After watching Nathan Schiff's first full length filmed on Super 8mm motion picture, 1979's "Weasels Rip My Flesh," I fervently prayed for my own death at the paws of a pack of rabid weasels. The movie has to be the worst film I have ever seen, light years beyond the badness of a Herschell Gordon Lewis film. In fact, Schiff's use of music, effects, and plot makes Lewis look like Cecil B. DeMille. Why Image Entertainment released what is essentially an hour-long home movie on DVD is a mystery which ranks right up there with the Nazca lines or UFOs. Even more surprising, Image punched up the DVD with a boatload of extras. Why did they do this? Some research on the web turned up a few interesting tidbits about Schiff. Apparently many hardcore horror fans consider this movie, along with a couple of others he made in the 1980s, cult classics. Schiff fans point to the heavy gore quotient as proof of this claim, conveniently overlooking the grainy Super 8 film Schiff used, the horrific sound quality of the movie, and the downright ridiculous plot execution. I'm speaking about "Weasels Rip My Flesh" since I haven't seen the other two Schiff opuses recently released. After watching this film, though, you just know the other two will plumb the same depths as this one.
"Weasels Rip My Flesh" centers on the bloody hijinks that ensue after a space probe returning from a mission to Venus crash lands somewhere in Long Island. Two kids find some vials floating in the body of water where the probe crashed, open them, and promptly dump what turns out to be highly radioactive sludge into a hole in the ground. The result? A weasel mutates into a huge, hideously deformed beastie that begins rampaging through the area. The animal kills the two kids amidst great gouts of ketchup and cranberry sauce blood effects before moving into town. At some point in the narrative, two cops enter the picture to investigate the killings. These guys run into another chap who wants to use the infected weasel to achieve immortality. Since the weasel had rabies when the boys exposed it to the toxic waste, the blood of the animal is "impure." Therefore, this psycho wants to use the blood of humans to achieve his nefarious aims. "Weasels Rip My Flesh" degenerates into a lame chase scene replete with gunfire, exploding squibs, and a "surprise" ending that will leave you howling for the blood of anyone associated with the film. The movie is cheesefest city with capital letters, folks. It's so bad that it attains a sort of metaphysical awfulness. I feel less of a person for having watched this film.
Before I hand down a death sentence on the film, I should list a few of the movie's mitigating circumstances. Schiff was a senior in high school when he made most of the film so condemning him harshly is somewhat unfair. In a few respects, he did o.k. with what he had. For example, Schiff used miniatures to show the rocket probe taking off, a cheesy scene laughable in its implications. To show the rocket soaring into the air, he took the camera, held it up to a light, and then pulled it back fast to simulate a diminishing flame trail. Not bad for a young kid. A few of the gore effects looked acceptable, especially when one of the characters loses an arm in a gruesome way and has his head bashed into a wall resulting in a huge splash of blood. Schiff mastered the use of tubes to suggest squirting arteries and actually rigged up a few crude squibs employing blood packets and firecrackers. "Weasels Rip My Flesh" occasionally manages some gross out scenes even as it fails to engage as a whole.
The giant weasel is funny to watch. It looks like Schiff and company made the thing out of felt and used paper for teeth. Obviously, the director was aware of the inherent difficulties in showing such an amateurish creation, so he relied on quick cutaways and other editing tricks to minimize the effect's onscreen time. I think the biggest problem with "Weasels Rip My Flesh" isn't the largely lame effects, but rather the poor film stock. The picture looks awful, just as you would expect from Super 8mm film used in the late 1970s. Moreover, the audio alternates from ultra tacky, distorted music to background noise captured by the cheap camera. I kept thinking how much better the film might have looked if Schiff had used better equipment. "Weasels Rip My Flesh" is too reminiscent of a home video to take seriously; it is the 1970s equivalent of some of those atrocious shot on video films you see floating around from time to time, e.g. "Camp Blood," "Hunting Season," and others.
The extras on the disc take a lot of time to watch. An interview with a somber looking Schiff runs for well over twenty minutes. Three trailers adorn the extras menu, one for each of Schiff's films. There's a commentary, too, along with interviews of two of the actors who appeared in the film. AND there are several short films made by Schiff when he was a kid that are unwatchable. I am torn about how many stars to give the movie. On one hand, one star seems unfair considering the points mentioned above. On the other hand, "Weasels Rip My Flesh" is an abomination of a film. I'll give it three stars with an attached caveat: if you have little experience with zero budget gore films, don't watch this movie. And if you DO have a history of watching zero budget gore films, rent instead of buying.