As I mentioned in my Mega Scorpions review, Full Moon and J.R. Bookwalter’s production company Tempe Entertainment joined forces in the late 90s. The final film from this partnership was 2002’s Dead & Rotting.
The plot concerns three redneck buddies: Hollis (Stephen O’Mahoney), J.B. (Tom Hoover), and Eric (Trent Haaga.) Hollis is the most traditionally handsome of the trio so he’s the hero. They beat up a local weirdo who happens to be an old witch’s familiar (he is a cat in human form.) The witch, Abigail (Barbara Katz-Norod), uses a spell on them to make them sick as punishment. After the men recover they decide to get back at the woman but hire two stoners to go throw rocks at her house. The stoners idiotically break in and boil her cat.
Having found out that her cat/son was murdered, Abi uses a spell to turn into a young sexy witch played by Debbie Rochon and goes out to have unprotected sex with our trio. She then gives birth to three zombie/pumpkin/scarecrow things and begins hunting down the men whom she ties up in her basement and curses with a spell that causes them to rot slowly as branches grow out of them. Hollis and the surviving stoner Asher (Jeff Dylan Graham) head three counties over to see Asher’s ex-wife Rose (Tammi Sutton) who has been practicing withcraft for a few years. Rose gives them a spell that can stop Abi and confrontations are had, you know the drill.
As with many Tempe films, especially The Dead Next Door, there’s a good amount of style over substance here. Tempe films are generally shoddier than Full Moon films proper, but they’re a lot more sincere. There’s a bit of a knowing quality to Full Moon productions, even the more serious ones, but Tempe films are made by low-budget mavericks with a deep and sincere love of genre cinema, nobody involved is just collecting a paycheck and that really makes up for a lot of the film’s shortcomings.
The worst sin is some jerky amateurish camerawork as well as the bane of all microbudget indies, bad lighting. Acting varies widely with Barbara Katz-Norod as probably the worst actor and Trent Haaga as the best in this production. The story is a little undercooked but at 71 minutes it doesn’t overstay its welcome and more often than not it’s a suitably spooky American Gothic horror story like is required. The details of the victims rotting slowly as they sprout roots and monotonously chant a poem about what it’s like to be dead and rotting is chilling and has a real folkloric quality to it.
The bits with Debbie Rochon and the scarecrow zombie things are less spooky and like they belong in a different movie. I can’t figure out what the zombies are even supposed to be doing as none of the victims appear to have been harmed by their scythes when they’re tied up in Abi’s basement. The make-up effects for the zombies as well as the rotting victims looks extremely good for a low budget picture.
Dead & Rotting isn’t great but it’s passionately made and definitely watchable, a real bargain-bin beauty.
Watch, Toss, Or Buy? Give it a watch.
If You Liked This, Watch: Curse of the Demon (1957), Thinner (1996), Drag Me to Hell (2009), Pumpkinhead (1988), The Woods (2006)