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Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Video Dead: High DEADfinition

the video dead cover art

I think it's fair to say that the centerpiece of most every home is the television. While the home computer almost gives it a run for its money, the TV will likely rule most households for the foreseeable future thanks to the various amounts of entertainment that it brings. The television is like a gateway, a portal for our video games, TV shows, movies, and even our music to come to life and grant us all the entertainment we could ever want. But what if that gateway were instead used by zombies to cross over into our world so they could tear the flesh right off our bones? This would be the burning question posed in 1987's The Video Dead, a direct to video horror film with a comedic twist.

Written and directed by Robert Scott, (who has done a fair amount of second unit work in, fittingly, television), The Video Dead follows the tale of a possessed TV (or something) that is accidentally delivered to the wrong home. Soon after it arrives, the TV unleashes a slew of shambling zombies that kill the home's sole occupant, leaving the house vacant until a new family buys it a few months down the road. With their parents still abroad, both Zoe (Roxanna Augesen) and her younger brother Jeff (Rocky Duvall) are the first to arrive on the scene. As they are working on getting the house situated for their parents while they are away, Jeff soon discovers the haunted television set, and zombies eventually come a pouring out of it and start jack everyone's shit up. Cable prices totally aren't worth this hassle.  

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"I think I might move it to the corner to give the room a little more space."

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"Hi mom!"

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Never has a television been more frightening. Well, except for when Nancy Grace is on, that is.

Made for somewhere around $80,000, The Video Dead very much feels like a cheap, shot on video zombie film. However, despite the fact that it's not shot on video and there is enough money behind it to bring it up a few technical notches, the vibe is very much still there. The setting is simple and secluded, and more than likely the houses used as sets belonged to those involved with the film. The acting is also quite awful, coming from a cast of thespians with very little to none in terms of other film work. Some of the make-up is rough around the edges, and sadly, there is very little gore for a film that one would expect copious amounts of grue from. 

Where The Video Dead does sort of sets itself apart from the pack is, despite the unoriginal setting, there are a few cool ideas that come to life in a way that is sometimes visually appealing. Seeing the zombies represented in a black and white film on the television is certainly a nice touch. However, one of the better moments is when the zombies actually come rising out of the screen, something that flat out looks cool. In addition, even if the make-up is a tad sketchy at times, most of the zombies have a great look, which is certainly important in a zombie film. One thing that really surprised me about this movie though, is the level of unpredictability, specifically in the final act. I won't spoil anything, but I will say that The Video Dead has more balls than I would have ever expected going into it.

The Video Dead works perfectly as a party film, but I would be somewhat hard pressed to fully consider it a movie that's so bad it's good, and that's due to the fact that there is a sharp sense of humor laid throughout the film. It's very tongue-in-cheek, almost playing more as a comedy than it does a B-horror film. The character interactions and some of the dialogue is, at times, very funny. Moments like Jeff renaming another character Cow Shit in retaliation to constantly being referred to as boy, or Zoe claiming to be a college Aerobics major are just a few examples of the humor strewn throughout The Video Dead.   

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"Lightening the mood" to watch The Video Dead.

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Can't blame this one on the tobacco companies…

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Flock of Seagulls?!

Some of the comedic elements I did enjoy, however, that humor does get a little tiresome at times, causing a few dull moments when there shouldn't be. Unless it's VERY funny, I prefer my bad cheap horror to be just that, bad and cheap, and I wouldn't consider The Video Dead to be anything more than marginally funny during the times where it's actually trying to be. I would much rather be entertained by bad acting (which is dealt out in spades in the film) and other such cinematic atrocities than have a film try too hard to be humorous. Simply put, the situations are far funnier than the execution.  

Regardless of my minor qualms, The Video Dead delivers the '80s goods in a way that truly fits the time period. It embodies the VHS era in just about everyway with its incredible box art, it's low-budget, the bad acting, and the whacked out zombies. As I mentioned earlier, it makes for the perfect group viewing, preferably with a little something-something to lighten the mood (you know, like heroin), and if you're a connoisseur of this type of film, then it should certainly tickle your pickle. Unless you don't have one, in which case it will have to tickle the female organ that rhymes with pickle. Sickle maybe? How about Travis Bickle?

12 comments:

  1. Nice review, Matt. I haven't seen this since I was a kid, but if I were to watch it now, it would probably be one of those movies that seems so familiar in every way, like vague memories suddenly resurfacing. Wow, that sounded really pretentious, but you know what I mean. Just looking at those screenshots is bringing back tons of memories. Glad to hear that the movie doesn't completely suck... I may have to hit this one up soon.

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  2. Thanks, mang! I bet you would enjoy it enough, plus having a touch of nostalgia will more than likely help a little. I always love when I rewatch something, yet remember nothing about it, only to have it all come rushing back to me as I watch it. Despite a few boring moments here and there, the film is fun enough overall.

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  3. I loved The Video Dead, bought this on VHS years ago. I also have to give you props for the Halloween 3 logo - got a good laugh outta that one! Looking forward to more posts this month! Thanks!

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  4. Don't remember too much about this other than I loved the zombie coming out of the TV and the awesome vhs cover. It would be cool to revisit this one after more than twenty years. Cool review Matt.

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  5. I always wanted to see this one, it's the poster that grabbed me at the video store, but i never got around to it, and now it's not available anywhere.

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  6. Don't forget the minor in music videos!

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  7. I saw this cinematic work of art earlier this year. I found it to be the perfect Saturday afternoon movie like they did back in the day on local network TV.

    There's a creep factor that I think is executed well. Since hearing real life accounts of a TV acting as a medium, it's relationship to material reality has always cranked my anxiety. So Video Dead and its zombies for me were effective.

    Great points about the humor! Right on target.

    And the banner picture is a great Hallow's Eve rep!

    *sings Silver Shamrock song*

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  8. Reggaexx: Oh, I would love to get my hands on a decent shape copy of this film. I may have to take a peek online to see what kind of prices are out there. It would be awesome to toss it in my VCR and watch it the way it was meant to be watched! Thanks for the comment!

    Hero: Thanks, man! The zombies coming out of the TV is certainly a major highlight just for the visual aspect of it. It’s always a treat to watch a cheap, shitty 80’s horror film only to see something really cool in it.

    Connoisseur: If you have Netflix streaming, you can see it that way, otherwise, you are right, it’s not available on DVD. I don’t even think it ever has seen a DVD release, which is unfortunate. The Video Dead is perfect for some small company like Blue Underground or Anchor Bay to release a special edition for.

    POT: Ha ha, I forgot about that one! I mean, is there anything more 80s than Aerobics and music videos?!

    Ashlee: Thanks! You know, why in the world a channel like SyFy doesn’t pick up these crazy little, undistributed horror flicks to show on TV is beyond me. Like you said, it’s the perfect Saturday afternoon movie, and I bet horror fans would eat that shit up if films like this were showing on TV on weekends. It’s all about nostalgia!

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  9. I had a lot of trouble getting through it, but, in the end, like most of these types of films... I loved it.

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  10. It does get a little tedious in spots, but that is the case with a good deal of bad/great horror films. They always seem to resonate so well afterwards! Thanks for the comment!

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  11. What a fun-to-read, really well-written review. Thanks!

    (I played the "Flock o' Seagulls zombie"... we were hoping for the hipper, groovier epithet, "Bowie zombie" but we cool ;-))

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    Replies
    1. That's awesome you stopped by, Patrick! Glad you dug the review, and had you had worn a cod piece à la Bowie in Labyrinth, I totally would have picked up on it!

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