Theater Review: Zombie Joe’s Underground Presents ‘Attack of the Rotting Corpses’

As a general rule, horror fans probably aren't the likeliest bunch to head out to a live theater production. But sometimes stepping out of one's comfort zone can be a rewarding experience. FEARnet's been checking out productions at North Hollywood's Zombie Joe's Underground for a few years now and, we have to say, it has certainly altered our perception of live theater. Their latest production, Attack of the Rotting Corpses, should perk up the ears of horror hounds in name alone. 

Corpses returns in 2012 for its second run under the tutelage of horror theater maestro Zombie Joe, who writes and produces. This year Zombie hands off directorial duties to Jana Wimer, who happily orchestrates the kitschy production rife with gross-out moments, human flesh consumption and blood, blood, blood. The one-hour show runs Saturdays at 11 p.m. through March 24th.

Set at the 50 Peachtree luxury complex in the San Fernando Valley, Corpses follows two hapless Hawaiian-shirted concierges, Vic (Josh "Too Sweet" Ryan) and Mack (Billy Monogue) as they attempt to appease an endless stream of demanding tenants and very slowly start to realize there's something funny going on. The motley crew of residents includes flirtatious bikini-clad Liz (Elizabeth Sekora); Norma Desmond-esque Mrs. Ferranello (Tina Preston) and the haplessly nerdy Doug (David Wynn Harris), who marvels at his recent purchase of 200 pairs of disposable underwear before later turning them into a homemade outfit once his brain begins to turn to mush.  

Turns out the water supply has been contaminated and it's causing the tenants to lose hold of whatever attachment to sanity they once possessed. They're also very, very hungry. The girlfriend of one tenant, rotund spandex-clad Catarina (Jill Johnson) welcomes a constant stream of delivery men armed with endless plastic bags of hot food. But eventually, the bagged delicacies just aren't enough to satisfy a burgeoning craving for, you guessed it, human flesh. Even the pets of the residents like the formerly cute pooch Skittles (amusingly portrayed by human Dolores Quintana) are starting to turn ugly. 

Attack of the Rotting Corpses is midnight drive-in theater at its best performed right before your eyes. From the opening moments, it welcomes audiences inside its lighthearted world of over-the-top, sardonic humor. Forget the stuffy theatrical experience you might think you know. Corpses' vocal crowd was laughing and shouting out from the opening moments. Led by Josh Ryan's bugged-eyed Vic, who channels vintage Bruce Campbell, the terrific cast of Corpses keep the craziness coming at a frenetic pace, especially once the undead start to rise. 

Even before the full-on zombie attacks, Corpses has plenty to keep audiences alert for the late night performance, including some truly stomach-turning moments like the aforementioned undie outfit (complete with stains) and Catarina's green vomit-crusted lips. Can someone please wipe her mouth? After Doug complains of a "tummy ache" and wretches something resembling dark red Jell-O onto the floor, he grasps his stomach and turns right towards the members of the audience who giggle even as they duck to avoid whatever it is poor Doug is about to heave up next. 

Attack of the Rotting Corpses is terrific fun, pure and simple. The look and movements of the zombies pay proper homage to Romero, but the tone shares more of a kinship with the likes of Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland. Anyone with a taste for twisted humor should find themselves right at home with this one. We've had fun checking out all the ZJU shows, but Corpses stands out as a personal favorite. It's relentless and ridiculous and leaves the crowd laughing and smiling. It's also perfect for the FEARnet faithful, who just might find themselves branching out a bit once they discover all the fun Zombie Joe has to offer. 

Attack of the Rotting Corpses plays Saturdays at 11 p.m. Through March 24th, 2012 at Zombie Joe's Underground in North Hollywood, California.