Feed the kitty

The Corpse Grinders (DVD)

I don’t think I’ve ever been taken in by the “killer animal” sub-genre. When it comes to horror cinema, I prefer the threat to be supernatural, thus allowing the director and screenwriter to rely on imagination and atmosphere to convey suspense. This is where most of the “mammal/fish/insect/arachnid on the loose” movies fail, as their frequent close-ups of the rampaging creature in question tends to spoil any atmosphere that had been built up. How can you take Grizzly seriously (not that you’d ever come close to taking Grizzly seriously, mind you), when the bears representing the titular ursine are obviously sedated and of no threat to anyone? You’d have the same effect if you dropped the bear footage and edited all the reactions of screaming, fleeing victims with new footage of a stop-motion ham sandwich slowly lurching towards the camera.

Before anyone mentions Jaws, I think it goes without saying that that film works because Spielberg wrings so much from the notion that there’s something in the water. The quotable script, excellent score and strong cast make up for the fake-looking shark puppet. Besides, if you’re going to try and get mileage from a “scary animal”, sharks are toothy enough to be legitimately creepy.

Now, with that lengthy intro in mind, I have a confession to make: I love killer cat movies. If you make a movie about domesticated kitties tearing out the throats of innocents, I’m going to watch it. I’ve seen Strays, The Uncanny and Night of a Thousand Cats, but nothing could prepare me for The Corpse Grinders.

When the owners of the Lotus Cat Food plant can no longer acquire high-quality meat, they turn to the next best thing: people! It all starts with a bit of grave-robbing (although why all the female bodies are buried in their underwear is a question the movie wisely leaves unanswered). The cadavers are placed on a conveyor belt leading to a gigantic meat-grinder and ooze out in a fine paté. Maybe Larry Flint saw this scene when he was a youngster…

Since we’re in drive-in horror territory here, cats everywhere develop a taste for human flesh and begin killing their owners. As I said before, there’s nothing I enjoy more than watching hapless actors desperately pretending that disinterested, fidgety cats are trying to eat them alive. It’s a silly sight I never tire of and silly is the operative word for The Corpse Grinders. With its goofball plot and bizarre, Argento-like lighting for the grinder sequences, it’s a lurid and super-fun B-movie. That such gleeful trash came from Z-grade schlockmeisters Ted V. Mikels (Astro-Zombies, The Girl In Gold Boots) and Arch Hall, Sr (Eegah!) is a miracle straight from bad movie heaven.

Watch the film at tinyurl.com/corpsegrinders

Adam Clarke