Written, produced and directed by: Robert Scott
Reviewed by: Brett H.
”You don't understand. He likes to chase skunks in the woods, and if he finds them he tries to mate with them. Only skunks don't like to mate with poodles, and then they spray him and he really gets turned on!”
When I was a kid, nothing beat buying a whole bunch of candy and chips before making a trip to my favorite rental outlet, Video Break. 5 movies, 5 days, 5 bucks, with shelves lined with horror movies, their box art screaming for me to pick them up like one of the many victims contained within the tapes. As a kid, it was the tale that mattered and never once did I worry about the quality of the transfer on the tape; it was all about the wicked cover art, the awesome titles and the scares contained within. Cracking the blocky white clamshell tomb, lifting the video out and sliding it into the VCR, the thrill of not knowing what you were about to see was half the fun. There was no internet and therefore no reviews for little Brettzky. Some experiences were better than others, but seeing as I generally watched my horror films late at night when everyone was asleep, only one thing was certain - I’d be shitting my pants come dawn.
As DVD was ushered in, VHS was thrown out like last week’s trash. I stocked up on around 50 treasures that have yet to see the light of day on digital format and a whole lot more that eventually did. I can remember the day that I purchased The Video Dead like it was yesterday. A chain had basically taken over the rental game in my town, but good came with that. The store sold used copies of videos from all over Canada that obviously were left over from stores they had bought out. I was panicking like all hell as they had a whole load of rare treats. Zombie Nightmare, Witchtrap, Vampire Hookers, Terror in the Swamp and so many more. One of the first videos I spotted was The Video Dead and I wanted it as I’d read about it online at one of my favorite horror sites. As I said, I was panicking and I forgot about it and already had 6 movies picked out (all I could afford!) before I saw it out of the corner of my eye when walking to the counter to pay. Immediately I put one of the videos back and took it as my own. I’m not sure what movie I put back that day, but I am confident it would have been nowhere near as entertaining as The Video Dead.
A large wooden crate is loaded off a delivery truck and brought to the home of Henry Jordan (Michael St. Michaels), who hasn’t ordered anything other than pizzas in the last six months. He cracks the crate open to find an old television set inside. Speaking to himself, he wonders who could have sent such a thing, he doesn’t even watch TV. He plugs it in regardless and is treated to a “movie” entitled Zombie Blood Nightmare, which he regards as trash and shuts the set off. It turns on by itself so he unplugs it and again, it turns on. The movie is Night of the Living Deadish, shot in black and white and featuring an army of the living dead, although much more ghoulish than the Romero’s classic. These zombies have been underground for a while.
The zombies obviously didn’t want to stay underground and they also don’t want to stay in the television set, as one emerges from the TV and kills Henry. Three months later, Jeff (Rocky Duvall) and Zoe Blair (Roxanne Augesen) move into the same house Henry met his demise in and are to get it ready for their parents who are away in Saudi Arabia. Jeff discovers the same set and encounters a strange woman within, who tries to seduce him before she is killed by a man known as “The Garbage Man” (who is never referenced again). Along with cute blonde neighbour, April (Vickie Bastel) and Texan, Joshua Daniels (Sam David Mclelland), a guy who has battled these “video dead” before, they gather their machete, bow & arrow and most importantly, their chainsaw as they wage war with an army of the walking dead.
The Video Dead is an entertaining and unique romp into the world of the living dead and it’s one of the better direct to video movies ever made. The acting is sub-par (Duvall plays the role as though he’s imitating the immortal Corey Haim) and dialogue is full of cheese and sarcasm. One of the best examples is when Jeff gets fed up with Joshua calling him “boy” all the time, so he calls Joshua, “cowshit” until he stops. There are a lot of zombie attacks and that keeps the movie moving along nicely as it never drags at all in its 90 minute running time. My Embassy VHS is unrated and it shows with beheadings, cut off hands, blood squirts and vicious chainsaw debauchery. The zombies in the film all look different, one looks as though he’s David Bowie in Dawn of the Dead makeup, another looks straight out of Lamberto Bava’s Demons and Lucio Fulci’s style of zombie is also featured. The makeup is a bit cheap, but the creatures look good and decayed. The neatest zombie is by far the rotting female zombie who almost looks like The Cryptkeeper in a wedding dress.
The film also is similar to Demons in the fact that the movie playing within is arguably better than the real movie itself. Zombie Blood Nightmare looks genuinely chilling, you don’t really get a sense of what it is as the clip is super short, but it is undeniably very creepy. The Video Dead isn’t a traditional zombie movie by far as the zombies in it are afraid of their reflections (it reminds them they’re dead) and act like Bub from Day of the Dead, experimenting with blenders, wigs and chainsaws! Nice touches include bells going off for no particular reason when zombies are in the area and one way the zombies can be killed is to lock them in a room where they can’t get out. In doing so, they lose their marbles and end up eating one another. The music is pretty good too, and the music playing in Zombie Blood Nightmare is even better (almost like music you’d hear in Universal classics, but heavier), another reason the short clip is so effective.
To avoid confusion, The Video Dead isn’t heavy on plot or explanation, it’s just one of those fun movies you would have really dug as a kid if you had the chance to see it. It doesn’t make a lot of sense (Joshua tells Jeff that the video dead kill because they want to be alive, yet he also says they think they are alive, so when you inflict pain upon them, they’ll die regardless of the fact they are impervious to it), but it does have a chainsaw wielding zombie in a wedding dress, and that totally makes up for it. There are some shocking scenes that will genuinely catch you off guard and since the characters are so likable, you’ll feel sad for what happens. It’s a shame there’s no DVD release of this classic, but the popcorn horror fanatics out there will seek this one out no matter what the format is. A sequel would have been perfect, as the ending begs for one, and maybe they could have explained the background on the mysterious Garbage Man, I sure was left unfulfilled by not seeing him again in the movie. The VHS format has been read its last rites, but like The Video Dead, nothing that evil ever dies. Buy it!
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