When viewing micro-budget films, you have to go into it with the understanding that you are not going to be seeing the same kind of slick production values that you get with Hollywood films that have budgets in the tens or hundreds of millions. Because of this, I try to be fair and cut a certain amount of slack in terms of production aspects that could not be helped due to the budget, like footage quality, set design, amateur actors, etc. I do however still hold filmmakers responsible for choices within their control such as the script, actors they chose, and production choices made.
Flesh of my Flesh starts with a zombie outbreak in a hospital and then moves forward in time eighteen months for the main storyline which takes place in an abandoned city overrun by zombies. A three person rescue team, lead by Major Erick Vaas (Matthew Martin), is tasked with finding survivors and becomes stranded in the city when their helicopter is shot down by a zombie with a rocket launcher (!). They are then taken in by a small group of survivors in a bunker and have to work together to figure out a way to escape the city before the whole thing is leveled by the military in an effort to control the outbreak.
If this sounds overly ambitious for a film with a small indie budget, it’s because it is. When your resources are very limited it’s wise to play to your strengths and focus on a character-driven story with limited locations and an innovative concept that will hold your audience’s attention so much that they are willing to overlook the rougher edges of the production. It’s less wise to have an elaborate high-concept story that involves blowing up multiple helicopters and buildings. These effects unfortunately draw a lot of attention to the budget of the film, or lack thereof, and the final result ends up being more like Birdemic than Black Hawk Down. This was definitely a case where the director would have been better off finding another way to get the protagonists trapped in the city rather than attempting effects he could not pull off.
Also, I understand and appreciate that it is hard to find actors willing to act in a low-budget film and I’m not trying to be mean or pick on one actor but I just could not get past Matthew Martin’s performance. Honestly, no one was knocking it out of the park here but I really feel that the leading man of the film especially needs to have the chops to really pull you into the story and there truly wasn’t a moment that I didn’t feel like I was watching someone who was, painfully, trying to act.
Now, in case you think I’m simply being excessively negative here, I do want to mention a few of the things I did enjoy about the movie: I liked the idea of the kid zombies playing a game where they stand in a circle shooting each other over and over again because they cannot die. I enjoyed seeing one zombie rip another one’s arm off and eat it in front of him. To that end, I also liked it when one zombie ripped the head off another one and smashed it on the ground like a watermelon. Probably the most interesting part though was the zombie head that one of the survivors was keeping alive by feeding parts of it’s own body. Since in this film the zombies actually regenerate lost body parts it kept trying to re-grow the rest of it’s body starting with a spine which would have to be clipped from the base of the neck every few days to stop the regrowth. Gross, and cool.
And that’s really the basis of this film, a few cool, interesting ideas scattered throughout a movie that unfortunately is mostly a cliched, standard zombie film with a very low-budget feel. Without anything really creative or innovative to set it apart, I can’t see the reason to invest time into watching a film like this when you could simply watch one of the many zombie flicks it’s trying to emulate and be far more entertained by higher production values. I also feel like if a film like Wyrmwood could be made for $160,000 and look amazing then no one really has an excuse for blaming poor production values on lack of resources.
The real tragedy of this film is the ending though. Now, I won’t give anything away but suddenly, in the last scene of the movie, it becomes cool, really fucking cool! I remember thinking “Fuck! Why couldn’t the whole movie have been like this!?” Let me tell you, if it had been, I would have given the film very high marks indeed and I assure you it would also find a cult following in no time. The final shot itself is also so amazing, not just from a conceptual point of view but even from a technical one that I can’t believe it’s part of the same movie. It does give me hope though that writer/director Edward Martin III could be capable of some really great, interesting work. He simply needs to branch out into a far more bizarre, abstract and creative direction and then I think he could be capable of contributing something raw, gruesome and significant to the horror genre.