Almost 2 years after my initial viewing of Brian Clement's MEAT MARKET, and nearly a year after I crowned the movie the B-Independent.com 2001 Underground Movie of the Year, it's a little hard to believe that I'm coming back a third time to comment on this exploration of cult cinema archetypes and cliches, this time writing about the new DVD release from Sub Rosa Studios.
First off, the DVD contains an edited version of the movie. Gone are the genitalia shots found on Clement's pre-release VHS edition. Personally, I can live with that. If the removal of some of the more explicit sex can get Clement shelf space at Best Buy and Circuit City, then more power to him. Besides, the site of Clement's turgid pal makes me feel pretty damned inadequate anyway.
To the best of my knowledge, all gore is left intact.
Compared to other Sub Rosa DVD's, this one is a let down in the Extra Features Department. Titles such as SHATTER DEAD and EIGHT LEGS TO LOVE YOU were jam packed with behind-the-scenes materials and content. MEAT MARKET contains only a photo gallery and a Clement commentary track where along with FX artist Nick Sheenan, Clement humorously details the production of this underground classic as well as its literary and cinematic origins.
You can also find two hidden extras from the original pre-release VHS including Clement's original introduction for the film as well as a clip of a young man attempting to remove his make-up. Even with the skimpy nature of the extras, a great movie is still a great movie and should always be the main attraction in any presentation.
The video quality is a noticeable improvement over the VHS, which is pretty much a given due to the nature of the medium. If MEAT MARKET 2 is given the same treatment and improvement of image quality, that movie will arguably be one of the most beautiful looking SOV titles ever to makes its way to DVD.
It's been a tough year with competition being exceptionally high for B-Independent's Underground Film of the Year. Great works such as LETHAL FORCE, BLOOD FOR THE MUSE, TRACK 16, and GO TO HELL were some of the shinning stars in a year filled with truly brilliant work from many talented voices. Each of the previously mentioned films are more than deserving of the title. They are all engaging, balls-out efforts that lay it on the line and go for broke. After viewing, they resonate with the audience either emotionally (BLOOD FOR THE MUSE, TRACK 16) or physically (LETHAL FORCE, GO TO HELL). Even more important, they aren't afraid to leave viewers behind if they can't understand the point.
But this year's Underground Film of the Year goes even farther. Just like last year's RADIO FREE STEVE, this year's winner isn't afraid to play with the medium and toy with the audience. Viewing is only part of the game, the rest comes from trying to sort out the pieces and figuring out their meaning. This film is a commentary of the very process of genre-based movie making.
Brian Clement's MEAT MARKET is genre-blending exploitation elevated to high art while remaining 100% pure entertainment. In a world populated with citizens too self-absorbed and lackadaisical to care, let alone notice, Lesbian Vampires stand side by side with Mexican Wrestlers to do gory battle with bloodthirsty zombies. Heroes are so lifeless that viewers can't tell the difference between them and the creatures they fight. And the sex is a penetration shot away from full porn.
Like Paul Verhoven, Clement keeps everything over the top, but he never looses sight of the satirical punch each element holds. Every shot, every line is hyper-stylized to the point of parody, but never crosses the line into full-blown mockery.
If it weren't for RADIO FREE STEVE, I would have bestowed last year's title to Clement's EL CORAZONE DE LA MEMORIA, a film about the very freedom of youth. EL CORAZONE proves that there are things worth fighting for, you just have to open your eyes and take a look around. MEAT MARKET is a different approach to the same subject matter. I have to quote Ferris Beuller, "life moves pretty fast. If you don't to take a look around every once in a while you could miss it."
I could go on for pages writing about why MEAT MARKET is deserving of the title UNDERGROUND FILM OF YEAR FOR 2001, but you should seek the movie out to really see what I'm talking about. MEAT MARKET isn't pretty or polished, but it possesses raw power and enlightenment beneath its veneer of sleaze. It make me proud to enjoy b-movies.
Below is the original review from earlier in the year.
Successful parody is tricky to pull off. Anyone can see clichés and poke fun. A great parody must be able to not only understand these conventions, but love them as well. From there the filmmaker is able to elevate the jokes from simple one-liners and sightgags to double-edged commentary on society and film culture.
Written and Directed by Brian Clement
Argenta - Claire Westby
Shahrokh - Paul Pedrosa
El Diablo Azul - The Abominator
If it weren't for end of the year entry RADIO FREE STEVE, chances are I would have named director Brian Clement's EL CORAZON de la MEMORIA (aka THE HEART OF THE MEMORY) as the Best Underground Film of 2000. Clement took history and used it to show us how our futures might turn out if we loose sight of the sacrifices our forefathers made. Clement took youthful invulnerability and showed us that history is made only as dreams are lived. Clement's skillful and subtle touch was able to mold EL CORAZON into a small, inspirational masterpiece. Clement's follow up, MEAT MARKET, is an ultra-stylized send up of zombie films. In the end I can't think of two films that appear as total polar opposites.
Nothing about this film is subtle. It is up front about its intentions to deliver the consummate exploitation picture. For Clement's recipe you start with hoards of lumbering zombies graphically chowing down on tasty, inner-city Canadian cuisine. Mix in three breathtakingly beautiful lesbian vampires who graphically show their affections. Add in one badly dubbed Mexican wrestler who graphically forearms and dropkicks the heads off of his enemies. Then bake it with enough scathing black humor to leave a nasty, bitter after taste. The end result is a deliciously wicked exercise in parody.
The first casualty of Clement's is the archetypal "cool hero." We've seen them a hundred times, the guys so calm that they aren't even phased and their partners are slain in front of their eyes. These are the badasses that walk into a building with guns blazing and kill every man, woman, and child without breaking a sweat. Clement takes that a step farther, his heroes are so lifeless and wooden that the zombies come off as XTC-fueled ravers by comparison. Clement isn't mearly stereotyping, he's commenting on whether society is already dead and if there is a need to carry on the fight. Why not just give in?
Lesbian Vampires are a staple of European horror. Jean Rollin and Jess Franco have made prolific careers by having nubiles fitted with fangs stalling the story progression and caressing for the camera. This usually represents some sort of sexual/spiritual awaking for one of the involved. Clement takes that very situation and adds a twist, what if both are already dead? Who can grow? Who can change? The answer is no one. The scene moves from homage to introspective reflection by the shift of a single character, yet stays true to the source material. These are scenes gratuitous in nature, but needed to illustrate the most basic of human desires, intimacy. If we can't feel, then we truly are dead.
As for Mexican wrestlers, there isn't really much I can say that would be anything more than nonsense. Those guys are just funny as hell to watch and that's that.
Like the best zombie films, we are never given an explanation as to why the dead are rising. In the greatest zombie film of all time, DAWN OF THE DEAD, Ken Foree retells an old proverb, "when hell is full, the dead will walk the Earth." Perfect. Any explanation other than this is just silly. True parody is referential, never ridiculing. To ask your audience to believe anything more is to insult them. The best audience for a parody is one who loves the clichés as much as the filmmakers do.
Like the great DAWN OF THE DEAD, MEAT MARKET uses a devilish sense of humor to ask very human questions. There were topics I never even touched upon like the promiscuity of today's youth or how government bureaucracy is really killing us all. There is the mindlessness of the MTV crowd and the complexity of family relationships. The real horror of a zombie film is its humanity. Death will eventually come for us all, that much is certain. Whether we will claw our way out of the ground and chase down slow-moving tweenty-somethings is another matter.
There is one thing certain about MEAT MARKET, Brian Clement has made a movie every bit as good as its predecessor.