences here to indicate that Clement is a filmmaker to watch. An impressive tracking shot early on shows the chaos overtaking a parking deck as zombies munch on hapless prey, police open fire, and a couple of cars go up in flames. It's quite a spectacle for a movie that was made for less than two grand. Indeed, the film looks great for what it cost, as the barren cityscapes, ruined interiors of abandoned buildings, and sandy wastelands deliver a convincingly apocalyptic atmosphere. The gore and violence is also pulled off relatively well, but when I don't give a damn about any of the characters and film isn't working as a parody, it tends to get monotonous.

The DVD from Sub Rosa Studios includes a commentary track with writer-director Brian Clement and special effects artist Nick Sheehan, along with a photo gallery, trailer, and some easter eggs. On the commentary, Clement says that Meat Market 2 is better and I hope I agree with him. With Meat Market, I can see that Clement is a talented director -- and if this is a case of a filmmaker stumbling before finding his footing, I certainly won't knock him for it.

Review published 12.15.2002.

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