The Video Dead (1987) — TV is bad for your eyes and other organs

“It’s only fair I get to use the chainsaw.”

Justin’s rating: Zed is for Zed Zombie, a rather nice chap

Justin’s review: I guess I never thought that the ’80s was as chock-full of zombie movies as the modern era, but when you step back and count them up, there are a whole lot more than you may assume. Evil Dead 2, Return of the Living Dead, Night of the Comet, Night of the Creeps, Day of the Dead, Re-Animator, Dead Heat, Lifeforce… it was a veritable who’s-who of the obituary page. So if you wanted to get in on this decaying action, you had to offer at least a little bit of a unique spin on the concept.

The Video Dead may lay claim to one of the weirdest zombie ideas I’ve ever seen. Instead of zombies digging themselves out of their grave or being the result of mad science, in this film it’s a haunted TV that spews zombies out of its black-and-white screen from a movie that’s being played on an endless loop.

I mean, why not? Makes about as much sense as any other explanation that handwaves away the appearance of the living dead.

The other thing that helps to separate The Video Dead from the zombie pack is the fact that it only has a handful of undead — six, in fact — and invests some effort into giving each a distinct look and “personality.” Of the bunch, the most notable, and the most deadly, is The Bride, who apparently didn’t appreciate being jilted on her wedding day. These are apparently high-functioning zombies, too, with emotions and more situational awareness than your standard droolers.

So a family moves into a house where a paranormally infested television haunts the attic. Once plugged in, it starts playing a singular zombie flick and functions as a portal to allow the previously alive to come visit. This is a problem for stoner Jeff, his “I should never have been cast” sister Zoe, and his vacuous neighbor April, who now have to contend with a zombie assault and not a lot of direct guidance for this situation. I mean, Jeff does have a brief encounter with “The Garbage Man” in the movie, but he only gives a bit of cryptic advice before disappearing forever. Thanks, dude.

The Video Dead is a movie that you really want to be good — or at least quirky and disarming — based on its premise and really amazing cover art. But you’re going to have to really ratchet down your expectations once you hear the atrociously loud soundtrack and see how the director loves to shove the camera right up close for every face, foot, and bit of unrealistic-looking gore. Considering that the acting is somewhat on par with UHF commercial performances, I would have recommended pulling the camera as far back as possible — perhaps to Nebraska — and then employing some professional voice-over artists.

Yet this movie is not without some points of interest. It’s trying very hard to be funny in an awkward fashion, occasionally eliciting a pity laugh or two. It’s trying to be clever and strange, and it’s hard not to be intrigued by what TV zombies could imply or do. Intentions are all well and good, but the execution of The Video Dead is supremely messy and unfocused. It’s certainly an oddity of the time, but perhaps this one should stay buried.

You know, because zombies.

Way to explain the punchline there, Justin.

Didja notice?

  • That’s one very dead goldfish
  • Tobacco chewers don’t mind spitting globs of goo on the ground in front of a customer
  • He’s a housebound slob who doesn’t watch TV?
  • That’s one incredibly fake dead guy
  • This movie has way too many close-ups
  • You can major in aerobics
  • “You damn fool. YOU DAMN FOOL!”
  • Well, that’s one dead poodle
  • Skunks don’t like to mate with poodles. Poodles find getting sprayed a turn-on.
  • Dog death coverup: “That’s really sick! Do you think it’ll work?”
  • The Garbage Man!
  • “That’s the way I am! I’m a strange person!”
  • Zombies don’t like how they look in mirrors
  • It’s a Very Zombie Breakfast Scene
  • Zombies find blenders funny
  • Head trauma doesn’t stop these zombies
  • Zombies like to hide in washing machines — how? — just to pop up and give people a fright. It’s the extra effort that makes it worthwhile.
  • This movie couldn’t afford cops or cop cars, but a flashing red light and some background cop chatter filled in
  • Um, how did April pass out? From bloody gums?
  • This is the ugliest living room ever
  • “Death and destruction!”
  • This kid is a little too excited to use a chainsaw on a body
  • “How to Kill Vol. 1” is a best-seller

2 comments

  1. Though there’s no review for it here (yet), let’s not forget Zombie Nightmare. One of the few old-school zombies in the post-Romero hellscape.

    From the description, the undead in this film sound more like revenants than zombies

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