Halloween Horrors 2011 : “Ozone! The Attack Of The Redneck Mutants”

Posted: October 23, 2011 in movies
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Our annual survey of the cinematic horror landscape wouldn’t be complete without a few nods at some of the homemade horrors that made it into (somewhat) wide circulation during the VHS boom years, and given that the pseudonymous producer-director team of Matt Devlen and Max Raven have just seen their two mid-80-s efforts, 1986’s Ozone! The Attack Of The Redneck Mutants and The Abomination (from the same year, apparently), released as a DVD combo pack from Muther Video (sans extras, it must be said, although the remastered full-frame transfers and stereo sound are both about as good as you could possibly hope for given the Z-grade source material) these seem like as good a place as any to start down the homemade moviemaking road this Halloween season.

Ozone!, as you can probably guess, features incredibly over-the-top semi-competent “acting,” an equally OTT plot, and plenty of fun, if completely unconvincing, gore effects. I’ll give Devlen (who sat in the director’s chair on this one while Raven produced) credit here — he didn’t aim for too much, like many backyard horror auteurs  seem to have this thoroughly misplaced compulsion to do, and set his sights squarely on what could be accomplished. He wasn’t out to prove that he could outdo Herschell Gordon Lewis with his first effort, but he wanted to make a film heavily influenced by Lewis’ non-stop array of blood, carnage, and viscera,  and that had its tongue just as firmly planted in its cheek.

The end result is unprofessional in the extreme, to be sure, wildly uneven in terms of tone, performances, and quality of effects, slow as molasses in places, and transparently, even jubilantly, juvenile. The goal of Ozone! isn’t so much to compensate for, much less hide, its numerous shortcomings, but rather to include a rather overt acknowledgment of them as part of the fun.

Look, the initial premise of a chemical leak at a toxic refinery causing local yokels in Arkansas (I assume, since I’m pretty sure that’s where this Super-8 spectacle was shot) to turn into hideous, melting, vomiting, killing, cannibalistic monsters due to said chemical leak not directly mutating the rednecks but burning a hole in the ozone layer right over the backwater environs they inhabit (remember, knowledge of how all this global warming stuff worked was pretty limited at the time) isn’t one begging to be taken seriously. Throw in a nosy college-student environmental activist who’s teamed up against her will with the son of the owner of the chemical (or is it oil? the script seems to want it both ways) company to get to the bottom of the problem, a plethora of wildly stereotypical hicks, and no money and you don’t have Oscar bait bait (or even anything like it) on your hands, but you do have the recipe for a fun, stupid night in front of the TV.

That’s all that Ozone! The Attack Of The Redneck Mutants promises, and by and large it delivers. Sure, you most definitely have to be willing to go with the flow and not let things like a wildly out-on-synch audio track (the soundtrack being recorded separately and laid down later in true no-budget style), preposterous hamming by most of the cast, shots with literally no composition to them apart from point-that-fucking-camera-and-shoot, and the kind of effects you could probably come up with yourself if you had the time and/or inclination not only not detract from your appreciation of the proceedings here, but rather form the backbone of it, but that’s never been a problem around these parts.

I’m not here to tell you that Ozone! is must-see viewing, or that it’s even a spectacular example of DIY moviemaking. It is, however, a good example of what you can achieve what a backyard filmmaking team can achieve when it sets out to do something squarely within its means — not much, to put it kindly, but the kind of “not much” that’s done with enough passion, heart, and balls that it ends up having its own kind of demented, but thoroughly watchable, charm. There’s no need to take any of it even remotely seriously since the filmmakers didn’t either, but there’s no need to feel guilty or stupid for finding most of it thoroughly entertaining, and frankly even endearing, nonsense.

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