Mutant aka Night Shadows (1984) ****1/2  I’ve always remembered the one-word review of Mutant in Mick Martin and Marsha Porter’s hateful old Video Movie Guide.  “Idiocy” is all it said.  Far from making me shy away from the reputedly rotten film, however, the condescendingly curt review only made me more curious about it.  I’ll confess to having been somewhat disappointed with Mutant the first time I saw it; but, having subsequently become a full initiate into the fun that is Wings Hauser appreciation, I’ve changed my mind as Mutant has grown on me with age.  My initial response to Mutant was largely a problem of false expectations.  Whereas I went into it wanting another Dawn of the Dead, Mutant is far less ambitious in action, scope, gore effects, and substance, and functions primarily as an eccentric Wings Hauser vehicle.  The plot, which has Hauser and tippling lawman Bo Hopkins running afoul of toxic rural zombies, is a total blast.  Don’t expect a Romero-style cannibal zombie epic, though.  This is all about the Wings Hauser experience.

Nightmare at Noon aka Death Street USA (1987) ****  Vacationing lawyer Hauser and ex-cop Hopkins are joined by sheriff George Kennedy, again up against a small town full of toxic zombies.  Hauser plays a considerably less likable character than usual, and Hopkins emerges as the genuine badass in this one.  Kennedy is priceless, convincingly selling his character’s reluctant zombification, and low-key villainy courtesy of 80s-90s VHS action stalwart Brion James doesn’t hurt the movie at all.  There’s really no way not to have a good time with such a stellar B-movie ensemble working for Nico Mastorakis, the producer/director who brought us the unsung horror winners The Zero Boys and Grandmother’s House.

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