Color, 2004, 85m. / Directed by Marek Dobes / Starring Jaroslav Dusek, Jan Dolansky, Eva Nadazdyova, Anna Fialkova / Mondo Macabro (US R0 NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9) / DD2.0

The finest philosophical zombie gore comedy to come out of Czechoslavakia, Choking Hazard falls somewhere between Shaun of the Dead and Peter Jackson's Brain Dead as far as its gore-to-silliness ratio and, though certainly lesser than its companions, should keep any gorehounds with a sense of humor satisfied. The basic premise follows blind Dr. Reinis (Dusek) and his band of philosophy students who embark on a weekend seminar at the remote Halai motel to discover the meaning of human existence. Unfortunately they're distracted by an invasion of zombie hillbilly hunters who chow down on various members of the group, leaving reticent hero Verner (Dolansky) with the task of fighting off the hungry undead.

As with any acceptable zombie spoof, Choking Hazard delivers most of its pleasures in the details -- a bit odder in this case, as we get a visiting porn star/Jehovah's Witness who thinks he's shown up for a film shoot. The first third of the film is easily the strongest, with a cheeky Evil Dead-style vibe that eventually fractures into a series of random vignettes more akin to the "what the hell's going on?" aesthetics of Demons 2. The philosophical setup promises some amusing material akin to Monty Python, but the filmmakers opt for gory slapstick instead which, while entertaining, makes one wonder what could have been achieved with a bit more attention to character and theme. (Blasphemy, perhaps, but a little brains never hurt a zombie film.) At least you do still get some subtext with the intellectuals pitted against "primal" hunters (who have devolved into an inability to distinguish between animal and human game), with odd hybrids in between like the aforementioned religious sex star and a wholesome kid's TV personality deciding to wield a shotgun. Don't dig too deep though, since this is basically a fun party movie designed to show off how other countries can add their own twist to the ever-increasing ranks of undead comedies.

This installment with Fangoria International's line with Media Blasters features an excellent anamorphic transfer, framed at 2.35:1 (presumably cropped from a wider ratio originally a la Super 35 since this was shot on hi-def video). The stereo sound mix is fine, given the relatively conservative nature of the original soundtrack. Extras consist of an MTV-style featurette focusing on the special effects, a photo gallery, the original trailer (4:3 letterboxed), and promos for other Fango International and Shriek Show titles (Rosso Sangre, Duck!, etc.).

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