After being drafted into the army for a two year tour, John Russo came back to Pittsburgh and started working with The Latent Image, making commercial films but always planning a feature someday. Russo crafted a rough idea about a young man stumbling upon a host of ghouls feeding off human corpses, then George Romero wrote forty pages of a story based on that rough concept.
When Russo and George A. Romero parted ways after the movie that ensured — Night of the Living Dead — Russo retained the rights to any titles featuring Living Dead while Romero was free to create his own series of sequels. Russo’s book Return of the Living Dead became the movie. And before that he was already making his own films like Midnight, The Booby Hatch, Heartstopper and The Majorettes, which was directed by Bill Hinzman, the Cemetery Zombie in Night who also directed FleshEater.
Directed by Russo and co-written with Robert Lucas, this film can at least claim that while Russo may not be the father of the modern American flesheater movie, he’s definitely at least an uncle. Or Uncle John, the somewhat still-human undead main character of the film, a zombie who becomes a celebrity in a world that now treats the undead like a different ethnic group.
Shot in the same Evans City cemetery as Night, as well as locations in Clairton, West Mifflin and Braddock, this takes place a half-decade after the canon real events of the first film and now, Uncle John is a horny old man protected by his niece Cy-Fi (using her real name, she’s also in Crucifvixen and the documentary Pola in she plays herself as a rave DJ) and nephew Oscar (Gary Lee Vincent, the 2020 remake of Midnight). Meanwhile, zombie hunter Reverend Hotchkiss (Russell Streiner, the man who once said, “Barbara, they’re coming to get you.”) is hunting him down and a cop named Jane Smart (Sarah French, Art of the Dead) wants to know how he stays alive if he isn’t eating people.
There’s also a right wing hunting camp that wants to protect the Second Amendment and also kill as many zombies as possible. Also, if you love commercial breaks within the film, this has them. It also has Debbie Rochon, Tiffany Shepis, Felissa Rose and Lloyd Kaufman with the Toxic Avenger and Sgt. Kabukiman, which was enough to make me want to shut this off but I got through it.
Jizmak the Gusha from Gwar is in this, out of makeup, as is George Kosana, who played Sheriff McClelland in Night and who is finally called to task for shooting more black zombies than white ghouls. I mean, this film has John Russo in zombie makeup on a sex swing somewhere at a rave party in Braddock along with social commentary and if you’re willing to take that ride, it’s here.
You can watch this on Tubi.