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Dead Meat

A rural Irish setting and mad cow disease plot hook do surprisingly little to distinguish fast-moving but routine zombie flick "Dead Meat." Mix of chills, gore and humor lacks inspiration hewing to "Night of the Living Dead's" basic template with energy but without suspense -- let alone wit or character involvement.

With:
With: Marian Araujo, David Muyllaert, Eoin Whelan, Dave Ryan, Amy Redmond, Kathryn Toolan.

A rural Irish setting and mad cow disease plot hook do surprisingly little to distinguish fast-moving but routine zombie flick “Dead Meat.” Mix of chills, gore and humor lacks inspiration hewing to “Night of the Living Dead’s” basic template with energy but without suspense — let alone wit or character involvement. Still, the enterprising low-budget debut should lead writer-director Conor McMahon to better things and will satisfy undemanding horror fans. Pic has just played short theatrical runs in New York City and San Francisco, though mid-June Stateside DVD release make additional bookings unlikely.

Quarrelsome lovers Helena (Marian Araujo) and Martin (David Ryan) are driving along a picturesque country lane when they run smack into a local. Thinking that they killed him, they put the corpse in the backseat, where it soon “wakes up” to take a big bite out of Martin’s neck.

After dispatching the cannibal for keeps, the badly wounded Martin bids Helena seek help at a nearby farmhouse. But she’s barely reached it when Martin turns up in murderous undead pursuit, which Helena fends off in part by applying a vacuum hose to his eye-socket.

Other zombies soon turn up as well, so heroine flees into the nearby woods, where she’s found by young local gravedigger Desmond (David Muyllaert), who’s already aware of the rapidly evolving crisis that includes mad cow disease, human-biting cows and more. He recommends they walk two miles to his farm and barricade themselves in.

En route they gain a third party member in little girl Lisa (Kathryn Toolan), as well as reluctant saviors in an obnoxious older couple (Amy Redmond, Eoin Whelan).

Pic does move, but is considerably hampered by dislikable characters — nearly everyone here is argumentative and unpleasant –and largely nocturnal, hand-held photography that is far too dark. (This latter debit may have been exaggerated by DV projection necessitated when pic’s lone 35mm print failed to arrive at the Another Hole in the Head fest.)

Tone wobbles between realistic, bad-taste comedy and conventional fantasy. Otherwise, pacing is brisk, gore fairly plentiful, thesping adequate and tech package resourceful on slim means.

Dead Meat

Ireland

Production: A Bedford Entertainment release of a Horrorthon production in association with Irish Film Fund and Three Way Prods. Produced by Edward King. Executive producer, Brendan McCarthy. Co-producer, Michael Griffin. Directed, written, edited by Conor McMahon.

Crew: Camera (color, DV), Andrew Legge; music, John Gillooley; production designer, Cornelius Browne; art director, Jay Graham; costume designer, Leonie Pendergast; makeup, Liz Byrne; sound editor, Fiadhnait McCann; assistant director, Gareth Evans; casting, Three Way. Reviewed at Another Hole in the Head Film Festival, San Francisco, June 6, 2005. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 80 MIN.

With: With: Marian Araujo, David Muyllaert, Eoin Whelan, Dave Ryan, Amy Redmond, Kathryn Toolan.

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