Eaters
R1 - America - Lions Gate Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (20th October 2015).
The Film

On a road trip through New Mexico to meet his dead army buddy's sister, recently returned Vietnam vet Jude (Robert Dean), his engaged friends Dillon (Jonathan Haltiwanger) and Alice (Marcelle Bowman), along with hothead Nolan (Tristan Parrish Moore) and his girl Jill (Hannah Risinger) take a shortcut off the map and stop at a derelict rest stop. They think nothing of a near run-in with a group of bikers lead by Manson-esque Mickey (Algernon D'Ammassa) who make crude remarks to Jill until they discover that Alice has disappeared from the restroom and is nowhere to be found. Nolan, who brought his father's old service pistol along for kicks, insists the bikers are responsible and go after them and the van that was accompanying them. Although the bikers deny any knowledge of Alice's whereabouts, they have their own reasons for taking this shortcut. Although they do not take kindly to having a gun pointed in their faces, Mickey and the gang have no intention of leaving witnesses to their drug running activities and turn the situation into a standoff. Shotgun-toting Jude, however, surprises them from behind, forces them off their bikes and cuts their fuel lines before he and his friends go off in search of the police. When junior biker Victor (Jack Lutz) mouths off about Mickey's handling of the situation, Mickey strips him of his colors and tells him to accompany van driver Rev (Michael Ryan Cunningham) on the delivery while he and Derek (Jason Rivera) go after the kids. While Jude tries to make Nolan understand the gravity of his actions with the bikers, they spot a sign for the town of Boot Heel but it proves to be as much a tourist trap as a ghost town when Nolan disappears and Jude, Jill, and Dillon witness a sack-headed, strongman hammer-wielding hulk make short work of Victor and Rev when Victor spots their car and insists they take a detour he can earn back his colors. When Jude discovers the horrors being perpetrated on Nolan and Alice in the town's blacksmith barn by more of its sack-headed, seemingly undead residents, he sends Jill and Dillon to the road to get help while he tries to rescue the others. Unfortunately, Jill and Dillon run into Mickey and Derek and must convince them that they are all in danger.

Eaters has an interesting sun-scorched setting and a tense set-up but quickly devolves into routine and amateurishness due to its intentionally ambiguous plotting and poor performances. Either through paucity of imagination or concerns over getting an R-rating, writer/director/editor Johnny Tabor whose debut Day of the Mummy was not exactly good but well-mounted and fitfully entertaining is oddly circumspect about the details of the titular monsters' activities besides flesh-eating (particularly in regards to the butcher-smocked sackhead's "operations" on Jill). Suspense is scuttled throughout by the absolutely horrid performances, with the two lead males seeming to possess the same whiny twang which makes their circular arguments even less bearable than the poorly-choreographed fighting. Bowman fares better, if only because she is not portrayed as a final girl turned badass so much as a woman pushed to her limits and just fighting to stay alive. The sackheads are initially striking monsters but ultimately uninteresting and poorly exploited (only the a skull-crushing by the strongman's hammer captured in long shot gets a real jolt). As with the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and its follow-up The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (which Eaters sometimes resembles in its broadstrokes), the 1974 setting seems only to have been chosen to restrict the protagonists' ability to get help in the middle of the desert since the obnoxious characters are otherwise no different from their modern-day counterparts.
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Video

LionsGate's single-layer, progressive, anamorphic 2.40:1 encode sufficiently represents the film's HD cinematography which is often bright, harshly contrasted, and deliberately shallow focused (although the digitally-filtered defocusing sometimes extends to characters and elements that seem like they should be the focal point of the shot making some entire shots just look out of focus and rushed).
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Audio

The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is mostly front-oriented with some atmosphere, music, and certain suspenseful sounds extending to the surrounds, but it fits the film's visuals and desolate settings.
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Extras

There are no extras apart from a trailer (1:23) for the film and other releases.
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Overall

Despite an intriguing cover and set-up, Eaters ultimately fails as zombie movie, cannibal movie, or torture porn.
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