Color, 1988, 89 mins. 49 secs.
Directed by James Aviles Martin
Starring Robert Lee Oliver, Donatella Hecht, Neal Rosen, Valorie Hubbard, Terry Hayes, Katherine Mayfield, Grace Pettijohn, Louis Homyak
Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9), 88 Films (Blu-ray & DVD) (UK RB/R2 HD/PAL), Elite Entertainment (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)

An Flesh-Eating Mothersamusing 16mm Flesh-Eating Motherstrifle shot in upstate New York by a gang of enthusiastic film students, Flesh-Eating Mothers sports one of those titles that caused everyone to assume it was another Troma cheapie along the lines of Rabid Grannies, Redneck Zombies, or Stuff Stephanie in the Incinerator. It's actually its own odd little beast, albeit with some grisly monster action and comedy that wouldn't necessarily be out of bounds for the Troma market at the time.

Thanks to his freelancing job at home, Roddy Douglas (Homyak) can indulge in plenty of afternoon flings around his suburban neighborhood and pass it off as long jogging sessions to his wife, Linda (Hecht). Meanwhile teenager Rinaldi (Rosen) is suspended from school and keeps tabs on the real-life soap opera unfolding around the suburbs, including the world's oldest high school students. However, something a lot scarier than infidelity is afoot when a cannibalistic plague starts afflicting the locals-- including all of the women who have been in bed with Roddy. Apparently some kind of mutant venereal disease is the cause, but can it be stopped before everyone ends up on the menu for these flesh-eating mothers?

Comparisons to David Cronenberg tend to get brought up a lot with this one thanks to its VD angle and open parallels to the AIDS epidemic that was afflicting the world, but the execution is very, very different with a strong streak of goofball humor throughout. The upbeat music and truly bizarre touches (like an animated demo of how the virus Flesh-Eating Mothersworks) Flesh-Eating Mothersclearly give the game away about the film's silly intentions, though it's easy to get distracted by the gore spraying all over the place in the more outrageous moments. As long as you bear in mind that this is basically a glorified student film with acting to match, it's an entertaining, gleefully tacky monster outing with some strange commentary on social conformity and religious fervor at the time.

Initially released on VHS by Academy, Flesh-Eating Mothers first turned up on DVD from Elite Entertainment in an okay transfer with only a dupey trailer of undetermined origin as an extra. In 2016 the film made its Blu-ray bow courtesy of 88 Films in the U.K., featuring a fresh scan of "16mm elements" that improved quite a bit on the DVD but left room for improvement with its flat, blue-ish color timing. Extras on that disc include interviews with director James Avile Martin (13m59s) and producer Miljan Peter Ilich (4m56s) as well as a trailer reel.

In 2020, Vinegar Syndrome brought the film to U.S. Blu-ray for the first time as a dual-format release (with a DVD) featuring what's cited as a new scan and restoration from "its Flesh-Eating Mothers16mm archival elements." The difference here is obvious with far more robust colors, more image info (1.85:1 framing here versus the earlier, Flesh-Eating Motherscropped 1.78:1), and far more film grain and overall texture on display. The film still looks very gritty and cheap with some obvious in-camera flaws here and there, but this is probably the best it will ever look and a nice upgrade all around. The DTS-HD MA English 2.0 mono track also sounds fine for what amounts to a very basic sound mix, with optional English SDH subtitles provided.

A new audio commentary with Martin and Fangoria's Michael Gingold really dives into the production side of things, and anyone familiar with Gingold's extensive knowledge of New York-area locations will find it comes in handy here as they go into the budgetary limitations, practical effects, casting process, location scouting, and lots more. Martin (who also provides a quick 1m1s intro) also appears in "Blood and Laughs" (14m54s), a featurette more or less covering the same material as the earlier one on the U.K. release as he Flesh-Eating Motherstalks about his time at NYU after studying art and getting a gig on Splatter University. That in turn led to co-writing I Was a Teenage Zombie and raising $10,000 to get this one off the ground, with this idea chosen among other like Bikers from Hell and originally Flesh-Eating Mothersintended to be simply called Mothers. In "Hungry to Make Movies" (14m38s), Ilich goes more far more detail than his earlier piece about the NYU alumni who worked on this film and future productions, along with memories of Martin's high energy (that led to him having to take naps near the end of the day) and the film's warm reception in Europe, as well as some financial hassles over the initial VHS release. As usual, this comes with reversible cover options and is available as a limited slipcover edition.



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88 FILMS (Blu-ray)

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Reviewed on February 2, 2020.