Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Jeff Fahey Review: Corpses

I was lying in bed last night, captivated by a late-night call-in quiz show. Well OK, an all-night call-in quiz show. One hosted by two buxom ladies, each crying out for the eager voyeurs in TV audience land to call in and attempt an answer to a rather arcane riddle concerning red words in a segment of text. I sprawled enthralled at this piece of televisual bribery (‘watch us, we’ll give you money’), punctuating the void of my mind with the occasional chuckle at people repeating numeric guesses already uttered to no success by other callers. How such triviality as being able to think to oneself, “that individual, Raymond from Essex, is proposing seven as a solution, but I know full well that it is not that as both Ian from Tyneside and Sally from Cardiff guessed that one to no avail” - how it bolsters a man’s esteem in ways that only the great pride at knowing nothing about rugby league can compete with.

It was while sluggishly gripping the wheels of this vertical stance that I heard a faint cry from the DVD player. Its whispers backstroked all the way to my auditories, and the subsequent neural impulses imparted to me a great knowledge. The murmurs were those of Jeff Fahey, fired out of the LED display like B-movie cruise missiles. They said, “Go and see the movie.” But what movie? “Why, Corpses of course,” answers the delectable Jeff, seated safely in the Behind the Scenes featurette on the Corpses DVD. And so it was, and so I did.

This time the locomotive of Fahey has pulled up at the station marked ‘low-budget, indie horror.’ It’s a station that is stopped upon frequently, but whose amenities and staff aptitude varies with the fluctuating regularity of grindcore fed through an oscilloscope. How the disappointment levers are yanked with the irritating vivacity of a young child in such cinematic outcroppings as Darkhunters. Not even the heralded one’s presence could fish that drowning horror charade from its murky depths. But thank the good azure irises of Fahey that Corpses got its swimming certificate as a sprightly collection of raw footage lumbering on a hard drive a long time ago.

In this 2004 movie, a mortician by the name of Fred creates a serum that raises the dead from their deceased condition into something resembling life. Fred’s necropolis is due to be closed, and so his intentions morph from murdering death into using his acquired clan of undead locals to retain his place of residence and employment. Unsurprisingly, they soon start to jog the amuck treadmills like crimson-fleshed Daffy Ducks. Throw into this mix another ingredient of the cogitations of the hapless scientist, his ex-wife, Helen. Grimacing with spite, he aims to win her back. But the thing is, she’s seen the light. Or the blue to be more precise. For she is co-habiting with Fahey’s Captain Winston, police chief and all-round badass. She too vibrates with spite; propelling forward the foreclosure notices with bared-teeth, all with the objective of injecting a multi-chained mall on the currently-occupied land.

This rips us, with nostalgic senses set on stun, all the way back to Mary Shelley’s stitched monster; to the relentless battle with the natural forces of death we’ve engaged in our fiction over the years. With dripping wads of apropos, we cast our metaphoric eyes back to 1985 where Re-Animator loiters, confident in its comedic excellence as a benchmark of a decade rife with great droll horror. Sadly, Corpses sees fit to mimic the eccentricities of Herbert West, even employing florescent green fluid as the substance that grants life, albeit with the slight variance that that life only lasts one hour.

Then there’s the praxis of self-aware nods to Romero, Fulci and company. And even, more recent showcases of zombiedom, such as the startling original Dellamorte Dellamore. They’re all easily delineated from the threads of narrative bustling about here in Corpses. Don’t get me wrong, yes the schlock and unoriginality parasites nibble at the heels of the film, but things are not all that bad. With budget constraints and the independent nature of all things taken into account, we look at the film with the appropriate perspective. After American Movie, how can we not have sympathy with those making movies on bits of fluff tied together to act as a substitute shoe string? Have we learned nothing?

No, we have learned, we have been educated to a necessary degree. Corpses has a plethora of decent shots in its runtime, and a fine sense of pacing throughout. Now I know it’s incredibly geeky to talk about such filmic facets, but just be happy that the ghoul of aspect ratios isn’t rearing its boil-encrusted head in this instance. There is some good potential here, a nice selection of set pieces, and a dash of almost-flair. Alas it suffers the usual malaise of this sort of film-making, from the customary out-of-sync overdubs, to amputated limbs clearly visible under clothing. I won’t discuss the clichéd dialogue and the periodic outbursts of terrible acting.

Enough of this straight-faced film-critic essaying! What about the man we’ve come here to contemplate? In what way does his pewter piece interact with this playing board? Is he up to the standard of that other recent masterpiece Scorpius Gigantus?

Well, of course he is! What sort of insolent query is that anyway? A bunch of superfluous nonsense talk if ever I heard it.

Fahey commands total attention when placed in the pixel square. Despite not having far to go to do so, he makes his counterparts look positively amateurish, which in many cases is the actuality of the situation. But genuinely, Fahey brings a sense of professionalism to the proceedings. You know he’s been around the Hollywood block four or eight times in the yesterdays; he emits the aura of the ripened thespian fruit that he has become. Witness the Fahey lips as they offer querulous ponderance over the state of his lady’s chest - a bosom still factory-sealed from its last encounter with the cosmetic scalpel.

One surprising discovery I made whilst watching this, was that the brides of Fahey have finally transmogrified from an allegory in a past blog entry of mine, into something vibrant, physical and sensual. His daughter here is played by sometime-Troma vamp, Tiffany Shepis, who runs about sporting a nice selection of bras and scant tops. His consort is even more eye-catching, vigorously grabbing at the attention-reins with her dalliances in various lingerie ensembles. A fun dyad of lasciviousness, although they probably wouldn’t be my ideal for a female unification with Fahey. I’d have other preferences, like her from Veronica Mars for example.

Fahey serves up some knee-slappingly good lines, my favourite being, “Christ on a crutch!” at the discovery of some nefarious goings-on down by the local convenience store. Fahey can turn even the most bland combinations of the English language into a fiery retort or declaration.

Things reach a zenith towards the climax when, coping with the burgeoning infestation of out-of-control reanimated corpses, Fahey turns into MegaFahey. This new breed of superhero emerges from his garage, saturated in the blue of his own aura, brandishing an axe, a shotgun and a sickle, plus other anonymous, but nevertheless vicious, garden implements. Topped off with sunglasses, the coolness of which would blind even Arnie on a good day, and a macho cigar clutched in his mouth. This ubermensch goes onto rescue his ladyfriend and daughter, and rip those renegade zombies a new everything. Decapitating at wilful ease, this demigod explodes through the final fifteen minutes with much oeuvre and gusto, beckoning to us with sublime virtue.

So that is it for Corpses, the Fahey train departs on another arduous journey through the mountains of Sci-Fi Channel originals and made-for-TV fare, but it is as full of fuel and enthusiastic passengers as ever. To know that Fahey has been attached to feature in next year’s Tarantino/Rodriguez horror-movie indulgence Grind House, is to know that the Fahey vehicle is taking another step towards its ultimate destination at the summit of cinematic history. I know I have my ticket, get yours before it’s too late.


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