After working as a production assistant to Frank Henenlotter on Frankenhooker and Basket Case 2, Scooter McCrae made this as his first movie. He’s only made two others since then — 1999’s Sixteen Tongues and 2015’s short Saint Frankenstein but man, every single one of them is astounding. And upsetting in a way that no shower can erase, no distance can take away.
Shatter Dead starts with a female Angel of Death making love to a human woman, stopping death from being real. Into this world walks Susan (Stark Raven) carrying a bag of groceries and anarsenall of weapons that she uses to pick off the living dead that get too close to her. Except these zombies don’t want brains or flesh or anything other than money and for someone to pay attention to them, making this as far from a zombie movie — that features zombies — as it gets.
After a preacher and his flock of the shambling masses steals her car on a country road. Soon, she meets Mary (Flora Fauna), an undead woman who committed suicide so that she could remain gorgeous for all eternity. There’s also a cult of religious zombies in this town that wants everyone to be dead and has no issue killing people to get them that way.
Susan runs from this insanity, making her way back to the preacher, who she shoots in the head and steals her car back. I guess that whole idea that death is better than life and how the old humanity is ending is now something that the man of the cloth can now live for himself.
By the time she makes her way back to her boyfriend and has the food for him, she learns that he’s already killed himself and come back from the dead. The blood no longer flows through his body, so to make love, she ties her gun to his crotch and takes it. She soon discovers that he’d poisoned her milk — add this to my Letterboxd poisoned milk list — and he tells her that now she can always be young and beautiful for him. She tries to shoot herself to ruin that but ends up blasting away at him, sending him out of a window to the unforgiving street below.
The preacher fixes wood all over Dan, allowing him to stand and walk almost as the Son of Man carried his cross. Susan tries to use water to bring life to her now dead eyes as Dan knocks and knocks, begging for her to let him in.
Shatter Dead is a movie with a vibe that corrects any issues of acting or pacing or shooting. It’s so different when it comes to not just SOV but movies in general.
McCrae told Quiet Earth, “I still love Shatter Dead because it’s just as crazy and sexy as it has ever been in my mind. In fact, I think it feels a bit more excessive now than when it was first made since there are not as many underground movies flooding the marketplace as there were back then. Explicit nudity and matter-of-fact sexuality seem more foreign to the current movie-going climate. What was shocking back then just seems unthinkable now, Shatter Dead feels like an artifact of a bygone era of moviemaking that I have a good deal of nostalgia for. I do wonder what modern viewers make of it.”
McCrae had originally titled this movie Dead People, which is ironic, as if this movie feels like any other film, it would be Messiah of Evil, a movie McCrae had not seen before he made it. Of that unheralded classic, he said, “I love the film immensely; I think in many ways it’s the closest thing we have to an American-made Dario Argento movie in terms of extreme stylization. So many beautiful shots of people wandering through rooms or standing next to paintings that they appear to become part of or disappear into.”
Trust me — Messiah of Evil is an untouchable work of Biblical level truth — but this movie gave me the same feeling that it exists on the very edge of something horribly real, at the outside of sanity, beyond the walls of my reality begging and screaming to be let in. It’s too real despite living in a world of unreal.
This movie really hit me perfectly. The end of the world is not gnashing and gnawing. It’s sighing.
You can get this from Saturn’s Core, a Vinegar Syndrome partner label.