Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Death Warmed Up (1984)

...aka: Death Warmed Over

Directed by:
David Blyth

I have two DVD players; one in my living room and one in my bedroom. The one in my bedroom is one of those temperamental bastards that only plays *certain* DVDs in my collection; namely the immaculate ones fresh out of the package. Anything else with even the faintest scratch or smudge, you might as well forget about. Strangely, that same player has no issue at all playing anything I pull out of any of those 50/ 100/ 70 Gazillion Movie Packs distributed by Mill Creek Entertainment. Even those discs I've forgotten to put back in the envelopes... which somehow end up on the floor... get covered in dust... are scratched up by my cat... and somehow get dotted with dried globs of Mountain Dew. My player just loves those, so that's usually what I pop in to watch right before bed since most do a great job of putting me to sleep. DEATH WARMED UP (aka DEATH WARMED OVER) - released in their "Nightmare Worlds" set - is an exception to the rule. This movie is a complete and utter mess, but it did manage to keep my attention for 82 minutes. And dammit, I actually could have used some sleep last night!

A pre-Peter Jackson New Zealand gore film that doesn't make a lick o' sense, DWU uses an old school mad doctor scenario to center its bizarre and nonsensical events around. The film starts with some promise. Professor Tucker (David Weatherley) and the thoroughly insane Dr. Archer Howell (Gary Day) are trying to concoct a formula to reverse the aging process. Howell gets greedy and, during an amusingly homoerotic sequence, sneaks up behind Tucker's son Michael (Michael Hurst) while he's taking a shower and injects the serum into his ass with a huge syringe. Michael goes nuts, surprises his parents in bed with a shotgun and then spends seven years in a nuthouse before being released. Now wanting revenge, a white-haired Michael, along with his girlfriend Sandy (Margaret Umbers) and another couple; Lucas (William Upjohn) and Jeannie (Norelle Scott), take a boat to a secluded island where Dr. Howell now runs a psychiatric hospital.
Once on the island, things take a turn into the truly senseless as Michael and company encounter a bunch of spastic mutant nutcases; Dr. Howell's failed experiments. In several scenes obviously inspired by MAD MAX, the gang is chased and almost run off a road by some mutants while speeding down a dirt road and then encounter them again in underground catacombs where they chase them around on their motorcycles. There's plenty of blood, violence and gore to go around (including skull drilling and an exploding head), a pinch of sex, some decent camerawork (again, obviously MAD MAX-inspired) and dark, foggy, futuristic set design inside of the clinic. The production values aren't bad and it's somewhat stylish, but there's way too much going on here. It's unfocused overkill that grows tiresome well before the end.
The cast also includes David Letch (who appeared - along with Umbers - in the underrated haunted car film MR. WRONG aka DARK OF THE NIGHT), Bruno Lawrence (THE QUIET EARTH) and Ian Watkin (the obnoxious uncle in Jackson's DEAD ALIVE). Vestron Video handled the original U.S. video release.


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