Gary Sherman’s Death Line aka Raw Meat

Gary Sherman’s Death Line (aka Raw Meat) is billed as a horror film but they must have meant comedy because I haven’t laughed that hard during a movie for a long time. That’s not to say it isn’t a horror, I’d definitely classify it as one if it twisted my arm over the matter, but holy fuck this is one of the weirdest, most berserk things out there. So get this: sometime in the 70’s, the London authorities discover that far beneath a tube station, there’s a tribe of mentally handicapped, cannibalistic subterranean yahoos living down there, descendants of a group of track workers trapped during a tunnel collapse during the 1800’s. For hundreds of years they have been snatching unsuspecting commuters off the platforms, eating them and also keeping some to reproduce with I guess. Meanwhile Donald Pleasance gives one of the most outright bizarre, unpredictability intense performances of his career as London’s most sarcastic Scotland Yard detective who gets wind of this bonkers situation and, well, investigates is a strong word for the level of effort he puts in, but he’s dimly aware of it anyhow. He plays a guy who is so British that he sleeps with a literal pot of tea next to his bed, has an emotional breakdown if his secretary forgets his cup of Earl Grey and wears a hat that can *only* be described as a tea cozy. This film just kinda meanders until you’re aware of what it’s technically about, yet can’t help but notice it’s slack pace and complete lack of desire tell a story with any sort of cohesion beyond an illusory ‘concept’ of subway dwelling maniacs. Arbitrary diversions abound, such as Christopher Lee randomly showing up as a very rude MI5 spook just so Pleasance can tell him “fuck you” straight to his face in the film’s one cheeky F bomb. At one point the whole thing just stops dead in it’s tracks so Pleasance and his partner (Norman Rossington) can hit up a local bar, get absolutely fucking torqued on beer and scotch, have a drunken pinball tournament and threaten the barkeep by telling him they’ll report him to the police for serving patrons after hours when, ya know, they *are* the police, the only ones still in the establishment and the very ones who made him stay open late to serve them anyways. The scenes underground are super cheesy with enthusiastic yet hilariously messy special effects and one terminally off pitched performance from Armstrong as the last surviving… whatever they are. Seriously this guy is covered in buckets of slime and has this weird way of acting that calls to mind a certain word I won’t use here, but he jumps around, hollers like a loon and makes quite the… campy impression. The pacing is all over the place and could barely be considered thriller structure, aside from a quick third act chase. Add to all of this perhaps the strangest proto-electronic musical score ever ever devised for a ‘horror’ film and you’ve got something that defies description. It’s like one of those movies you see on TV at 3am in a hazy fugue state and later try to explain to your friends, who all think you’re making it up. Weird ass flick.

-Nate Hill

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