Marcus Koch is best known for his effects work on films as varied as We Are Still Here, Circus of the Dead and Eminence Hill. He’s also directed several films most notably 100 Tears and American Guinea Pig: Bloodshock. Now TetroVideo has exhumed Rot, an SOV film he directed in 1999 to kick off their Tetro Underground line devoted to films from before the turn of the century.
Sarah (Tiffany Stinky)has been cheating on her boyfriend Muzzy (Billy Scam). What makes that of interest is that she’s been doing it with corpses at the local morgue. And why not? Dead men tell no tales, and rigour mortis is a girl’s best friend. Unfortunately, Dr. Robert Olsen (Joel D. Wynkoop, Family Snapshot, Ouija Mummy), former government bioweapons researcher turned morgue attendant has been using those corpses for his experiments.
As a result, she’s caught a case of ROT (Robert Olson Transmutation virus) and passed it on to Muzzy. What do you do when you find out you’re doomed to melt into a puddle of slime? Anything you want.
Rot is obviously a no-budget, DIY film so expecting any kind of Hollywood or even indie-style production values is a big mistake. This is one of those films you have to take on its own terms. Some of those terms include shaky camerawork, several scenes that are so dark you can barely tell what’s happening, and horrible dialogue.
Much of the first part of the film is our happy couple calling in a bomb threat, (to the White House no less), committing arson, driving over people’s lawns, and generally acting like a pair of obnoxious punks while an assortment of punk bands play on the soundtrack.
Apart from the odd shot of Dr. Olsen talking to himself, the first half of Rot has more in common with something like Suburbia or Repo Man than the mashup of Necromantic and Return of the Living Dead that I was hoping for.
Towards the end, a fed (Tim Leavy) in a dark suit and sunglasses shows up along with an agent of the Illuminati (Walter Meseda). There’s talk of the government using the virus for population control and people start melting. In one of the film’s more creative scenes, a character has their head knocked off by a punch and reattached with duct tape. Rot desperately needed more of that kind of creativity. Unfortunately, for what I would guess was budgetary reasons, it doesn’t happen.
For a film by someone like Koch who is known for their work on extreme films and released by a label known for extreme films, Rot is pretty tame. The scenes with Sarah and her dead buddy are discrete. With their tinted lighting and odd angles, they were more like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari than Gorotica or even Love Me Deadly.
If you were part of the punk scene, especially in Clearwater Florida where this was filmed, you’ll probably enjoy Rot a lot more than I did. It really is more of a punk film with some horror and conspiracy elements thrown in than a full-on horror film. I found it more interesting as a look back at the SOV films of the time and at where Marcus Koch got his start than as an actual film. Your mileage may vary.
Rot is the first title of Tetro Underground, a line dedicated to all the underground films produced until 1999, with tons of titles never officially released before. The film comes on DVD + Amaray + vintage-looking slipcases. You can check TetroVideo’s website and Facebook page for more details.
The only trailer for Rot seems to be on Facebook and didn’t turn up for me when I searched. Thanks to Alfred for telling me about it. It won’t embed, but you can check it and another clip out here.