Shatter Dead (1994)

Once upon a time, in a world far, far away, digital technology did not exist, or at least, was in its infancy. Thus, an obscene amount of a film’s budget would be spent on buying film stock, renting out heavy, clunky cameras, and having the film processed at a lab. In these dark times, often only the independently wealthy and very talented had a shot at making a half decent film outside of the studio system.

This does not mean, however, that the poor and untalented didn’t try.

Scooter McCrae’s Shatter Dead (and no, that’s not a typo) is, for the time it was made, a very ambitious zombie film with an intriguing premise but a lousy execution. The hermaphrodidic angel of death, for whatever reason, rapes and impregnates a human woman, and the resulting paradox – death creating life – results in a situation in which souls remain in their bodies after death (this interpretation is based on promotional material; all the film gives us is a scene of a big-titted butch woman doing something to a skanky petite woman from behind, and the resulting orgasm causing wings to emerge from the butch woman’s back).

Seventeen months later, the world has been divided between the living and the dead, with the sentient dead treated as second class citizens and forced to live on the street. Susan (Stark Raven), our heroine, is trying to navigate through a near abandoned town in order to get home to her boyfriend Dan (Daniel “Smalls” Johnston). Much of the film involves Susan trying to avoid the undead, who often appear as normal, friendly beings whose status can only be determined by catching the fog of their breath (or, rather, the lack thereof) on a reflective surface. There’s nothing generally malicious about these undead; they aren’t zombies in the traditional sense, and their only real crime is the belief that being dead is somehow preferable to life, despite the fact that they often have to resort to theft in order to provide for themselves. However, an uprising led by the preacher (Robert Wells) stirs them to kill off the living in order to perpetuate their numbers.

The majority of the film traces Susan trying to return home, including frequent run-ins with the preacher and his brood. In one instance, the undead swarm her after a breakdown, however, instead of eating her brains, they annex her car. In another, Susan finds shelter at a suburban house, which is later invaded by dead revolutionaries, who promptly kill off the family living there.

I’m not in the habit of giving spoilers, but since this is Necrophilia week, I can’t go without mentioning the film’s most controversial scene. After finally making it back to her apartment, Susan discovers that Dan has committed suicide. At first angry that hubby is now a member of the living dead, she gets over it quickly and insists the two of them have sex (all that surviving makes a girl horny). Unfortunately, a lack of blood pressure (after having slit his wrists and emptied the contents into a bathtub) means Dan can’t get his small Johnston up and working. Not to be deterred, Susan loops a cord through the trigger of her gun and around Dan’s waist, creating a makeshift strap-on. The resulting penetration by nozzle is pretty graphic, but not really erotic.

The lack of budget is painfully obvious. The acting is god awful, and names like ‘Stark Raven’ and ‘Flora Fauna’ suggest the cast isn’t used to working in an upright position. The shot on video (or, as the Cinema Snob would aptly put it, shot on shittio) doesn’t help. All this I can forgive – after all, these are often the elements that often make bad movies fun. What I can’t forgive are the scenes that run on way too long, the arty, pretentious shots of angels, et cetra that the director uses to pad out the running time, or the fact that the main character isn’t likeable or interesting, and by the end we don’t really care if she succeeds in her goals or not. All in all, its an intriguing concept that’s hampered by the limitations of it’s budget.

What I learned from Shatter Dead:

  • A gun is not only a fitting metaphor for a penis but an acceptable substitute as well
  • Selling your arm for medical experiments will leave you a little short-handed
  • Autopsies belong on prime time television
  • Undead fetuses take 17 months to gestate
  • The angel of death has a large rack
  • The undead revolution will be led by Howard Stern

Since I can’t find a trailer on Youtube, I’m showing the home invasion scenes instead:


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