Playing out as if it’s been filmed on a budget only slightly higher than a week of the pocket money allocation I enjoyed in 1985 – which even at that time was extremely modest - Zombeak! makes no secret of its mischievous intentions from the opening squawk. Even if you somehow ignore the absurd title, the scarlet 70’s exploitation style cover (replete with screaming maiden), and the puntastic tagline (‘Evil Most Fowl…’), the team have still insisted on proudly screaming self-awareness by presenting an exclamation mark at the end of the film title. For all of that, is Zombeak! an enjoyably camp horror comedy caper, or does it only provide a paltry contribution to the bargain basement poultry-horror subgenre?
It’s evident fairly early on that Zombeak! will play to its nano-budget charms, and the daft plot revolves around the shallow, shrill-voiced, yet gutsy and attractive blond, Melissa (Melissa K. Gilbert), a waitress at the ‘Cooters’ (yes, ‘Cooters’, rather like ‘Hooters’) fast food joint. Whilst wagging her shift and canoodling with dippy boyfriend Bobby-Ray, four local Satanists draw up in a hearse, and after some fisticuffs, the verbose, profane damsel is snatched and dragged back to the filthy Satanists’ lair for use as a sacrificial vehicle for Old Nick himself. Events inevitably degenerate further into chaos as Bobby-Ray (Jason Von Stein), boss Max (Jimmy Lee Smith), and evil sheriff Fasmagger (Nathan Standridge) hunt down the trio, only to discover that the spirit of Satan has passed through Beezlebub gang leader Leviathan (Daryl Wilcher), and into the dead body of a chicken whose throat was sliced earlier as part of the sacrificial ritual. Cue an onslaught of badly lit, jerkily filmed pandemonium revolving around the almost hilariously unconvincing evil chicken.
Zombeak! is, in almost every way, awful. The script is weak and littered with far too much profanity. The effects, especially the CGI-based ones, are shoddy and cheap. The lighting (or lack of) is frustratingly inadequate, making it truly impossible to see some of the action with any clarity. The filming is basic, the sound is recorded with a lack of balance – making some dialogue difficult to pick out, and the voices regularly exhibit distortion. The wailing screech of the possessed chicken on its own may well be enough for some viewers to submit to the considerable allure of the remote control.
Yet it’s undeniable that on some sort of depraved and grubby level, this ridiculous flick has the merest flicker of charm. Some of the one-liners are vaguely amusing, the performers clearly have fun with their demented roles, and some of the effects, whilst technically appalling, are vaguely reminiscent of some moments in early classic underground horror. The moment where the shotgun removes a head, for example, delivers the barest modicum of shock value. Other enjoyable shock moments include the satanic ritual itself, and any scene featuring psychopathic giant Samual (played with disturbing glee by Barry Bishop), who insists on parading around the ramshackle house with a pink pentagram t-shirt and a red Satan mask, calling people his “mummy”.
It certainly comes as something of a surprise that, much as this mercifully short and braindead flick leaves a vacuous, gaping chasm in the space that your IQ used to inhabit, you may almost, on some strange level, garner an embarrassing affection for the atrocious bargain basement trashcore sleazefest. It’s technically awful, but it knows it, too, and as such your rock bottom expectations may just have been elevated a little before the 72 minutes are up.
The disc is region 2 encoded. The action has been captured on digital video, with the resultant aspect ratio being 1.33:1. This makes for a frustrating viewing experience. The picture is often inconsistent and the colours can seem washed out, but the real problem is that the darks don't always seem solid, yet the lighter shades are not sufficiently distinct to enable us to see the action when the frequent dark scenes are being displayed. I suspect the transfer is actually fairly true, and that the issues are related to the original source itself.
Audio is lo-fi and shoddy – but is probably more related to the production of the film itself, as opposed to the transfer. The sounds are apparently recorded in Dolby Digital 2.0, but much of the action sounds almost mono, and the levels are poor as the reproduction is often distorted. Dialogue is sometimes poorly defined, but again, this is likely due to the recording of the movie itself.
Worst of all, the soundtrack has moments where it falls out of sync with the picture. We need a huge slab of reality suspension to enjoy this movie; sync’ing issues do not help!
There’s a handful of trailers, plus a theatrical trailer for Zombeak! itself.
If you watch the main feature through to the end (and I’m going to have to assume many viewers will not), then it’s worth watching the credits, where a number of bloopers are cut in. These demonstrate that the actors and crew really did have as much fun as we suspected producing this picture.
Just before the end credits close, there’s a suggestion that Zombeak! 2 will cluck its way to us at some point.
I’ve seen nothing on the cards to suggest this may be in production, so you’ll have to control yourselves for the time being, Zombeak! obsessives.
You’ll feel as though you need to give your brain and a body a thorough scrubbing down after watching this grimy little underground schlocker, but on a budget that would make the Troma guys guffaw smugly, Zombeak! just about scrapes enough dirty charm for those who enjoy possessed chicken horror romps. Squawk!