Weasels Rip My Flesh (1979)

Directed by Nathan Schiff
Image Entertainment DVD

Among the moldy cardboard and layers of dust in the back corner of your attic lies a box of mysterious old Super 8 reels, all shot way before you were born and all begging to be spooled up again. Let’s see — cousin Gary’s baby shower, family Christmas ‘69, trip to Wisconsin in ‘71 — wait! What is Weasels Rip My Flesh?!

The newly released DVD of Nathan Schiff’s Weasels Rip My Flesh is a chance discovery of the greatest home movie ever made. Weasels is a feature length gore film, completely shot on Super 8 by a group of high school seniors on Long Island. It’s also a glorious piece of non-film, with all the requisites you’ve come to expect from trash movies, only hidden beneath the skill set of a home movie enthusiast.

The plot of this film isn’t important. For interest’s sake, it concerns some radioactive waste, a couple of giant weasel monsters, a mad scientist (sporting a blue windbreaker and huge mustache), and some very macho police officers. Naturally, things are pretty vague in the story department, but that’s not an issue. The non-stop barrage of strangeness kept me glued to the screen. The endless gore effects are of the cheapest variety — chicken innards, strawberry jelly, egg yolk, homemade fake blood, cotton balls, etc. — but appear effective in a surreal kind of way. Acting is totally nonexistent and almost every male appearing in the film sports a gigantic mustache and aviator sunglasses. The weasel monsters themselves look like deformed elephants that are also brown. On top of all that, Schiff is obviously a “realist” in the strictest sense — the camera sits in one spot while someone gets in their car and then drives away. The camera stays put. Boring? Certainly. But that’s what home movies are all about.

Weasels Rip My Flesh is a gift. This is what happens when a group of kids get together and decide to make a gore movie in their parents’ backyard. While it’s better than any home movie my family ever shot, it’s still a home movie, and therein lies the charm.

For a twenty year old Super 8 film, the print and sound are pretty damn good. Of course the expected lines and scratches are present, and the audio is somewhat tinny, but it works. I was actually a bit surprised that the transfer and print looked as presentable as they did.

Now this is the way to do it. There are a veritable boatload of extras on this disc.

First off, we’ve got a commentary track by Nathan Schiff, the man behind the camera. This track runs the length of the film and is more often informative than not. Schiff occasionally falls into the “describing on-screen action” trap and has a somewhat monotone voice, but he manages to keep the tidbits flowing. In addition to the commentary, there’s a 20 minute onscreen interview with Schiff that tends to overlap a bit, as well as a 12 minute interview with two of the original cast members. Both interview segments are interesting, but not terribly engaging.

Up next are six of Nathan Schiff’s early short films, all shot on Super 8. The films range from around eighth grade right up until Weasels was shot. I only found one, Katherine Khullman Lets It All Hang Out, to be as enjoyable as the feature. It’s a spoof on evangelism and features a rubber-masked devil with a vampire cape. The other five are about what you’d expect from a 12 year old — fun to watch once, but boring overall.

Finishing up the supplements are a few trailers for Schiff’s other Super 8 films (probably some of the goriest stuff I’ve ever laid eyes on) and a still gallery made up of screen grabs.

By now, you should have a pretty good idea about whether or not you’re going to appreciate this DVD. For me, Weasels is a perfect amateur obscurity, the kind of stuff that makes life worth living. A tip of the hat to Image for releasing something this eccentric on DVD (and for treating it so well).