The best review here so far has been Timothy Farrell's from 2007, that remarked this film as the best-paced and most consistent from director Mikels. But most of the comments, both favorable and unfavorable, have been largely on the money - which in itself tells us we have a rather strange critter here. I.e., how can we say of a film that it is a camp classic in one comment, and that it is not a camp classic in another comment, and yet both comments be right? How can we mock such a film for its cheesiness and then admit that it wallows in that cheesiness, as if cheesiness were among its redeeming values? The answer of course is that Mikels made this film with tongue firmly in cheek. It is simply a mistake to take this film seriously - Mikels is rushing this product through to the drive-in circuit targeting a teen-age audience (hence the lack of nudity or really gory effects), giving them moments allowing them to exclaim "oh, gross!" or "wow, that's weird" while they take a breather from necking in the back-seat. Any attempt at quality or substance would be pointless. So instead, Mikels treats his low-life characters like refugees from a '30s comedy short who drank their brains out and ended up in a Skid Row production of a '40s gangster film as it might have been directed in the '50s by Ed Wood trying to make a '60s kids' film - huh? All right, another way to say this is that Mikels is basically saying, "ok, we have no budget, only two more days to shoot the thing, and our audience won't be paying attention anyway - so let's have fun!" Of course, then, the only issue is, what would Mikels mean by having fun here? But the answer to that is obvious, too. Most exploitation-horror films of the time (especially those coming out of Europe) took themselves way too serious. Even looking back to Ed Wood, one reason that "Plan 9" is so amusing is because Wood clearly thinks he is saying something important with it, even if he's not sure what.
There were important exceptions, of course - Corman's "Little Shop" is overt comedy, and "The Undertaker and his Pals," while providing the necessary gore and 'suspense' also throws in large dabs of comic bits and dialog. But "Corpse Grinders" avoids the obvious - there is no overt buffoonery, no sight gags or puns here. Instead Mikels simply pushes a ridiculous plot device - cats eating human meat go crazy, because desperate racketeers can't afford the butcher's bill - as far as it can go, and allows the characters involved to be their low-life selves. Thus we end up with a weird slice of trailer-trash Americana. And that is what produces the humor of the film - small-business economics gone bad, pseudo-science for low-information viewers, and pseudo-religious overtones to provide the hint of some 'moral insight' to the whole affair (made explicit in the trailer for the film, with its blather about "the sacred dead") - which of course isn't really there.
Mikels rarely took his exploitation seriously; but in other films of his (esp. "Astro-Zombies") I get the sense he is laughing at his audience, which is unpleasant. That's evident to some extent here as well, but in this case there seems to be a secondary audience targeted - those capable of getting in on the joke. That makes sense in a film made at the end of the '60s camp fad; by the time Mikels made this film, the notion that cat-food could make monsters of little kitties could be recognized by many of the more 'hip' at the drive-in as a humorous excuse, after a few puffs on a doobie, to go back to necking in the back-seat.
Ten stars for this bad movie because it is truly one of a kind.
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