“The living dead are here, and they’re lusting for blood – yours!”
1987 – R – 90 Minutes – Scream! Factory
Starring Michael St. Michaels, Thaddeus Golas, Douglas Bell – Directed by Robert Scott
Remember when everyone use to nag at you when you would come home and plop yourself in front of the boob tube that “Television will kill ya!” It’s meant quite literal in The Video Dead, an interesting little zombie flick from the 80’s. This was back when not every zombie movie had to take place after a virus had spread and it’s now a post apocalyptic world, back when zombies moaned and shambled instead of hissing and walking at a fast pace. Ah, the good ol’ days. But enough of my old man gripes, let’s see what this movie has to deliver.
Speaking of deliver, two delivery men bring an alcoholic writer (is there any other kind?) a mysterious crate, with no COD! Remember those days? When you someone would send you something and you would have to pay for it when it arrived? Gee, thanks for sending me something that I now have to pay a fee on. Anyhoo, I wonder what could be inside? The suspense is killing me and apparently the writer can’t wait either, sense he bashes the thing open with a crowbar to reveal… a weathered ol’ analog TV. Oh. Great.
But there is something strange about this TV. For starters, only one station seems to come in and it apparently only plays one scene from a low budget zombie movie, but here’s the kicker; the zombies come to life and crawl out of the TV! You think 3D is the next big thing, well think again! Although, I think this is only a gimmick and won’t last long, since these zombies seem to kill whatever they come across.
Oops! Seems those delivery drivers made a mistake and need to pick the TV back up for the senders, who happen to be the subtly named the Institute for the Studies of the Occult. I wonder what they do there, how they get their funding and what you do with your degree once you graduate. Can we see that movie instead? No, instead we see the writer, strung up in birthday decorations, dead as a doornail. Aw, nobody came to his party, poor guy.
Three months goes by, which apparently is enough time to allow a home that is the scene of an unsolved murder to be sold and the new tenants are moving in. Well, their daughter Zoe is, since her parents are still overseas. Zoe is also majoring in aerobics, which doesn’t come back into the movie in any way. I’m not being sarcastic there either. It pops up during conversation once and that’s it. Anyway, it isn’t long before something in dirty, ripped clothing is dragging a leg, scuffling toward the house. Upon entering, much to her surprise, it’s her brother Jeff. Wait, why was he dragging his leg? He doesn’t for the rest of the movie. Did someone punch his leg and cause the muscle to tense up? I’m going to assume that’s what happened otherwise this serves no purpose, other than to make you believe it was a zombie.
Jeff. How would you describe Jeff? Well, he’s your average radical 80’s kid with spiked blonde hair, tattered clothing and has a chill attitude. The actor’s performance however… oh boy. Do you remember that kid from Troll 2, the one most known for his line delivery of, “They’re eating her! And now they’re going to eat me! OH MY GAAAAAAWD!” Yeah, he gives that guy a run for his money.
The next morning, a chubby man in a cowboy hat named Joshua Daniels, who could very well double for Joe Don Baker, arrives at the house asking Jeff about the TV. Jeff thinks nothing of it and dismisses Joshua, but shortly after, the seductress on the TV begins to call out for Jeff, luring him into the attic. Now, most people would think to themselves, “Hey, didn’t someone just come around asking about a mysterious TV?” But not Jeff. He decides to bring it into his room, the dolt. And to think this idiot is a total babe magnet. The next day (still wearing the same clothes he arrived in), his neighbor April comes by to introduce herself and tells him all about the murder that occurred in his new home (umm… aren’t realtors required by law to tell you if someone has been killed in your new home?). Jeff falls for her immediately, so much so that he even takes the heat for accidentally killing a dog she watches for some rich folk. Ladies, what has your man done for you today?
That night while toking on a doobie (that’s what the kids say, right?), the seductress comes out from the TV to tease Jeff into thinking he will get “some” and then disappears back into the TV to laugh and giggle at him. Jeff, doesn’t get the hint and desperately seeks out how to get in contact with her, but before he can score a six digit phone number, someone named the Garbage Man comes from behind and slashes her throat, revealing her true, hideous identity. Jeff’s line delivery here is flawlessly executed, a nonchalant, “There’s someone in the room with you… no.” I’ve seen more emotion come from Gillian Anderson’s lips in The X-Files. The Garbage Man tells Jeff about the creatures and to put the shiny side of a mirror up against the TV, since the zombies don’t like to see themselves. Believe it or not, but Jeff almost manages to screw this up. I wouldn’t trust this kid to put his underwear on right, if he wears any.
It seems like it was all for nothing, or perhaps just poorly written as zombies devour April’s father and the maid, along with a few neighbors… while having some fun about it. Actually, I shouldn’t say devour. They sorta choke their victims to death and you rarely see them eating anyone. April takes refuge with Jeff and Zoe as Joshua reemerges and I’m going to assume this time Jeff will listen. He tells them of the terrible creatures that come out from the TV and kill everyone they encounter… you know, stuff you already know. A new bit of information is offered, however. You see, these zombies don’t die like traditional zombies by destroying their brain. These zombies can be tricked into thinking they are regular folk and be convinced they’re dead. It’s the only way to stop them. As they continue to bicker about what to do with the zombies, April gets her useless arse kidnapped, so Joshua and Jeff wait until morning (gee, don’t make it a priority or anything) to rescue you her. Oh, great. Any elderly, chubby old man and a kid who probably needs reminders how to blink are your heroes.
There is actually some good back and forth between Joshua and Jeff, as they tease each other and we get a little insight into who they are and see their more human sides, as they search for April by shouting her name as loudly as possibly. This is when the movie kinda turns goofy, almost as if they were running out of ideas, but they knew they had about thirty more minutes to pad out and that’s how it feels. Not to say they don’t make it entertaining. Jeff and Joshua hunt down the zombies, setting all kinds of traps and what happens next for an expose of gore and violence, I didn’t see coming.
The zombies are now closing in on the home where Zoe is by her lonesome self and she’s left to do the only thing she can. Remember when Joshua was talking about treating them like regular folk? Sounded stupid, right? Well guess what? It actually works. The zombies die and Zoe’s parents come to visit her in the hospital since she is all traumatized shortly after and bring her a little gift so she have something to watch.
Talk about a tonal shift in movie. This movie went from semi-hilarious with a ridiculous premise to semi-serious and dark, although it never feels like you are watching a different movie. Another thing that seems to bog it down from time to time is the pacing, most noticeably in the third act. It feels like it’s starting to drag, but never reaches a point where it feels unwatchable. The Video Dead is quite the opposite of unwatchable, actually. I picked myself up the Scream! Factory two pack with TerrorVision (is that not the most awesome double feature?) and the Blu-ray transfer presented here looks crisp and sharp… unfortunately, it makes the makeup job on some of the zombies look even more laughable than they already had. Don’t get me wrong, some of them look great, like our main zombie that is all rotted. But then there are others, like the rock-a-billy looking zombie crossed with Ryan Stiles where his appearance is something to the effect of putting Elmer’s glue all over someone’s face and painting it blue. You can even see where they should have blended it. Luckily because of the silly premise of the movie, it’s not an issue and when the film tosses blood and guts your way (or a melting, exploding zombie head), you won’t even think twice about it. Too bad the same can’t be said about the music. That short loop will get stuck in your brain, you’ll wish it were your head that was melting. The music sounds like a two note version of the Halloween theme stuck on repeat. You keep expecting in to change, but it never does. All the flaws are forgivable, since it’s low budget and the thing had to be shot on weekends whenever the cast and crew could find time off from their day jobs.
While it’s not the finest example of a zombie film, it has enough cheese to keep you entertained. It’s one of those so-bad-it’s-good type of flicks and I don’t mean that in an ironic sense. There are quite a few things in the bad that make this an absurd film that you can enjoy. While it’s not quite up to Troll 2‘s high standards, I would certainly put it up there. I first discovered this little gem back on VHS when I was in highschool that an ex-girlfriend just so happened to have and I’ve watched it from time to time again ever since. Thankfully, it has found it’s way to Blu-ray and is much more available. If you’re looking for something to treat yourself with and have a good time, then tune in for The Video Dead!