Flesh-Eating Mothers (1988) Retrospective

SUMMARY
A rabies-like virus which is spread by a philandering fellow to several harried housewives in the same suburban community, turning them into savage cannibals. That’s it for the setup — what remains is a series of outrageously gory scenes in which the maniacal mommies begin hacking up, cooking, and eating everyone in sight, including local police, stray cats, their loutish husbands, and even their own children. It’s up to a few surviving kids to unite against the neighborhood menace and join forces with a doctor to come up with a cure for their mothers’ lethal affliction.

Interview with Director James Aviles Martin

How about some background on yourself?
James Aviles Martin: I was 26 when we started Flesh Eating Mothers. I got into the business when I was going to film school at Brooklyn College and was asked to write the screenplay for I Was a Teenage Zombie. I also work on and off the set during production. That pretty much gave me what I needed to know to make FEMS. I wrote the Screenplay and originally wanted John Michaels to direct it, but there was no time in his schedule so I decide to direct it myself.

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Flesh-Eating Mothers has that typical suburban look like it could have been shot on Long Island or any suburb.
James Aviles Martin: Yeah, we shot it in July of ’86 in upstate New York in the town of Blauvelt, which is my hometown. It could be anywhere. typical suburbia, green grass, fathers doing the lawn. The story was influenced by Leave It To Beaver. I knew I had to write a screenplay and I knew I wanted to make a horror film but I didn’t know where to start the story. One day I was watching Leave It To Beaver reruns on channel 5 and it struck me, what would happen if June started chomping on Wally’s flank and I took it from there. Women have gone through lots of changes since Leave It To Beaver but I think I pretty much hit the nail on the head about suburbia.

Yeah. for a lot of women it hasn’t changed. But you do a great job of depicting suburbia with this dark, sleazy underbelly.
James Aviles Martin: David Lynch did it best with Blue Velvet Blue Velvet just came out as I was editing FEM. I was always removed from Lynch’s stuff until I saw BV, then I became a fan. I realized this is what I’m trying to do I don’t want to compare myself to David Lynch, that’s like Quayle comparing himself to JFK. But the intentions were the same. With BV he took a typical suburban town and went underneath. to dig into the dark side of it all. That’s what I was trying to do with FEM

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Speaking of influences. FEM reminded me of a cross between Cronenberg’s The Brood and Romero’s Night of the Living Dead.
James Aviles Martin: I’ve never seen The Brood, but as for Romero. Yeah, I was extremely influenced by Night of the Living Dead. I think the whole idea of low budget horror is influenced by Romero. Anybody out trying to do a low budget film is influenced by him. He was the first. You could say Corman was the first but he was still kind of Hollywood. Romero was more of an independent.

FEM is full of divorced mothers and broken homes. Are you from a broken home?
James Aviles Martin: It so happens I am. I guess you can recognize that from the film. I’m not attacking motherhood but from any point of view, from what I’ve seen happen to my mother I would say she was suppressed. And when my father left he left her with quite a burden. At times I would see her just lose it. I guess that’s where the idea for FEM came from.

There’s lots of funny moments in the film. How much of the Humor was intended?
James Aviles Martin: More than you would think. Lots of the dialogue is obviously humorous. When we sat down to make this film. Zev Shlasinger, the co-writer wanted to make a serious film. I was afraid that with the controlled budget we had to work with a serious film might backfire into our faces. I knew we had to do something funny and I did as much as I could to make it a spoof. But you can also see Zev’s seriousness. It was his idea in the screenplay to make the police commissioner linked to the conspiracy. It adds to the appeal of the story ’cause you’re not really sure how to take it. It’s funny and everything but I guess it’s that way to people who can laugh after seeing somebody’s brother getting eaten by mom.

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Humor and horror have a bizarre way of complimenting each other. Some of the conversation between the teenagers is a hoot. When they’re talking about those mom ate who.
James Aviles Martin: Yeah, but when you think about if something like that really happened, you wonder what the dialogue would be. I sat in front of my typewriter saying to myself. now everybody has just seen somebody being eaten so what are they going to say.

The special effects are nice and grisly. Who’s responsible for that?
James Aviles Martin: That’s Carl Sorensen, Carl and I met in a bar in Astoria, Queens when I was going to Brooklyn College. I overheard him talking about films and it sounded like he knew what he was talking about. I approached him and found out that he did special effects. At the time we had just finished the principal photography for I Was A Teenage Zombie and we needed to do the pickups for the special effects. Carl invited me to his studio and I was surprised he was very good. I told John Michaels about him and Carl ended up doing the special effects for Teenage Zombie. A few months later I told him about my idea for FEM and we met and talked about the screenplay. Carl had the idea of giving the mothers those monkey faces. I cut certain scenes to show a progression up to the monkey faces.

The moms are infected by a sexually transmitted disease which makes me think of AIDS…
James Aviles Martin: Well sure, that was what pretty much influenced me while ! was writing the screenplay. You can pretty much see how I feel (about AIDS) in the story. The kids don’t know what to do with their mothers. At one point Timmy says you can’t expect a hospital to take these people. And then there was people saying stupid stuff like it’s God’s vengeance, like Police Commissioner Dixon in the movie. But later the kids realize there is someone trying to find a cure and there’s a chance. There’s always hope if you don’t panic. That’s pretty much what I was trying to say. If you don’t panic things can work out.

There’s a kind of food fascination in FEM. Were you trying to say something about suburban diseases like bulimia and anorexia?
James Aviles Martin: I have a lot of dancer friends who really go into that sort of thing and its pretty sad. But whether that was my idea when I did the screenplay I don’t know. I guess if it works

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The soundtrack for FEM is very interesting and also funny. There’s all those slurpy noises and a very percussive soundtrack. And all that flange gives it a very hypnotic feeling.
James Aviles Martin: I had fun with the sound effects. Helner Zwahlen did the soundtrack. What I wanted to do was, as I told you before I was influenced by Leave it to Beaver, to turn that kind of ordered suburbia into a jungle. to make it chaotic. I wanted the same thing with the soundtrack. So in the beginning you hear Donna Reed Show type of music. We keep that nice suburban music but then when the first cannibal horror occurs the music starts to change and you hear the African drums and bongos. That goes on till there’s no more Donna Reed style music and all you hear is the that jungle ambiance. And then when the mothers transform back to their normal selves the la-de-de music comes back.

CAST/CREW
Director: James Aviles Martin
Writers: James Aviles Martin, Zev Shlasinger

Robert Lee Oliver   Jeff Nathan
Donatella Hecht     Linda Douglas
Neal Rosen   …    Rinaldi Vivaldo
Valorie Hubbard     Joyce Shepard
Terry Hayes  …    Timmy Nolan
Katherine Mayfield   Sylvia Douglas

Special Effects by
Ralph Cordero   additional special effects
Brian Powell  ..additional special effects
Carl Sorensen   special effects

CREDITS/REFERENCES/SOURCES/BIBLIOGRAPHY
Gorezone#08
Slaughterhouse Magazine #2

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