It's September 29, 2002. For the past 3 weeks I've sat down at my computer and started to write a review for Scooter McCrae's zombie film SHATTER DEAD, and each time have failed miserably. It's not that I had nothing to say, I had plenty (and all of it's pretty damned kiss ass), the problem is I have to nothing new to say. Any praise that can be heaped upon this movie has been do so in spades over the years, and every bit of it is deserved. This movie takes the zombie sub-genre and turns it into high art.
Produced, Written, and Directed by Scooter McCrae
Director of Photography - Matthew M. Howe
Susan - Stark Raven
Preacher Man - Robert Wells
Dan - Larry Johnson
Mary - Flora Fauna
The very first time I sat to write this review, the following words came out: "Scooter McCrae's SHATTER DEAD is to underground film what George Romero's DAWN OF THE DEAD is to more mainstream efforts, the epitome of intelligence in horror cinema."
I'm still not sure what I meant, maybe it has to do with the deep thought Scooter put into the concept, taking the sub-genre and turning it on it's ear by giving the zombies souls. The "what if" scenario examines the definition of what it means to be human, to live on this mortal plain and take life for granted. Its existentialist nihilism had me reflecting upon my own mortality, and the inevitable conclusion.
Can you think of another movie that has forced you to do the same?
Neither can I.
When SHATTER DEAD first hit the shelves so many years ago it was seen as a revelation to both fans and filmmakers alike. It's an underground film subverting mainstream thought. It's modernest in construction, almost an anti-horror film with a conscious effort not to contain any conventional scares. SHATTER DEAD defies genre labeling: thought provoking social drama, absurdist comedy, surrealist road film, Shakespearian tragedy. etc... This is not a movie you can easily lock down, it truly defies description.
The response to the films resurgence has been mixed. Just recently, two filmmakers I know rather vocally wished they had the insight to make a movie like SHATTER DEAD. Their viewing experience caused them to re-examine their own work and see the intellectual elements that are lacking. Those filmmakers found true inspiration in this 10 year old film.
Conversely, a horror enthusiast recently railed on SHATTER DEAD for it's technical shortcomings. I feel sorry for the gentleman as he clearly didn't get the point, and I doubt he ever will. This isn't an isolated event, during the Spring 2002 Chiller festival I found myself in a room full of fellow writers trying to give SHATTER DEAD the revisit. The technical shortcomings pulled us farther and farther out of the films vibe until we reached a point of total disinterest.
I didn't get it then, but I do now. SHATTER DEAD isn't a "party movie." You can't enjoy it with the company of others and expect to both enjoy the movie and have a good time. You have to watch SHATTER DEAD in silence, allowing yourself to take in the nuances and rhythms, questioning them as they unfold, and applying them to your own world. Then, and only then, should you discuss the movie. Not debate, but discuss. Examine how others react. The emotions created. Ask yourself what elements worked and what didn't. Question the themes. What would get you through the day while your body rotted off your bones simply because The Angle of Death impregnated a mortal woman? Would it be a bar of soap to wash away the smell?
I asked myself that question, what would get me through the day. I have no answer, but I do know what I would miss the most. When I close my eyes and just concentrate on my body, I can feel my heart thump blood through my body. Like a thousand drums in a Beethoven symphony, my heart beats loud and strong. Living, just knowing I was alive, is what I would miss. Everything I didn't do when alive, that I couldn't do dead, is what I would miss. Maybe that's what so inspiring about SHATTER DEAD, it makes you want to be alive.
If you haven't seen SHATTER DEAD, pick it up, I would love to discuss it with you. See the movie first, then come back to me.
The DVD presentation is phenomenal. Sub Rosa is quickly becoming one of the leaders in DVD horror presentation. In addition to behind the scenes footage, and a tour of Scooter's apartment where the movie was shot, there are three commentaries tracks. To be honest, I've merely sampled the Scooter-only track. There's also one with Scooter and D.P. Matthew M. Howe which I haven't listened to at all. The primary track consists of actors Stark Raven, Robert Wells, Marina Del Rey, Larry Johnson, and Scooter, and is perhaps the greatest anecdotal DVD commentary of all time...albeit an out of sync one. Full of self-deprecating stories of 1992 angst, the commentary connects to a time close to my heart. Starting film school around the same time myself, I can relate to what everyone was trying to accomplish. I can even look back with the same embarrassment.
The only thing negative I can say regarding the disc is the lengthy clips between disc functions. The 4 minute intro. The 90 seconds snippets of Stark Raven wandering around. There are others, but you get the point. Hopefully next time Sub Rosa will realize that cramming features onto a disc is one thing, but keeping us from the viewing material is something else entirely.
Sub Rosa Studios