Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Video Dead (1987)

Title: The Video Dead (1987)

Director: Robert Scott

Cast: Rocky Duvall, Roxanna Augussen, Sam David Mac Clelland


The Video Dead is one of those movies from the 80’s that is heavy on cheesiness and charm and as some of you might know, I enjoy that a whole lot. The cheese factor makes watching horror films that much more fun and that’s all I care about sometimes; fun! High levels of cheese usually assures us a couple of things in a horror film: bad acting, bad dialog, low production values and extremely silly, nonsensical situations. The Video Dead has a lot of all of that, plus zombies coming out of television sets! That right there was the grabber for me. I remember walking down the aisle at my local video club (back when we had those) and loving the cover art for this film but never having the guts to actually rent it. I was about twelve back then and my young mind was not yet ready for the onslaught of nastiness that horror movies had to offer. Of course, I’d eventually discover the wonders of horror films, but back in 1987, I was just a tad too innocent. Little did I know that judging by how silly this movie is, I could have seen it when I was freaking 8!

Jeff and Zoe are a brother and a sister that are moving into a new household. Their parents are busy on a trip to Saudi Arabia so they go ahead and move into the house first then their parents, brother and sister have the house all to themselves. In the houses attic Jeff finds an old television set, so he takes it to his room. This was way before the day of HD plasma tv’s, so this is one of those big ass television sets where you switched the channels by turning a button, basically a really old fashioned television. One night when Jeff is particularly bored he takes out a big ass bag of weed, rolls a joint and sits back to enjoy a zombie film that’s playing on the magical television. The film is called ‘Zombie Blood Nightmare’; by the way, the film that’s playing on the t.v. looks pretty awesome!  Suddenly, the film is interrupted by a character called ‘The Garbage Man’ who warns Jeff all about the zombies that have the ability to escape from t.v. world. He tells Jeff that they are very real, and that they are vile creatures with no soul. But even though Jeff’s been warned and told how to stop these creatures from coming out of the television, he still let’s the zombies escape from the mystical television set! Soon the zombies start terrorizing Jeff’s neighbors and killing them off in strange ways. Will Jeff and Zoe find a way to stop these zombies and send them back from the television hell they came out of?

So basically this is one of these horror movies that’s so STUPID in nature that it will have you rolling in laughter. I mean, how stupid is this movie? Let me count the ways…first off, the brother and the sister have some of the dumbest dialogs ever. For example, in one scene Zoe -the older sister- tells her brother that she’s starting in college soon and that she’s majoring in get this: aerobics and music videos! Ha ha ha…okay, see what I mean about this movie making you laugh? Jeff is a pothead, and normally potheads will enjoy going on a head trip when they smoke weed, but not Jeff! When Jeff starts seeing characters talking to him from the television (something a pothead would laugh at while high) he ends up flushing his weed down the toilet as he says “No more for me!” Trust me, there’s so much dumb dialog on this one and told in such an unnatural fashion, that you will have no option but to laugh.

Then, we gotta deal with the notion that there’s such a thing as a mystical television that allows fictional characters from a film materialize in the real world. Normally, I’d accept such a notion in a cheesy movie like this one, but only if it comes with some sort of explanation, however incredulous it may be. On The Video Dead nobody explains why this television set does any of this, we simply gotta take for granted that it does. Then there’s this character called Joshua Daniels, a Texas cowboy type of guy who seems to know everything about killing these television zombies. Who the hell made him such an expert? Why does he know exactly what to do to kill these zombies? Who is this guy? No explanation is given, he simply KNOWS. Its funny hearing him talk about ‘The Video Dead’ so nonchalantly. But what the hell, this isn’t the kind of movie where we need things explained. The filmmakers are contempt with simply playing with this premise of a magical television set; which I have to admit is a cool idea. I would have loved an explanation, it would have made it easier to swallow the concept.

The idea of monsters coming out of our television sets is not a new one; it has been used before in films like Cronenberg’s Videodrome (1983), which seems to be the film that inspired this one, at least partially. At least in Videodrome we know why James Woods can stick his head through his television set. There’s also Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist (1982) which has ghosts communicating through a television with little Caroline, and that happens because supposedly ghosts have a way with electricity; an idea that was also explored in The Ring (2002). We also have Terrorvision (1986) which has an alien coming out of a television, because it traveled through space in a bolt of lightning. Another film that comes to mind is Wes Craven’s Shocker (1989), where the villain Horrace Pinker is a killer on deathrow, who makes a pact with some sort of t.v. demon, minutes before he is electrocuted. This later gives him the ability to jump from television show to television show. Still, in The Video Dead’s defense I have to say that the idea of zombies coming out television sets is a novel one, and this is what sets The Video Dead apart.

The film does have cool looking zombies!

Even though The Video Dead had an interesting premise, the characters and situations develop in the most boring fashion possible. No one gets overtly excited even in the face of true horror. Everybody seems to be on a strange sort of high where nothing much fazes them. There’s a moment that goes something like this: “Sis, I’m going to go to the woods to hack some zombies with a chainsaw, with a strange man we just met, is that okay?” “Sure Jeff, just promise me you will return okay?” “Sure sis, I promise, bye!” It’s the kind of acting where you know the actors are acting, which of course is the worst sort of acting; I call it Troll 2 (1990) acting. This is a harmless horror film every step of the way, not too scary, not too childish either. It’s somewhere in between. In fact, this movie was so harmless that the producers actually gave extra money to the filmmakers to shoot more gore scenes and even then, the film is mild on the gore! It does have one cool scene where they chop a zombie in half with a chainsaw though. The Video Dead is a goofy horror film in the way that only a horror film from the 80’s could be, it has that feeling you get when you watch films like Black Roses (1988) or Trick or Treat (1986), you know, silly characters and situations, but ultimately entertaining. At the end of the day we are left with a 'light' sort of zombie flick, that has  a couple of funny deaths (death by washing machine!) and some unrealistic, totally laughable dialog. I actually saw it because I knew it would get me all nostalgic about the way horror films where in the 80’s, which it achieved to perfection.

Rating: 2 out of 5          


eddie lydecker said...

Since the invention of cinema in 1889 we`ve had 12 decades of film-making so far and i genuinely believe the 1980`s were the best of them for horror movies because of the incredible number of low budget cult-classics that went straight to video in that decade.

Franco Macabro said...

This is true! And I have some forgotten zombie movies from the 80's lined up for review! I love the cheesy stuff from the 80's, I find all these movies so entertaining precisely because they were willing to get really silly and totally bonkers with their stories in order to entertain us, I think movies are taking themselves a little too seriously nowadays, coming from the 80's I sometimes feel they've sucked the life out of cinema, save for a few directors who "get" that all we wanna do is have some silly fun sometimes.

Kev D. said...

Also, Jeff never fucking changes. How can he expect to impress the neighbor girl when he probably smells like weed, dirt, feet and ass?

Oh man, also, that zombie kill montage was AMAZING. "There's a zombie in the washing machine!" Brilliant.

Franco Macabro said...

Ha, ha, yeah, that scene with the zombies killing and killing was funny, the washing machine death was I guess the funniest.

Is it just me or did people really hate aerobics back in the 80's! Almost every single zombie flick from the 80's has some sort of reference to aerobics! Return of the Living Dead II has a scene with zombies staring at a tv with a lady doing aerobics, CHUD II has a scene where BUD kills a lady doing aerobics, and I think this one as well didn't it? I can't quite remember...

Franco Macabro said...

Oh yeah, the girl says she's "Majoring in Aerobics" ha ha, hilarious!

You know, I thought the same thing, the movie that the television shows looks better then The Video Dead! The should have just done something like the movie that's playing on the t.v.


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