As you might remember, I found much to like about Dustin Mills' Zombie A-Hole, so I went into his flick Bath Salt Zombies with an open mind at the very least. Sure, the real bath salts' 15 minutes of fame ran out as soon as the ink was dry on the first reports of real-life junkies eating people's faces, but that's no reason not to make a very loosely related movie well after media has stopped talking about it. However, despite having almost twice the budget, it falls far short of A-Hole in pretty much every way.
If you paid any attention to the bath salts nonsense last year, you have at least some idea what's going to happen -- people take a drug that sort of turns them into cannibals. The tagline on the front of the box is "Drugs, Sex, & Cannibalism." You've got two of the three right there. Funny thing is, for all the nudity in Mills' flicks (and this one is running at least a quart low compared to the gratuitous nakedness in A-Hole), this one actually had no sex beyond an implied hummer for about five seconds toward the end.
What you get instead of sex is a paper-thin story, boring and predictable dialogue, particularly bad gore effects (when did blood become a puff of...powder?), distracting audio and visual inconsistencies, and terrible audio editing accompanying acting not worthy of turning up on the dregs of Youtube. What happened?
Mills movie staple Brandon Salkil plays Ritchie, a junkie with a demanding girlfriend who likes to blow through his stash like it's her job. He heads out to get some more product from his dealer Bubbles (Ethan Holey), who just happens to be pushing a new stronger formula produced by his drug cooker mad scientist (Mills). Ritchie takes the sample, smokes it, tears his friend Rita's (Jackie McKown) face off, then wakes up hours later in a bathtub, covered in blood. Despite knowing that the drug made him into a homicidal maniac, the addictive properties of it have him craving more before long. The next time he lights up, he drags some more friends into the fray and they tear up a crappy punk rock club.
Meanwhile, Agent Forster (Josh Eal) is running down gang members and drug cookers all over town, one-man-army style. His performance feels forced, the shootouts are dorky at best, and he convinces a captured hardened thug to spill everything he knows by simply offering him donuts. Right.
Eventually Forster and Ritchie cross paths, but not until Ritchie gets a super dose of the drug and turns into a monster, we see a zombie dog puppet take out Bubbles and his scientist, and Forster finally gets his hands on the SWAT team he's wanted throughout the flick, only to see them turned into zombies he then has to put down himself, again, one-man-army style.
There are three things in this movie worth seeing. First, the opening cartoon about surviving bath salts is told in a 1950s era filmstrip "Duck and Cover" sort of way, which was really funny to watch. The second is when Ritchie fights the SWAT team. It breaks into an almost Scott Pilgrim-esque exaggerated anime style where body parts fly everywhere and the background is constantly flying by at the speed of light. The third is the fight between Ritchie and Forster, which tries very hard to channel Neo vs. Agent Smith from The Matrix. These scenes would almost be enough to save the rest of the movie if it weren't so monotonous, shabbily constructed, and so bland in terms of style. The in-between parts literally feel like someone wandered in and shot them with a handicam to post online, not to go on a retail DVD. The sound goes from whisper to deafening without warning, some scenes drag on pointlessly just making sure you get that someone is confused or remorseful, and those time-lapse shots of the New York City skyline run smoother and in much higher definition than the rest of the flick, which is jarring every time it cuts back and forth. In a scene where Ritchie's girlfriend takes a shower, we spend the expected amount of time watching her wash herself, but then when she asks Ritchie to hand her a towel to get out of the shower, when she pulls back the curtain, she's bone dry....even her hair. What the hell is that?
If you make it through the whole 64-minute feature, you're treated to six minutes of credits, except that it's only about two screens long, and it scrolls so unbelievably slow -- as if you'll really want to memorize these players -- that it takes that long to get through. If you want to try to get your full money's worth, you can watch the trailer or the feature commentary.
After the silliness and style of Zombie A-Hole, I had high hopes. Bath Salt Zombies managed to quash them flat. There's so little going on here, it would have been better to cut out the middle and just make a nonsensical 30-minute video of the three most stylish scenes. This is clearly where most of the talent and effort went. The rest of it feels like a high school video project made by someone who lost a bet.