Eaters arrives on DVD, but is the Italian zombie flick anything more than a flashback to its notorious predecessors? Mark investigates.
If the glorious heyday of stylish Italian ultra-gore has been rotting like a corpse in the graveyard of essential late seventies/early eighties low budget horror, then no-one has thought to inform the enthusiastic two-man filmmaking dynamo constructed from the very much living flesh of Luca Boni and Marco Ristori. The Italian duo compensate for a lack of financial funds with a flair for exhilarating and well executed gore, and a talent for constructing a convincing post-apocalyptic canvas upon which to splatter their vivid slashes of flowing crimson. What Boni-Ristori are yet to learn, however, is that for a post-apocalyptic zombie flick to thrust its putrefying head above the shuffling corpses of its vast throng of undead rivals, something more than stylish gore and action is required. To put daylight between Eaters: Rise of the Dead and its competitors, this tale needs more humanity.
The hell-on-Earth spectacle opens in slick yet familiar fashion, as we’re treated to the usual array of grim doomsday news reports, and sprawling global confusion. A layer of intrigue emerges at this early stage, as we discover that the disease wiping out the world’s population has apparently dispensed with the female population first, and that the Pope has had enough and dispensed with himself.
As the movie progresses along such lines, a number of themes are hinted at; there’s the inadequacy of the lonely male, as women are all but absent; the ill-treatment of the zombies at the hands of the disgusting neo-Nazis (they delight in their invention as they execute the zombie ‘race’); and the fallacy of the religious ideology generated by a character known as the ‘Plague Spreader’ as a vacuum occurs with the death of the traditional and established religious infrastructure.
It’s clear to see that some of the themes are intentionally prodding at established values; the religion of the post-apocalypse world, for example, is obsessive, and calls for people to unquestioningly embrace with shuffling apathy its demented rhetoric. A reflection of the pre-apocalypse world? Maybe. Yet I can’t help but feel that whilst such themes are intentionally woven into this mainly straightforward story, any efforts to explore them to suitable depth remain absent, eschewed in favour of some often juvenile banter and an action-based approach which would have imparted improved impact with more judicial usage.
Fortunately for our enthusiastic Italian duo, the visuals carry the movie through its lows and tedium with almost unerring pace. Save for some ill-advised CGI towards the close of the picture, Eaters… is a visually rich visceral treat for the gore-starved post-apocalyptic zombie fan. Whilst the cash was in short supply, Boni-Ristori have done well to conceal the gaps with many scenes of eye-watering brutality and an uncanny knack for the almost artistically captured grotesque. Behind the fast-moving scenes of offal-drenched carnage, a beautiful Italian vista burns slowly, the sky a morbid grey, and the landscape a devastated corpse. In terms of visual bang to buck, Eaters… delivers high returns.
In short, Boni and Ristori have crafted a convincing vision of a post-apocalyptic nightmare. Their collective eye for well-executed gore proves impressive, yet with the human element conspicuously lacking, we’re left with a certain sensation of disconnect as the carnage unfolds. If the Italian duo can inject humanity into their characters with the same gusto they demonstrate for eye-popping splatter, their next project may transpire to be a more rounded and enjoyable prospect.
With such high quality horror visuals on display in this carefully crafted shocker, it seems bordering on the criminal to adorn the DVD case with artwork which betrays the enclosed contents. This UK edition of the film contains cover art which would be more fitting for a low budget comic, and whilst I have some affection for certain low budget horror artwork, the cover here really does contrast nastily with the quality of the visuals contained within. I’m especially confused, as the DVD releases of Eaters… in other countries are presented with artwork far more fitting with the feel of this film, with its deceptively low budget roots.
The transfer suffers from no such issues, however. Presented in the original aspect ratio of 2.40:1, the picture benefits from a real high definition feel, with the detail being captured with remarkable accuracy, whether documenting facial features, beautiful sprawling landscapes, or the gruesome entrails of the latest victim. Don’t expect vivid colours though; whilst the representation of colour is strong, this movie portrays a post-apocalyptic world, and as such the colour spectrum here is intentionally washed out, with shades of green and brown dominating. The blacks here are absolutely solid, and sometimes the darker scenes can feel a little overbearing. As a result, the world portrayed by Eaters… is just how the directors surely intended.
The only issue I noticed was around 1 hour 20 minutes in, where a small amount of pixelation, followed by some anti-aliasing crept in.
English subtitles, which can be toggled on or off, are included here, and prove well positioned and unobtrusive.
The audio on Eaters, which is available in either 2.0 stereo or Dolby Digital 5.1, is as well presented as the visuals, with the sound proving clear and accurate throughout. The various gunshots and explosions, of which there are many, thud and pop with enjoyable intensity, and the surround sound track proves especially absorbing.
The only real issue I have is with the musical soundtrack. The music itself is reproduced well with no perceptible issues, but my complaint here is that the musical accompaniment is overused; barely a scene goes by without the music dominating proceedings. It’s not that the levels are poor – they’re not; the problem is that the film loses some of its impact thanks to the barely ceasing music. A little restraint would have proven effective here.
It’s somewhat ironic that the central failing in Eaters… is the immaturity of the character development and lack of humanity, as the guys behind this low budget splatterfest are likeable, self-effacing characters bursting with enthusiasm and energy, despite the considerable toll the movie has clearly taken on them! A 33 minute piece, Making of ‘Eaters: Rise of the Dead’ features Marco Ristori and Luca Boni discussing the evolution of the movie from ever-developing teaser trailers through to the finished product. They also mention the importance of the infamous Uwe Boll, who committed to distributing the film via Event Film Distribution, were the guys to commit to completing it successfully. Boni makes a point of defending Boll against the tide of criticism that has come his way, and explains that Boll was neither producer of the film, nor put any money into its construction.
The piece continues to show the beautiful Rosella Elmi discussing some of her less than comfortable moments in front of the camera, and we’re treated to a scene with Rosella in rather undignified pose on a hospital table – although she still manages to carry things off with remarkable grace. We are also afforded an insight into many of the technical details surrounding the creative filmmaking process, including the use of the Canon 7D camera, which explains the high quality of the images, thanks to the full HD nature of the device.
Note that the subtitles here don’t appear to have been created by the same people as the main feature, as there are quite a number of errors. An example is the use of ‘witch’ instead of ‘which’. This is a small criticism of course, and not as damning as had this affected the main film itself.
A rather effective, if short (3.48) VFX Breakdown piece demonstrates the post production efforts, filtering techniques, and special effects (including computer generated elements) which lend the film its requisite atmospherics. Since the visuals take precedence over all other aspects of the production (including the human and emotional elements which would have elevated the film to greater glories), this makes for an absorbing little slot. Of particular interest is the conversion of the sunny Italian landscapes into brown/grey doom-ridden nightmares.
Finally, there’s a Trailer which will leave you in little doubt as to the gory nature of the movie.
A true labour of love, creative independent Italian filmmakers Luca Boni and Marco Ristori craft a zombie flick which outperforms its low budget zombie rivals in the stylishness stakes. The visceral visuals and ripping audio are excellently reproduced on Chelsea Film’s transfer, doing justice to the considerable efforts of the directorial duo. Unfortunately, many viewers will find it difficult to bond with the content, with the movie failing to find a beating heart of humanity amongst the hordes of undead flesh. Still, the cumulative result of stylish gore, a slick transfer, and a selection of quality extras make this a tidy little purchase for fans of the low budget shocker.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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