While Brian's off having fun at SXSW (lucky bastard...) some us are still stuck here at Horror Squad bringing you all the cool news and features you've come to expect. One of those aforementioned features is Brian's Season's Bleeding columns, wherein he covers a horror film for each major holiday (can't wait to see what he has lined up for Arbor Day! My guess is Treevenge). However, since he's not here, I'll be talking about an Irish horror flick to round out your St. Patty's Day experience.

Naturally, the obvious choice would be Leprechaun. It's got a Leprechaun in it and that's about as Irish as you can get. However, I suspect you'll be seeing hundreds of Leprechaun reviews today-so I decided to go in a different direction.

Ultimately, it came down to two choices: Evil Breed: The Legend of Samhain or Dead Meat. Evil Breed would have probably won out if Lionsgate hadn't butchered it on DVD (seriously-see the workprint or don't even bother), but since they did I went with Dead Meat-a zombie film set on the Emerald Isle, directed by an Irishman.

Jump past the break to read about Ireland's most famous zombie flick.

I've written a lot of reviews over the past decade, but for some reason there are movies I saw (usually a screener mailed to me by a filmmaker or a public relations person) that I never got around to writing about. My recent cross country move means that I've had a chance to go through a big chunk of my movie collection (and believe me, big doesn't even begin to describe it-I left a lot of stuff back in the Bay Area)-and I'm trying to rectify some of the oversights that happened over the years. Re-watching things and writing about them now is generally fun.

One of the films I liked but never wrote about is Conor McMahon's Dead Meat. Billed as the first Irish zombie movie, it could still very well be the only film in that wildly popular subgenre to emanate from the Emerald Isle. A loving homage to the gory morti viventi films of men like Peter Jackson, George Romero, and Lucio Fulci--and a tone similar to that of the other 2004 zomedy, Shaun of the Dead--Dead Meat makes up for its budgetary shortcomings with a lot of heart (and more than a few brains, too).

A young couple (Martin and Helena) are out for a drive through the Irish countryside when Martin accidentally runs down a man. They load him up into the back of their car and set out for a hospital-the only problem is, the guy springs up from the backseat and gnaws a nice sized chunk out of Martin's neck. Helena (Marian Araujo) takes off to find help. She meets Desmond (David Muyllaert), who tells her the countryside has been overrun with zombies-a predicament caused by the always popular mad cow disease. Our two heroes then set off to escape the zombie apocalypse, meeting various strangers along the way (including a hilariously foul-mouthed sports coach) and trying to stay one step ahead of the shambling undead.

Dead Meat (which McMahon wrote as well as directed) doesn't try to reinvent the wheel when it comes to zombie cinema narrative. The script is traditional to a fault, but it's buoyed along by McMahon and the cast's love of the material. This is more than enough to make up for the familiar feel of the story. There's nothing here we haven't seen before-it's just a zombie film filtered through Irish sensibilities with a lot of loving winks and nods toward classic zombie cinema from around the globe.

The enthusiasm is more infectious than the mad cow disease, apparently, because I've found myself completely charmed by Dead Meat both times I've seen it. The irreverent tone, the surprisingly solid performances, and the abundance of gore--and there's definitely a lot of gore in this flick--make up for the rough spots caused by the filmmaker's relative inexperience and lack of funding.

McMahon's direction is effective throughout. Dead Meat looks surprisingly polished, which is impressive since the director's two previous projects were roughly ten minutes long. The only complaint I have with Dead Meat's visuals are that the night scenes (which make up the second half of the film) aren't particularly well lit. I'm curious if this is a problem on McMahon's part, or more an issue with the quality of the Gorezone DVD, though. Aside from that, McMahon's action scenes are tight and well-conceived, the editing good, and the pacing never flags as the film moves along.

The cast is every bit as good in front of the camera as McMahon is behind it. Muyllaert is great as Desmond-he's likeable, he's believable in the lead role, and he's pretty damn good at lopping off zombie heads with his shovel. He gives off an everyman quality that makes him easy to relate to. Araujo does a nice job as Helena-she plays the character in a vulnerable way (so that Desmond has to keep saving her here and there) but when the chips are down, she's more than capable of taking care of herself.

The film's real star is the special effects work. The blood flies in Dead Meat, and the FX are all of the practical variety. No one had a CGI budget in this one, so everything's done the old fashioned way-lots of karo syrup and latex. The results are splattery and satisfying as hunks of flesh are bitten out and devoured, heads removed from shoulders, and various other amputations are captured in all their bloody glory. Special mention must also be made of the eyeball sucking scene. It's an inventive gag that happens early on and really sets the tone for what's to come.

When you get right down to it, there's not a whole lot to discuss about Dead Meat when it comes to technical merits. The film's a low-budget zombie flick and it wears that distinction quite proudly. Fans of genre films made on the cheap will appreciate it more than mainstream viewers because we know how badly films of this kind usually turn out. Dead Meat isn't perfect, but it is fun and it's still the best zombie film I've ever seen from Ireland. That alone makes it worthy of recommendation. It may not have tiny Irish guys killing people to protect their pots of gold, but this film is actually set in Ireland with an Irish cast and crew. If that doesn't make it worthwhile St. Patrick's Day viewing, I'm not sure what does.
CATEGORIES DVD Reviews, DVDs, Horror