Color, 1989, 90 mins. 21 secs.
Directed by Pericles Lewnes
Starring Lisa M. DeHaven, James H. Housely, Martin J. Wolfman, Boo Teasedale, Anthony Burlington-Smith, Tyrone Taylor, Darla Deans, Joe Benson, Bucky Santini
Degausser Video (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD), Troma (DVD) (US R0 NTSC)

At the height of Redneck Zombieshorror fanzine culture, certain films were seized upon to tout as the next big shocker that would have you and Redneck Zombiesyour buddies reeling. Combat Shock and Nekromantik were among the more high-profile nasty puppies heavily promoted among horror writers, and at the opposite of the aesthetic spectrum we got a brief but enthusiastic push for Redneck Zombies. The result of a network of friends and public access TV participants in Maryland, this wasn't the first shot-on-video genre film on the block, with very lo-fi VHS staples like Blood Cult and Things beating it to the punch. However, this was really the first to be covered and distributed internationally like a bona fide feature film, with Troma giving it the same kind of promotional push as its 35mm flagship titles like The Toxic Avenger. You could easily be caught off guard upon renting this film to find out it was really an SOV film done for pocket change, but fortunately director Pericles Lewnes (an effects guy for Troma) and pals came up with a funny, gore-drenched party movie that still stands at the front of the pack as one of the best SOV films of its era.

The Redneck Zombiesplot here is barely substantial enough to bear repeating, but here goes. An irresponsible stoner military guy is transporting a barrel of toxic waste through the countryside but ends up losing the cargo in a crash. The hazardous material ends up passing through the hands of some local hillbillies (not really rednecks, Redneck Zombiesbut close enough) who clumsily spill it in their moonshine. Feeling adventurous (and obviously not having watched Street Trash), they decide the new brew is fit to consume and undergo a psychedelic transformation into flesh-eating zombies. Meanwhile some city slickers are out camping for the weekend and become the primary targets of the bloodthirsty bubbas as the tainted liquor makes its way through the population. And yes, it has a theme song. Multiple songs, in fact.

As you'd expect from the title, Redneck Zombies largely plays its hijinks for sick laughs as graphic gore gags (including some impressive skull busting) and very politically incorrect comedy aim for a raucous, silly vibe throughout. However, it does have some bits of genuine creepiness, especially the traveling figure known as the Tobacco Man whose mostly shrouded face enhances his eerie proclamations of impending doom. Lewnes himself also has a field day as the most energetic of the doomed hillbillies, while Lisa DeHaven is a real trooper screaming her head off and getting doused in unspeakable stage fluids as our more or less final girl (which is no spoiler since she's seen in an asylum right at the beginning).

Redneck ZombiesAs mentioned above, this one got plenty of exposure upon its release from Troma and still impresses as one of the more ambitious films of its era, complete with a sprawling cast of characters, multiple subplots, and reasonably good production values (given it was made for pocket change on weekends). The Troma VHS was uncut and true to the source, while TransWorld inexplicably released it for a while in a drastically watered-down R-rated version that rendered the whole thing completely pointless. It did add a few scraps from the cutting room floor though to pad out the running Redneck Zombiestime, so at least there was that. In 2009, a 20th anniversary director's cut was released on DVD featuring a soundtrack CD and recutting the film (not for the better) with some of the excised filler footage put in. In 2024, Vinegar Syndrome sublabel Degaussuer Video (devoted to SOV productions) brought the original, superior unrated release cut of Redneck Zombies back into circulation as a very stacked Blu-ray release. It's easily the best the film has looked, taken from what's cited as the "best quality archival tape master" and boasting quite a bit more detail and more robust colors than before. Fans should definitely be happy, and it's hard to imagine it looking any better. The DTS-HD MA English 2.0 mono track also sounds fine for what it is, with optional English SDH subtitles provided.

A commentary with producer/co-writer Ed Bishop (who also has a fun role in the film) and Lewnes is ported Redneck Zombiesover from before, while the duo reunite with DeHaven for a great new commentary that comes jammed with production anecdotes and tales about toiling in the wilds of Maryland's indie production scene. A third track is a new "critical commentary" by Cinematic Void's James Branscome and Nick Vance, which has quite a bit of dead space but works in some fun bits about the locales and the film's place in the genre pantheon. An isolated score track is also included as a DTS-HD 1.0 mono track. The alternate 20th anniversary cut (90m16s) is also included and gives you an idea of what the older transfers looked like, while Redneck Zombiesan unfinished making-of (13m59s) is a fun little peek at the production including some extensive looks at the makeup jobs and various participants goofing around. The new "Sweet Redneck Memories" (83m2s) is an incredibly thorough look at the film's creation with cast and crew participants including Lewnes, Ed Bishop, DeHaven, Jim Bellistri, Lloyd Kaufman, Ken Davis, composer Adrian Bond, Samuel Johnson, Garrett Sullivan, Scott Morrow, miscellaneous crew member Jeff McKinstry, associate producer William E. "Tobacco Man" Bensen, co-producer William L. Decker, Henry Dicker, "set mother" Sandy Bishop, actor Tyrone Taylor, and Frank Buckler. It's a great watch starting off with the cinematic inspirations of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and The Toxic Avenger before moving through every single aspect of the film you could possibly want to know. Also included are a reel of deleted scenes (20m30s), a huge outtake reel (43m5s), a 2m51s excerpt from the public access Crabtown, USA show that featured many of the same participants, a 1m12s in memoriam tribute to those no longer with us, three trailers, and archival interviews with Lewnes (9m59s), Ed Bishop (9m30s), William E. Benson (2m46s), Decker (3m), Sandy Bishop (1m25s), Bond (2m27s), DeHaven (3m2s), then-baby actor Alex Lewnes (1m11s), actor Bucky Santini (3m26s), McKinstry (2m31s), Taylor (2m23s), and actor Martin J. Wolfman (2m29s).

Reviewed on May 24, 2024.