RetarDEAD DVD Review
Written by ZigZag
DVD released by Brain Damage Films
Written and directed by Rick Popko and Dan West
2009, Region 1 (NTSC), 100 minutes, Not rated
DVD released on June 2nd, 2009
Paul Weiner as Sheriff Duncan
Beth West as Agent Hannigan
Dan Burr as Dr. Stern
Rick Popko as Deputy Rick
Dan West as Deputy Dan
Having survived the Poop Man attacks of 2003's Monsturd, the residents of Butte County resume what they hope will be a normal small town existence. Local police are faced with mundane tasks like tracking down an elusive peeper named the "Weenie Wagger." The town is forced back into the realm of the extraordinary, however, once the Poop Man's creator, Dr. Stern (Dan Burr) returns with a new evil plan. By taking a teaching job at the local special needs high school, Stern is able to experiment on his students, turning them into geniuses. Unfortunately, there is a pesky cannibalistic zombie side effect. Mayhem ensues.
Rick Popko and Darren West are back in a big way. RetarDEAD, their sophomore effort is an epic film that, according to their website 4321 Films, took five years to make. The results are chaotically uneven, but at times enjoyable. The premise is familiar, yet, when coupled with the potentially offensive title, stands out from the crowded video shelves solely on name recognition.
The cast is heavily stacked with faces from Monsturd (none of them particularly strong actors), but rounded out with bizarre cameos ranging from filmmaker Mark Pirro (Deathrow Gameshow) to musician Jello Biafra (The Dead Kennedys) and an opening narration is provided by horror legend H.G. Lewis (Blood Feast). Additional cameos filter throughout the production, most notably a sequence featuring the Living Dead Girlz troupe.
The special effects are indeed pretty special. Given the absence of budget, the acquisition of artist Ed Martinez (The Dead Pit) is a fun surprise. Every penny provided is lovingly sprayed across the screen in some of the brightest red blood seen in many years. The zombies are a traditional blue shade, and the amount of gags attempted is pretty sweet. Not every gag wins a prize, but they definitely get high marks for the effort.
Although I was not immediately satisfied, I found myself thinking back on this film days later. The jokes are non-stop, and the dialogue is highly quotable. The biggest problem comes in the form of a sluggish pace, where jokes are followed by dead air — perhaps waiting for the raucous laughter to subside? Another pass in the editing room could easily shave ten minutes off this film's bloated running time.
4321 Films gives a vibe of the "little company that could", an independent effort by filmmakers that want to please the crew as much as the audience. The talent is not of the highest quality (on either side of the camera), but the good-natured tone keeps the finished film afloat despite the occasional sinking elements.
Video and Audio:
The full screen picture is presented in the original 1:33 aspect ratio. There is not any real problem with compression, but a 4x3 hard matte would have provided a more aesthetically pleasing experience.
The 2-channel audio does not fare much better, since volume levels may need adjusting during some dialogue scenes.
Although there is not a commentary track or trailer, the available special features are quite nice. Twenty minutes of deleted scenes and outtakes are followed by a seventeen minute look behind the scenes with an emphasis on the special effects. Rounding things out, a two-minute photo reel followed by trailers for various titles from Midnight Releasing.
The guys at 4321 Films are having a fun time making movies with their friends, and their enthusiasm is infectious. Never taking themselves too seriously, but determined to entertain no matter how low the cost, these guys have created a fun community of characters in Butte County. Monsturd may be a stronger film, but RetarDEAD offers more of the shenanigans that you should expect from such punny guys. It is a safe bet that a third chapter is already in development.