Sunday, January 6, 2008


In 1964, the same year he graced the world with ingenue Roy Schieder in THE CURSE OF THE LIVING CORPSE and the rubber-suit gem THE HORRORS OF PARTY BEACH, writer-producer-director Del Tenney made a wooden black-and-white zombie opus called VOODOO BLOODBATH, which languished unseen for several years until grindhouse guru Jerry Gross changed its title to the far-catchier (and less accurate) I EAT YOUR SKIN and slapped it on the bottom half of a now-classic double bill with David Durston's I DRINK YOUR BLOOD. Easily the lesser of the two films--I'm sure drive-in audiences of the early seventies found its bone-dry antics a sharp letdown after the lurid gore of BLOOD--SKIN barely registers as a blip on the bad-movie radar, but I've found that as time goes by I've come to enjoy this snoozefest quite a bit.

Nostalgia, I'm sure, plays a pivotal role, since it was one of my earliest forays into classic "bad" cinema (I can even tell you when: October 1991, when my aunt picked up Rhino Video's version of both this and Richard E. Cunha's SHE DEMONS, hosted by Elvira, for me for Halloween), though the film itself is not without its charms. Bestselling author Thomas Harris--believe me, this tidbit isn't quite as amusing in the wake of HANNIBAL RISING--spends his days poolside at swank Miami resorts, spouting off endless passages of his half-baked softcore prose to legions of fawning groupies. He's dragged by his editor to Voodoo Island--ostensibly to gather research for his latest book, though I suspect it was preemptive action to keep him from impregnating half of Miami's desperate housewives (seriously, I realize it was the sixties, and Harris is supposed to be a James Bond-ish type of charming rogue, but he's really a fucking pig)--luring him with promises of poisonous snakes, zombies and a ratio of five girls to every guy, which our Jonny Quest with a hard-on is eager to partake.

Harris and co. find themselves at the tropical home of Dr. Biladeau and his virginal daughter Jeanine, who Harris actually waits until late in the second act before boning. Dr. Biladeau initially began experimenting with snake venom as a means to cure cancer, but inadvertently created a small army of oatmeal-faced, bug-eyed zombies (I'll say this for B-movie scientists, when they make mistakes they certainly manage to fuck things up royally).

What little action I EAT YOUR SKIN has consists mostly of long dinner conversations, a couple of repetitive native voodoo rituals (a few critics have complained that Tenney treated his African-American characters with the usual racial insensitivity, but I didn't see that), and Harris shmoozing with every female in sight with the sleazy tenacity of a pedophile on Facebook. The zombies are admittedly kinda cool, for the three minutes of screen time Tenney grants them, and the cheesy-spooky soundtrack accentuates them nicely.

There's little in the way of adventure and intrigue--God help you if you're actually looking for scares--and it's hard to recommend it (the old Just 4 the Hell Of It catalog flat-out called you an asshole if you ordered it), but I EAT YOUR SKIN still has a fond place in my fetid little heart. It's movies like this one that are the reason I could care less about more respectable fare like THERE WILL BE BLOOD.

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