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Movies Eddie McMullen Jr. Review by
E.C.McMullen Jr.
Wasting Away
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Wasted Pictures
Rating: USA: N/A
Sometimes it just happens. You come across a movie that is totally bent. You know that such a movie is more than - and less than - the tale it tells. You know that there is just something a little whacked about people who would even make a movie like it. People like Lloyd Kaufman for example; the South Park guys, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, are another. There is just something warped about everything they do. It's one thing to watch a movie made by folks who set out to do something weird. It's another when you have David Lynchian weird. As outta step as Johnny Depp. As far over as Crispin Glover. And you recognize it from their very first flick.

WASTING AWAY opens with a seemingly old black and white Army research film. And this is complete with sprocket jumps, bad splicing and even run frames from torn film jerking the latham loop! I'm used to seeing film makers adding film grain, scratches, and even film burn to their digital movies for effect. But the blur of run frames from losing your latham loop?

Anyway, the scientist, Dr. Richter (
Jack Orend: AMITYVILLE: A NEW GENERATION) has a volunteer soldier and is about to introduce the effects of his Super Soldier fluid. Despite the fact that this is supposed to be a black and white film, the serum's odd green color stands out. The volunteer gets injected and... Success? HELL NO! The serum has the unfortunate effect of sending the soldier into a painful epileptic fit and dying on the table. The scientist, having immortalized his failure and the death of an innocent man at his hands on film, is disturbed and contrite as you would expect, but not for long because the dead soldier re-animates, breaks his bindings, and tears into the nearest soldier. Frightened, the scientist shouts "CUT! CUT!" and the film burns in the frame.

Yes, welcome to another zombie comedy.

Next, still in black and white, we see the scientist putting huge labels on drums of his formula, renaming it "baby formula" and shipping it out via top secret delivery. Unfortunately, the driver gets lost, has a fight with his navigator, and the truck crashes: a lone barrel rolls away.

And rolls...

And rolls...

It rolls through the city...

It rolls down alleys and across streets...

And rolls... (
I hope you get the movie reference by now)

And comes to rest against some food crates outside of a Los Angeles bowling alley. Green fluid spills out of the drum, soaking into the boxes of food.

Some guys come out to bring the boxes in because this is what they use to make frozen soft serve ice cream. It is here, inside the bowling alley, that we meet,

Tim (
Michael Terry), shy and bashful, he's friends with Cindy (Betsy Beutler), and would like to be a lot more to her. But he's too shy too express how he really feels to her and she's too demure to make the first move. Tim's best friend Mike (Matthew Davis: BELOW) doesn't suffer such problems. Tim is a slacker and chooses to remain that way as he feels destined for great things. He doesn't know what they will be, but he doesn't want to be busy with something else when those great things come along. This doesn't help in his relationship with straying girlfriend, Vanessa (Julianna Robinson). Vanessa isn't looking for another guy, she's looking for another life while Tim grows old in his self-imposed holding pattern.

Tim is also the practical joker and maker of mixed foods. When someone takes a hotdog bun, fills it with M&Ms, and pours nacho cheese over it, and EATS IT, this is a maker of mixed foods. When he sees the oddly green soft serve ingredient, he gets the idea of mixing it with beer and making a beer-cream-cone. He shares his new concoction with his friends, all four of them get horrific ice cream headaches, and merry mishaps occur.

Or so you would think! They come out of it in living color - what happened to the black and white(?) - feeling a little weird but none the worse for the wear. All the same, they all got sick and passed out, so it's best to call a hospital. Thing is, nothing but a high speed garbled shrill of a voice comes out of the receiver. It drives Cindy nuts so she tears the pay phone out of the wall, then stands there stunned to realize she was capable of doing it.

The four friends decide to drive to the hospital but Tim accidentally tears his steering wheel right off of the column. What the hell? So they walk. They walk and see these three guys shooting the shit on a late night by their car. The friends approach, asking for help. But as they approach, the three men turn to the friends and, in black and white, we see what they see. The four friends are staggering, slow moving zombies, saying nothing but long drawn out moans. The men run away screaming. But to the four friends, the three men run away really fast and scream like fleeing mice. Confused, they decide it must be the local drug of choice, PCP.

But it's not, they are assured. A pudgy guy steps up and tells them that he is a secret Army operative, Nick Steele (Colby French: THREAT MATRIX [TV], HEROES [TV]), and that the whole city is getting shut down by quarantine. Why? Because of the accidental release of an army experiment gone wrong. People in the city are turning into zombies. Those people who just ran away at inhuman speeds? Zombies!

Of course, we know who the real zombies are and its only a matter of time before these five realize it too. Until then they'll be shot, stabbed, sliced, beaten, blown up and come back for more because, after all, they're zombies! Oh, and this also follows the cliche to a "T' of Evil Scientists and Evil Military (you can't lampoon Hollywood Horror without it) in the form of the Army officer who is trying to keep the lid on the zombie outbreak, Colonel South (Richard Reil: LOST, HATCHET, RED). He and Dr. Richter hold top secret discussions about the zombie plague - in full uniform - at Mexican restaurants. Presumably because the people there don't understand english.

WASTING AWAY is the first zombie flick I've seen where the story is told from the perspective of the zombies. Turns out that they aren't mindless after all, it's just their brain waves are much slower, so we can't understand them and they can't understand us. They also have an inexplicable craving for our flesh that even they can't understand.

Director and co-writer Mathew Khonen wants to lampoon the hell out of 1980s teen horror flicks (the popular trend of the moment) and with the assistance of his brother, co-writer, and producer, Sean Kohnen, worked to create this mini-masterpiece. The idea is good, the characterization is good, the movie is fun even when it isn't funny. None of the jokes fall flat, but too often there is unnecessary lead time after a punch line that didn't deliver enough sustained laughter to warrant the quiet moment waiting for it to die down. It's better that the audience laugh over the next line and wonder what they missed (and so want to see the movie again) than for the movie to pause too long after the laugh, or just the smile, has faded. There were some stand out moments for me, including the late night "job interview" at the potential boss's house. Joel McCrary (ALIEN RAIDERS) plays the salacious lawyer, Mr. Mark Kanan, with hedonistic relish.

This picture is skewed! When the only way to settle the romantic differences between zombies and a bunch of drunk humans (the only ones who can understand what zombies are saying and vice-versa) is to have a Bowling contest, 1980s montage-style, you know something is warped.
WASTING AWAY doesn't need a bigger SFX budget, just a little more time in the editing bay. But that said, this is still a fun, cultish, oddball movie!

Three Shriek Girls.

Shriek GirlsShriek GirlsShriek Girls
This review copyright 2009 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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2008 Audience Award for Best Film




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