Dead Heat (1988) — Zombie cops fight crime

“You are under arrest. You have the right to remain disgusting.”

Justin’s rating: The rigors of mortis

Justin’s review: I don’t know what would ever lead a person to say, “Why yes, I’m in the mood for a Joe Piscopo zombie flick,” but if and when that statement is ever uttered, this movie will be waiting.

I’ll give Dead Heat this much credit: We don’t have to wait long at all to get to the zombies.  In fact, with a runtime of under 90 minutes, that’s pretty necessary. Right away we’ve got two zombies holding up a jewelry store and absorbing way too many bullets from the responding police officers. Showing up with extreme force is Roger (Treat Williams) and Doug (Joe Piscopo), a neat cop/slobby cop duo.

Their investigation leads them to a shady pharmaceutical firm that has created some sort of horrible resurrection machine. It’s pretty revolutionary, but it isn’t without its flaws. While every zombie brought back has high cognition and is near-invincible, the bodies tend to break down within a half-day. This puts a timer on the afterlife of Roger, who is decompressed, killed, and rezzed on the job. You’d think he would want to spend those final hours in a meaningful fashion, but no, his dying wish is to bring down the figures behind the zombie machine.

It’s basically Lethal Weapon, if Lethal Weapon had the undead jumping out at our heroes at every scene. Of course, now that Roger is a zombie too, the pair have an ace card on their side. The pair team up with Randi (Lindsay Frost), the daughter of the company’s deceased CEO. She, and everyone else in this movie for that matter, take the existence of zombie far too casually.

Dead Heat isn’t a movie that seems to know exactly what it wants to be. It’s a police procedural with a healthy dose of comedy and an unhealthy dose of horror without getting this strange brew mixed quite right. Even so, it’s not boring. I don’t think any movie where a butcher shop’s worth of dead animals suddenly lurch back to life could ever be considered “boring.”

And both Williams and Piscopo add something worth seeing. Doug gets a lot of snarky little quips, playing to Piscopo’s comedian strengths, but I found Roger to be far more interesting. If you found yourself a newly undead person with a handful of hours left before you died again, what would that do to your psyche? Seeing Roger struggle through this final crisis in his life — albeit in very small moments and scenes — gave a dimensionality to zombies that you usually don’t see in such films.

I mean… this is weird, but weird is our calling card here at Mutant Reviewers, so we’ll take this movie in when nobody else will.

Didja notice?

  • It doesn’t seem very safe to stick an uzi in your pants, but that’s just me
  • The bad guys’ guns are shooting tank rounds or something
  • 18 parking tickets is a lot for a cop
  • The mortician is awfully quick to allow for the possibility of zombies
  • Well that’s a creepy death chamber you have there in your company
  • And every company has a scary monster hanging out in a suspicious room
  • That’s a VHS tape kid, I’ll tell you about it some day
  • You saw that mirror scare coming, but it still startled you, didn’t it?
  • Even the cop badget gets it
  • And now all the dead animals come to life, why not
  • Yes, a little piggy joke!
  • Just a guy hung upside down in a fish tank in the living room, don’t mind it
  • Well that bathroom scene certainly was out-of-nowhere gross
  • Oh my goodness, it’s Vincent Price!
  • It’s an old fashioned zombie shoot-off

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