1987 brought us some doozys in the world of horror. Next to maybe 1981, the slasher benchmark year, 1987 may be my favorite year. Evil Dead 2 scared the He-Man jammies off 9 year old me. I failed to get the humor at that age. All I remember is after viewing Evil Dead 2, I spent the next two sleepless nights with a sharp eye staring out my bedroom window for any hint of a dead, female corpse ready to get up and dance her way out of my front yard. She never did. My keen sense kept the dead, dancehall skanks at bay I guess.
You're welcome grandma and grandpa for keeping you safe those nights
1987 also brought us an onslaught of straight to video horror. Straight to video horror back in the 80’s was fresh and new. Yeah they weren’t very good but most of them were made with some sort of love. Unlike today’s shithole crop of soulless straight to DVD tripe. I swear if I see one more poorly lit, “I just got my best buds to star in this one. Pretty sweet, eh?”, CGI filled wank in my DVD player someone is going to lose a testicle. It won’t be me.
Anyway, I decided to start doing some reviews of some flicks from my “need to have the tracking constantly adjusted” VHS collection. Speaking of tracking on VHS, I love the latter day option of Auto Tracking. Too bad when it’s auto tracking my screen is constantly reading Auto Tracking in Progress. Not sure what tech-turd thought that was a good idea but I digress…
Anyway, I pulled out The Video Dead from 1987. For those that don’t know, The Video Dead is a zombie/possessed television movie. I’m sure there’s some director commentary in there on the pitfalls of technology and the like but I could care less. Not interested in what Johnny’87 down the road with his camcorder thinks of technology and what it’s doing to society on a whole. Just show me the fuckin’ blood. I can form my own opinions on society.
First off I had to deal with a constant “wick, wick, flap” sound throughout in the background as my VHS copy was that old. That annoyance aside, the movie begins. It starts with two delivery guys dropping off a crate sent to the smart ass and single old writer named…I can’t remember. Sorry, it doesn’t matter anyway. He’ll just be referred to as Old Writer from here on. So Old Writer spats out lines like, “Can’t be mine… I haven’t ordered anything except pizza in the last 6 months”. Oh you delicious scumbag . I like him already. Delivery guys tell him it’s not C.O.D., it’s already paid for by the sender. (Does anyone send anything C.O.D. anymore? I never see that advertised anywhere. Seems an 80’s cliché now a days) Old Writer takes the package even though he doesn’t know where it came from. The scumbag in him took over I guess. He opens it and we realize it’s the shittiest TV you’ve ever seen even by 1987 standards. I’d probably keep it too. I’m weird like that.
Old man turns on the TV but all that’s playing is a zombie movie. Goldmine to me but he’s not impressed and shuts it off and walks away. TV turns back on, he shuts it off again, unplugs it and walks away and off to bed. During the night the TV turns back on and, at this point, you know something is up. How do I know? It’s probably the zombie who’s now looking out of the TV that’s spewing fog and blood but maybe that’s just me. So zombie gets out of the TV, goes to Old Writer and starts choking him. Next morning the delivery guys are back trying to get the package back. It was for someone else. Low and behold they find Old Writer looking like a dead and bloated Eddie Furlong.
Cut to: Three months later….. That’s actually a ridiculously short amount of time to clean up a house that’s obviously a murder/crime scene. They did their investigation, cleaned the house and had it on the market and sold by three months? Awesome realtor. Must put him in contact with the guy up the road from me that has been trying to sell his clean looking, split-entry house for over a year now.
Zoe and her brother Jeff have move into the house and are in the process of setting it up for their vacationing parents. Zoe seems like a real winner. When her brother asks what she’s doing when she attends college this year she states “I’m majoring in aerobics” and she follows that brilliance with “And I’m minoring in music videos.” Only in the 80's, kids. What school offers those anyway? I must find out. I'll do a Major in horror reviews with a Minor in Sittingthefuckarounddoingfuckall please.
It’s worth noting the ominous and intense music that goes on for a scene and basically all that’s happening is Zoe and Jeff cleaning up. Someone shot their soundtrack load prematurely. Wrong place, wrong time.
I’m wondering if they shot this movie sequentially. Michael St. Michael at the start gives the most wooden performance I’ve seen. But as it goes he really owns the role. Well, has a good, low interest lease at the very least. So after a few more banter-less and forced scenes like Jeff’s first encounter with his love interest, he proceeds to hit the bedroom. He sets up a TV found in the basement, yeah because I’m sure the realtor and cops would have left the TV, turns it on a gives a gleeful sound akin to what I might say when he sees a zombie movie is on and then proceeds to pull out his stash of grass to roll. A few puffs into the poorest rolled joint I’ve seen in a long time, the channel switches to a girl who starts to converse with him. Shocked, she comes through the TV and keeps conversing. (To be noted the girl in this scene is Jennifer Miro of the 80's punk/new wave band The Nuns)
As Miro heads back into the TV and man comes behind, cuts her throat and warns Jeff to put mirror in front of the TV as he doesn’t know what he’s dealing with. The weird thing is, Jeff blames the pot for being mixed with something then just gets the mirrors anyway. I’ve smoked a boatload of weed in my time and never have I smoked anything to make me hallucinate like that. Hell, I’ve never taken hallucinogens that made me hallucinate like that. Also of note, it killed me to see him dump about an ounce into the shitter. What an asshole.
I must note here that the effects in this movie are noteworthy. The zombies look impressive being a cross between Romero era zombies and Fulci zombies. Unfortunately, there’s only 4 in the movie. The practical blood effects work on all angles too. Great stuff. I assume they focused most of the budget, all $72 of it, on the effects. Generally, this doesn’t work. I can count numerous movies where the effects look cool but the movie just reeks. This movie has it’s flaws but I’m oddly intrigued.
So Jeff tries to explain to his unconvinced sister what’s going on when an old guy, can’t remember the name, enters going on about finding the TV before and dealing with these zombies and a bunch of other hoopla. Problem I have at this point is the guy is going on about not escaping before and they won’t escape now and have to find a way out and a bunch of other horseshit. Sorry but there’s 4 fucking zombies in this movie. None move fast. They’re acting like it’s 1967 and it’s Night of the Living Dead. Budget constraints only paid for 4 zombies I guess. They’re all slow moving. Just saunter past them, there’s only four. Let the neighbors deal with it.
Anyway, the old guy and Jeff hit the woods....of the ‘burbs...to find a way out. Which to me look to be just straight ahead but I guess that would be an uninteresting movie. Anyway, I have a bit of confusion with how the zombies act here. At one point they’re obviously smart enough to hide behind trees to see these guys yet when they go to attack, they just walk straight ahead slowly like other zombies. Are they smart or not? They also at times move quickly but when an attack scene happens they move slow. What gives?
Oops I missed talking about the zombies attacking Jeff’s new piece. They come in and choke her mom for days it seems. She won’t die. Must be the weakest grip ever. I really hate when I shake hands with a wimpy person. I tend to roll their knuckles around a bit just to get their attention. Handshakes tell a lot about a person. I have a vicious handshake. Could be blamed on all the beating off I did as a kid I guess but who knows.
Anyway, old guy and Jeff decided to use Jeff as bait to get the zombies, all 4 of them, to come. They do, old guy sleeps, Jeff screams like a girl but old man wakes up and brings out the mirrors. The bride zombie recoils and takes off with Jeff’s chainsaw. Jeff and old man deliver the most priceless lines in this one. Old Man screams “Be off” and then Jeff follows it with “We wiped them out” Who? One of the 4 zombies. It wasn’t exactly Pearl Harbour. It was one goddam zombie. See the zombies even use weapons. I’ve only seen this in the Umberto Lenzi classic Nightmare City. As they chase the bridge, old guy ends up getting stabbed and killed by a zombie and Jeff decides to run. He gets caught in a bear trap. What’s with the bear traps in the woods of the suburbs anyway? Or what’s with bear traps in general? They were a popular horror movie device in the 70's and 80's but not so now. Can you believe it? Bear traps have become 80's retro. So the bride zombie chases Jeff into a cabin where he sees his new lady friend dead. Jeff launches into a murderous rampage, beheads the bride and gets a chainsaw to the chest for his work.
This part of the movie surprised me. Who we’ve followed all along and was obviously the main protagonist dies. I’m shocked and impressed. This doesn’t happen in movies now a days. So the focus shifts to Zoe. Zoe is back in the house and is freaking because the zombies are coming. She remembers old guy saying something about don’t show fear. Remembering she walks out and invites all the zombies in for bangers and mash. Inappropriate hand holding and eating follows. She then remembers the guy saying to trap them where they can’t escape, they’ll eat themselves to which they do when she traps them in the basement. In goddam disgusting fashion no less. Maybe the budget was a little higher that $72. Maybe $112.50. Again, great use of practical effects.
So after this Zoe ends up in the nuthouse where her parents visit her and comment on hoping Zoe isn’t taking drugs. Nope not Zoe, Jeff’s smoking crack-cut blunts but not Zoe. They also bring her the TV for comfort. Wow, cool guys, you brought me the shit 1952 TV that’s falling apart. Swell.
The TV turns on and guess what? The zombie movie is on. Zoe shits the bed and gives the ugliest face I’ve ever seen and that’s a wrap on The Video Dead from 1987.
Holy shit....Word tells me I’m on Page 4. Who’s going to read a 4 page review on The Video Dead other than me?
This movie had some great points. It had a distinct 80's feel that couldn’t be duplicated in any other decade. The Video Dead is so of it’s time it hurts. Direct to video feel, hair styles, clothes, music, it has it all. The effects were also pretty great too. Although there was only 4 zombies, they were all effective. Sure, the acting and overall plot left me feeling a bit cheated,but the obvious love and effort put into this movie shines through all the negative. I really do wish they made ‘em like this now.
Overall 6 / 10 It’s definitely worthy of a DVD release in the future. Hope someone gives it the proper treatment it deserves. It's a long lost classic zombie movie.