In the days before home video there were several filmmakers who were essentially regional moguls, folks like Charles B. Pierce, Earl Owensby and Worth Keeter, or today's director, Don Dohler, who financed, produced, and distributed motion pictures far from the Hollywood system. With the internet age and the ease of acquiring decent home-video equipment (not to mention studios like Lionsgate, who'll dump any amateur production on DVD regardless of competence), I'm surprised there aren't more of them today; maybe there are, and are simply toiling in obscurity, justified or otherwise.
Dohler, a Maryland-based filmmaker, made no-budget pictures until his death in 2006, but he's best known for his horror/sci-fi offerings of the early '80s. FIEND was only his second picture, and boy does it show. Though the 1980 production possesses the same low-rent charm that graced (if that's the word) similar early works by Fred Olen Ray and Larry Buchanan, its mind-bogglingly inept story ruins any chance of a fun, horrific romp.
The story gets underway when a shoddy optical effect--really, what the hell is that supposed to be? It looks like a large, disembodied eyeball--resurrects a corpse in a local cemetery, turning him into a lumbering zombie with glowing red hands. (Yeah, I know Dohler couldn't have afforded Industrial Light and Magic, but at least the poor photographic effects give it a fleeting bad-movie energy.) Now, this could've been a good starting point for a movie, even one as financially-challenged as this one, but Dohler allows too many questions to pop up.
Like, who is this guy, and what is he really supposed to be? What is he after, and how does killing innocent women help accomplish his goal? And most importantly, how does a reanimated corpse buy a house and establish a music school?
I suppose with the right verve and tempo a film could make me forget those questions, but FIEND doesn't have it. A crashing bore of a picture, it spends more time with the dead guy poring over sales records with his lackey or grooving to New Age tunes than . . . whatever it is undead music teachers do. Seriously, Dohler films this guy feeding his cat with the same intensity as the murders.
Now that I've written this review, I think I know why there aren't that many regional producers anymore.