Some of the best horrors manage to keep themselves subtle and frighteningly close to home. Bad Meat might not be able to claim subtlety, because just as the name implies, this is a movie that’s indeed about some bad meat. The kind of meat that causes not only bad tummy aches, but also leads to some severe cases of raging cannibalism.
It does manage to keep itself close to home, a little too close for comfort some might say. For anyone who grew up under a strict household of ultra-conservative morals and a hyper sense of religion you’ll know a little of what I mean. I remember getting the creeps when I watched documentaries about rehabilitation establishments where kids are literally pulled out of their beds at night and transported to these obscure rehab camps. These kids are no more delinquent than I was growing up. Their crimes – simply not meeting their parents’ expectations.
Not fitting in is troubling enough for a young person. Being made to feel different, being alienated among one’s siblings and parents – people they have loved and grown up believing in – is polarizing for youthful confidence. So when a kid is then shipped off for being different or for being an outsider, that cold pit of uncertainty wells up in the core of their stomachs and whatever stability was remaining for them is broken underfoot.
That’s a lot to deal with. And this stuff happens. It’s scary! It would seem the perfect setting for a good horror movie, wouldn’t you think?
Bad Meat does just that. It sets the viewer in the care of the maniacal Doug Kendrew (Mark Pellegrino) and his three lieutenants who all maintain strict order among the unfortunate ne’er-do-wells under their care. Pellegrino plays his role masterfully. His character is a twisted Nazi-sympathizer who gleefully reads about the horrors of death-camps as bed-time entertainment.
If you’re wondering where else you know this handsome devil from, well you’re so close to the mark. Pellegrino is known for playing Lucifer in CW’s Supernatural. So yeah, Satan himself is running this rehab center. One moment the guy comes off as genuinely sympathetic and almost seems to give one ounce of a damn about the youths in his care. Then, like a light switch, he turns and reminds us that he is a monster who gets some sick satisfaction from psychologically screwing with these kids.
Speaking of satisfaction – so those lieutenants? Yeah, they’re warped too. How could they carry out Kendrew’s demented tasks and honestly not be? One of them gets his kicks by sitting outside windows and watching the teenage ladies get undressed. The other two, well one listens to the girls through their locked door while his colleague, um, makes him feel happy. If you want to know what that means, well that’s more reason to see this movie!
So Bad Meat is pretty screwed up, but in all the ways that set a good claustrophobic atmosphere of hopelessness. Forty miles of woods and swamp surround them, trapping the kids in with the sadistic quartet.
Then things get started! Oh, if you thought that was the entirety of the movie – like I did – you’re in for a big surprise. So why the hell is it called ‘bad meat’? Because, the chef grows very tired of all of the racial slurs and baneful jokes thrown his way. Sick of the abuse, he finally lashes out. Making the meat in tonight’s stew bad. How? I don’t know. I mean I figured he just simply put some puke juice in the stew to poison them, but it goes beyond that. Whatever weird seasoning he added to the meat really goes bad for everyone around.
Only the four assholes who rule the establishment are allowed to eat a good hot meal. The delinquents are fed one potato each, which is in their favor. After eating the stew each of the four get sick and throw up. A lot. I mean there is a lot of puke here. Not like something you’d see in a Troma movie, but unholy hell the smell of that place must be gawdawful!
So they seem to get their comeuppance and we couldn’t be happier. They get a bad case of violent sick and fall one by one like flies. One part that made me laugh was when two of the guards got sick in the middle of sex. So they’re getting it on in a waterbed when puke fest is declared, and oh boy. A waterbed! The motion of the ocean does not sit well for those two. I think someone out there had a weird fetish to explore when planning that scene. Leather bondage gear, a strap on, bull horns and a water bed. Yup. By the end the whole floor is a slimy mess.
So yeah, you will want a strong stomach for this one.
We’d think they would die after all that, but no. The next morning the four get to their feet, still covered in their own sick, and rush out to maim and feed off the kids.
It’s a very cool concept, but despite it having some good acting, lots of blood and a solid story to stand on, the movie falls a little flat. There was room for a lot more. Most in particular – the reason for why.
Now I’m first to admit that I like some ambiguity in a movie. Like who knows why the dead rise up to eat the living in Night of the Living Dead? How can a puzzle box open the forbidden acres of Hell? Or what makes Jason so un-killable? Truth is, I don’t care. I love a movie that doesn’t have to explain itself, but only as long as there is a foundation solid enough to not warrant too many explanations.
Bad Meat doesn’t have that. For example, how does the bad meat turn those who eat it into cannibal monsters? The infected don’t eat one another, they only target the uninfected. Are they zombies or do they have rabies? The cannibals also have a heightened sexual appetite. So did the bad meat just heighten all their appetites in general? Or are they just filled with a general urge to not give a damn and do whatever they want?
This is something that works brilliantly for 28 Days Later and Dawn of the Dead. In both movies we know that either those infected with the rage virus causes them to spread like a virus to consume those who are not yet infected – makes sense because we’re dealing with a virus. It’s brilliant! Or the dead rise from their graves to feed on the living.
Even the comic series Crossed manages to be ambiguous – where did the Crossed come from for example? – but manages to tell enough story where we are not left confused as an audience. We get it. Dead Meat has no lead up for us to sit back and go “Oh that’s why.”
Plus some of the editing does not work at all in the movie.
A lot of the final act leaves the viewer a bit confused. The ending especially had me scratching my head. Sad too, because this could have been a new favorite for me. It’s not a bad movie, but it feels as though it wasn’t allowed to be fully explored and completed.
Does your pal Manic recommend it? Sure. Honestly I’d love to know your thoughts on it too, so please don’t hesitate to leave us a comment below. This has been Manic Exorcism again wishing you a great Halloween season! Stay freaky friends.