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.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Video Dead, The (1987)

... aka: Zombie - Bloody Demons

Directed by:
Robert Scott

A reclusive, alcoholic writer (Michael St. Michaels) mistakenly receives a wooden crate that was supposed to go to "The Institute for the Studies of the Occult." Inside the box is a TV set, which he plugs in and turns on. Some old black-and-white horror movie called "Zombie Blood Nightmare" is playing. He tries to turn it off, but the TV keeps popping back on by itself... even when it's unplugged. That's because it's much more than just a TV set, but a portal to another dimension (or maybe even hell)! Eventually, smoke rolls out, the zombies in the film emerge into the 'real world' and the writer is killed. The house is put up for sale and, three months later, it's purchased by the Blair family. College-aged Zoe (Roxanna Augesen), who says she's majoring in aerobics (?), and her younger, pot-smoking brother Jeff (Rocky Duvall), arrive to get the home in order before their parents (who are away in Saudia Arabia) show up.

Naturally, Jeff finds the TV upstairs in the attic, plugs it in and some zombies show up in the woods behind their home, popping in on occasion to kill off people in the neighborhood (and a poodle). One victim is even stuffed in her washing machine. Jeff is also visited by an evil seductress (Jennifer Miro) from the TV, as well as a man named "The Garbageman" (Cliff Watts), who tells him to stock up on mirrors because these zombies can't stand being reminded of, well, the fact they're dead. A cowboy-hat-sporting Texas bounty hunter (Sam David McClelland) shows up looking for the cursed television and adds to the mythology by letting us know that the dead only kill people who show signs of fear. He and Jeff eventually set out into the woods with a bow-and-arrow and chainsaw to hunt down zombies and try to rescue April (Victoria Bastell), a neighborhood girl Jeff's taken a shining to.

The Video Dead has a minor cult following, did well on video and was frequently shown on late night cable TV in the 80s and 90s (I first recall seeing it on USA Up All Night as a kid). It seems to divide people into love it or hate it camps, though upon this revisit, I've decided I'm squarely in the middle. The movie is fairly upbeat, fast-paced and sometimes fun; even enjoyably quirky at times. Some of the dialogue is random and just strange. Where this movie really shines though in in the fx department. There's plenty of blood and gore, a couple of inventive kills (including an iron smashed into a head) and the make-up designs on the zombies (each of whom is given a unique look) are actually really good. It's also interesting to see evil things emerging from a TV ten+ years before the hit RINGU (1998). On the down side, most of the acting is terrible, there's no real explanation behind the haunted TV set, the tone often uneasily fluctuates between serious and tongue-in-cheek and the living dead (and really the film itself) are often just played for laughs. It's generally watchable, but it's not definitely going to appeal to everyone out there.

Lory-Michael Ringuette (who'd go to make the slasher BLOOD REAPER and the horror-comedy TELE-ZOMBIE) and Anthony C. Ferrante (a director, writer and make-up fx artist who had worked on such films as THE DENTIST and BOO) play zombies. Director Scott went on to a prolific career as an assistant director on such hit TV shows as JAG, Heroes and House M.D.

It was issued on VHS several times (by MGM and Embassy), but the film has yet to receive an official DVD release.


1 comment:

toreador32580 said...

I can totally see how this movie would split people worse than American Politics. It did have it's good moments, but especially after reading your review, the plot sounds kinda funny when you say it out loud. lol You're right about the makeup fx though. That's a lot of what made the movie watchable.

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