Saturday, January 26, 2019

the video dead [1987]

finally watched this lo-budget straight-to-video zombie horror comedy.  i remember seeing the box art on the shelves of the local blockbuster, tower video, & mom&pop, video stores back in the day.  looked interesting.  but even being possessed with a high tolerance for pain, & a superb liking of trash cinema, this flick looked too silly even for me for a night's video rental.

there are other grade z schlock that i regret not renting too, however, this particular film has stayed in the back of my mind.  so when i saw the title during the high holiday of halloween when a very many movie channel were doing their horror marathon i recorded the pic.  & yet, goofball me, i let it sit in the DVR for all these months.  taunting me.  saying, dude, come watch me!  you'll love us zombies.

i did, & i do.  i think the production was shot in marin county, across the bay from SF, of which was corroborated by a taxi with 'muir woods tours' stenciled on its side.  & the late jennifer miro of the SF punk band the nuns has a role as one of the mysterious, yet sexy, ghouls dead set on a bloody rampage.

ah, yes, let's get to the plot.  a cursed TV is delivered to a writer who would rather bang out words on his typewriter, order pizza, drink cheap whisky, & sleep to noon rather than watch the tube.  still, after the dude sets up the set in his leaving room he gets back to his wordsmithing, pizza eating, cheap whisky drinking, & noon wake ups, until the TV turns itself on.  & it can't be turned off.  what's that on the TV?  zombies, of fucking course.  the movie on continual loop is called 'zombie bloody nightmare'.  that is fucking right.  buckle up, pilgrims, for the set is about to get live.

because the zombies come out of the TV & into the writer's living room.  the coming-out-of-the-TV thing predates the great japanese horror movie ringu [1998] by over a decade.  writer/director robert scott was sure on to something about making a television set the source of zombie horror.  kudos to scott for being far beyond the cutting edge.  & the writer?  well, this is a zombie flick, what the hell do you think happened to him?

three months later two teens, jeff & zoe, move in to the murder house.  yes, the zombies are on the loose.  why they are not noticed in the neighborhood, i don't know.  jeff & zoe's parents are living in saudia arabia but are expected back in california.  the siblings are tasked to set up house to prepare for the eventual family reunion.  jeff finds the horror TV in the basement, turns it on, sparks up a doobie [& recall that this flick was made during the reagan admin when first lady nancy reagan was urging american kids to 'just say no' to drugs; i don't think jeff was listening], & sees a sexy ghoul [jennifer miro] on the screen.  she starts to talk to jeff.  he thinks it's the weed that is causing his hallucinations.  she steps out of the screen, disrobes, starts to get all kissy face with jeff, then leaps back into the TV.  jeff gets all pissed about her leaving him.  as for the rest of this scene you'll just have to watch the flick to find out.  but let me say this one more thing.  it is plain ass goofy & yet it drives forward the plot.

the next day jeff is doing a bit of leaf raking.  a local girl, april, played by very cute victoria bastel, is walking her dog.  jeff is smitten with april & invites her in the house.  meanwhile her charge, chocolate, a miniature poodle, tears ass thru the woods.  april & jeff search for the pooch.  chocolate had his own close encounter with one of the video dead.  the couple discover his corpse.

that is when the shit hits the fan.  jeff has another TV roundabout but with a different zombie.  zoe comes around to the fact that their new house is an undead magnet.  & zombie hunter, joshua daniels, shows up to give the kids the lowdown & to save the day.

successfully?  well, you know me.  i've been waiting for the zombie apocalypse for like ever.  i always root for the undead.  filmmaker robert scott lensed one helluva suspenseful movie on just a buck & some change budget.  i loved its location.  the score aped the great john carpenter 'halloween theme'.  & i loved it.  this was a flick that was the best of the straight-to-video market.  when going to a video store was a gamble.  often in the horror aisle one would choose a film by the strength of its video box art.  that was part of the pleasure & thrill of renting movies.  it was a gamble that sometimes paid off.

gone are the days of renting flicks in the video store.  don't get me wrong.  there are still hold-out video stores among us.  but those shops are the exception.  most of the movie watching public rent DVDs via redbox kiosks, or via online streaming platforms like netflix.  every once in a great while we might go see a movie the old-fashioned way, at the movie theater.  but call me 'old man' for i miss the weekly pilgrimage to the local video store, stand among the hundreds, or thousands, of titles with the rich scent of popcorn popping & a TV monitor[s] tuned to either a film or trailers or ads for the shop coupled with trailers playing in the background.  i miss that pilgrimage.  & yet, the art of watching trash cinema, cheapjack horror movies, & exploitation flicks ain't quite dead.  you just need to know what to look for & where to find them.  like a cable movie channel that broadcasts flicks with weird titles like, you know, the video dead.


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