Drugs are bad but Agent Orange is worse.
A bunch of dirty hippies up in the mountains are growing marijuana for immoral purposes so a government organization decides to spray the hippies’ fields with some sort of chemical doom. This chemical has the disastrous side effect of turning all the hippies into foul-smelling zombies. A forest filled with zombies with only a heroic ranger, Tom Cole (Charles McCrann), capable of stopping them….
Like so many other American films from the 1970s, this one called the government basically evil and cast it as the villain. Since the onset of the War on Drugs, it has been the US government’s position to do as much possible damage as possible to avoid offending a bunch of tight-asses, so it is well within the realm of possibility that they might try a military defoliant in the ‘war’. As usual for this sort of film, the government tells no one the important information of the spraying—they actually lie to the local law enforcement—meaning that there is no one who could stop the problems. Some of the problems include a family hiking out in the woods, a survivalist and, of course, the zombies they created. By keeping everything on a ‘need to know’ basis and then simply pretending that nothing happened at the end they were not looking out for the good of the American people that they are sworn to protect, typical 70s. One painful irony of the whole thing is that, Charles McCrann, the writer / director / star of the film was vaporized in the 9/11 attack, something that has spawned more conspiracy theories about evil governments than anything since JFK took a drive through Dallas.
In addition to the evil government, we have the holdouts of the 60s, the hippies. Many hippies went from silly kids preaching free love and drug use to criminal gangs bordering on survivalist nonsense—a big thanks to Charles Manson for doing such a kind service. The hippies get upset when the feds shoot a naked girl (Debbie Link) in the first few minutes, which shows that they have progressed from good hippies to evil hippies as there is no way that good hippies would ever allow a girl to bathe. When the hippies get covered with the defoliant, they simply become more savage and anti-American than they already were, substituting blood for their previous drugs of choice. They are nothing more than feral, hungry creatures who have mastered the art of bashing people’s skulls in with clubs to get at the tasty foodstuffs contained therein. At least none of them is a folk singer.
The idea of a heroic forest ranger is a bit silly in this film—actually, it is silly in any film—but this hero is far from typical. He is a guy who wants to do his job, despite the problems that his bosses could not possibly care less about, as well as he can. He ignores an order to stay out of the mountains and heads up for his quarterly fishing trip with wife and friends in tow, which is not especially heroic—except in an evil government film. He is little more than the man in the white hat from classic westerns, a man who follows his conscience no matter what the cost will be and, since the figurative white hat grants immunity from death, that cost will not be paid by his own life. Rather the other characters will pay for his goodness, which kind of sucks actually.
The supporting characters in this piece that do not fall into the category of government agents or zombie hippies are basically fodder. The weird old survivalist who lives up in the hills (Dennis Helfend) gives the ranger the notice he needs to avoid blundering into his death. The two kids orphaned by zombie activity, Jimmy (Kevin Hanlon) and Amy (Judith M. Brown), are just more victims since losing one’s parents to a bunch of flesh-eating ghouls cannot be good for a person’s mental health and happiness, unless those parents are abusive or just really conservative. What these characters do for the film is stretch out the running time with useless scenes that drags the pacing of the film to a crawl and makes it seem like it is much longer than its 89 minute running time.
As usual with low-budget films, this one suffers from a myriad of problems. The music is generic and often absent, leaving a void in the scenes that are meant to show the terror of the hippie zombies (zippies?). The acting also ranges from okay to not so good, but everyone tries and does manage to keep a straight face despite the dialog they are asked to say. Even the zombie makeup is nothing more than could be done with a Halloween kit. Despite all that, the zombie and gore special effects in this film are primitive, but strangely effective. Normally, a low-budget film will be filled with crumby effects the like of which would not be out of place in a community theater production, but here they are done well. This is not to say that they are professional, but they are shot well to hide their low-budget and executed with enough skill to be entertaining. I would, however, be shocked if anyone would be scared by the effects though, they are too fake to fool anyone. Obviously though, some censors did think that the effects were realistic and frightening enough that they had to treat it quite harshly.
This flick was given an R-rating by the MPAA, but was treated far worse by the BBFC as part of the whole video nasty overreaction. Eventually of course the BBFC decided that Bloodeaters was too dangerous for video because it, presumably, definitely would encourage poisoned potheads to seek out and eat as many people as possible, something to be avoided at all costs. Thus it became a video nasty for now and forever; it remains banned as of 2008.