Toxic Zombies (1980)


Nastiness Rating:

Directed by: Charles McCrann
Written by: Charles McCrann


Toxic Zombies is a SUPER low-budget flick about zombies made by some kind of herbicide. The movie opens with a half-naked woman…washing? Dressing? Rubbing herself? I’m not really sure. All I know is that she’s obviously showing off her breasts. Meanwhile, a couple of dudes are running around with guns, sneaking up on her. Suddenly, “STOP! FEDERAL OFFICERS!!” and the now dressed woman gets shot in the neck as she runs away. (What? Wouldn’t you at least fire a warning shot? She obviously was unarmed! I guess I just have higher morals than these guys.)

They go up to the body and say, “Shit! It’s a woman!” and promptly get killed by the other campers, who are now paranoid about their “crop” being found.

Cut to a couple of guys in an office. One of them looks a bit like John Saxon, the other is even more of a no one. They’re babbling about the Federal guys, the toxic herbicide and a map. Then they call up a drunken crop duster (“GIMME THAT PHONE, YOU DAMN BITCH!!” he yells at his wife. He’s a nice guy.)

Soon enough, the weed growers are covered in this herbicide and, of course, turn into zombies, along with the drunk crop duster.

At some point, a couple who are fighting over whether she’s going fishing with him or not end up doing it on their living room floor. (Is flannel really that easily torn?) In a later scene, they’re in bed when their alarm goes off. She: “We have to go pick up Jay.” He: “He EXPECTS us to be there.” They kiss and do it again. Was that some kind of “That’s just what he EXPECTS us to do!” thing? I don’t understand this movie at all.

At some point, there’s a couple of young kids with their family. They go off alone and, I swear, the boy is carrying a freakin’ dildo! The sister shows her brother a bunch of animals.

Yeah, this movie is just that crazy and stream-of-consciousness. It makes my reviews look positively Hitchcockian.

Of course, their parents are killed and they end up finding the two fishermen and the girlfriend. (These folks couldn’t have been too good of parents if they let an obviously mentally-challenged boy carry around a big, pink dildo, so I’m not too sad that they got killed.) They all drive around looking for the parents while treating the girl, who is obviously about 18, as if she was about 10, singing “Old McDonald” to keep her entertained. (Maybe it’s more for the sake of the brother, but it’s still kind of funny.) Then, suddenly ZOMBIES!!

Oh yeah. Remember John Saxon-esque and his buddy? They’re now trying to figure out what’s going on since they can’t get ahold of the drunk pilot. They take off into the woods, looking for the “hippies” (aka, pot growers).

Things get really interesting when our little band of “heroes” meets up with an anti-government hoarder of guns and P-rations. He’s against taking them in because the leader of the little crew is a government man and he’s on the side of the marijuana growers. “I got no beef with them. They wouldn’t attack me.”

Ok. I’m totally lying. It doesn’t get interesting here. It just gets a bit more anti-establishment. The crazy guy gets killed and the rest run off, eventually running into Sexon-esque and his buddy. Of course, these guys want to get rid of any evidence of evil-doings on the part of the government. They take everyone prisoner and things just get worse, of course. There’s a gunfight, zombie killin’s and, of course, a big ol’ climax involving all of the government folks getting taken out either by zombies or our hero.

After that, our hero quits his job with a quick aside to his secretary: “You’re the one thing I’m gonna miss about this job.” Then he kisses her, non-romantically, on the lips. Huh. I don’t think anyone has ever kissed their secretary in such a friendly manner without it being an “I’m cheating on my wife” kiss. I’m not for it.

Of course, we’re left with a feeling that this isn’t the end.

This movie is definitely a cheapie and, in that regards, it’s fairly impressive. The music is HEAVILY influenced by John Carpenter (probably why a Saxon lookalike was hired) and the gore is pretty good, if fairly minimal for the genre. Yeah, there’s a be-handing and a slop of entrails on the ground, but it really just looks like someone threw a plastic hand with corn syrup on it and someone dropped a bowl of corn syrup in front of an actor. Nothing too realistic at all.

The main attraction here is the conspiracy stuff, really. Writer/director/lead actor Charles McCrann was obviously not all that into the government at this point. He didn’t trust them for shit. According to him, if the government does something wrong, they’ll kill to cover it up. While I’m not 100% disagreeing with him, I also think that most conspiracy theories are complete bunk. This movie is, however, definitely a post-Vietnam movie where even government workers don’t fully trust the government. I like it.

Not a bad flick, but it’s hard to truly recommend to people outside of the genre. Hell, even zombie lovers may be a little disappointed because, while these are sort of zombies, they’re not exactly zombies. First off, they’re a bit too smart. They hit people with rocks, stab them, chop off their hands and, strangest of all, pick them up, hoist them over their heads and try to carry them off to kill them off screen. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a zombie do that.

A creepy note to add to the movie: the rights are apparently a bit in limbo, which is why the only DVD release is basically a VHS transfer. Charles McCrann owned the rights up until he died…in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11th. No one seems to know what to do with the movie now. It’s just kind of making the rounds in forgotten space.

Maybe someday there will be a full-fledged DVD release, but the prospects aren’t particularly good since it’s just an obscure movie. I’m just glad I was able to see it in some version. It may not have been the full movie (in fact, I’m sure some of the scenes were cut), but it was worth my time if only to see a semi-decent regional horror flick that, well, didn’t always make sense.

LOW POINT: The aforementioned gut slicing scene. The driver of a truck that had just picked up an escaped zombie victim gets out to investigate a guy on the side of the road. Of course, it’s a zombie. Said zombie lashes out with a knife, slicing the guy’s stomach open. Instead of getting a full view of it, we see the guy’s legs and, suddenly, a plop of red goo hits the road. It looks more like he hocked a particularly nasty, tuberculosis-filled loogie out in front of him.

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