“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!”
Directed By: Robert Scott
I have some vague memories of The Video Dead (And who wouldn’t, look at that art), ones that usually get mixed up with the similar Terrorvision. I can’t be the only one either, Shout! Factory recently released the two movies together on Blu-Ray. But I was more or less going in blind with this one. So does a horror movie from the golden age of direct-to-video releases have anything to offer?
Zoe and Jeff move into a new home ahead of their parents but are unaware of what happened to the previous occupant (We know it though, he was accidentally delivered a TV and dies shortly after. Actually on that note, if someone shows up with a package and insists that I take it, I’m already going to get suspicious). Despite being told that it looks like an ordinary TV but isn’t, and ignoring the strange markings on it, they still think nothing of it when they find it up in the attic.
The TV has a kind of life of its own. As we see in the opening, it keeps playing a movie called Zombie Blood Nightmare, and then the zombies come out of the TV. Jeff meets a April, a girl from the neighbourhood, and it’s not long before her dog gets killed. I don’t know what exactly happens to it. It’s just sort of…dead.
Anyway, Jeff has a weird sexual encounter with a woman from the TV (Think Videodrome) and then ‘The Garbageman’ shows up inside the TV and slits her throat and hints that there’s a world inside there that we don’t get to see (An idea that would’ve been explored in the sequel, but it never came to fruition).
So it’s zombies we have. And while I’m completely over zombies at this point, The Video Dead does actually do some interesting things with the idea. For a start off, no one invokes the old “shoot them in the head” rule that has been done since the 60s. These zombies are different. They’re dead yes, but they’re also convinced that they’re still alive. So if you ‘kill’ them then they’ll also convince themselves they’re dead. I realise how hokey that sounds, and it is hokey of course, but I always appreciate some effort. They’re also self aware enough to be disgusted with themselves if they see their reflection. I suppose if you wanted to you could attach a whole lot of subtext to that.
Being as low budget as it is the kill count is sort of low. We get a scene were the zombies visit two houses and off everyone inside, including the parents of April, that Jeff has been solidly trying to bone down with ever since her dog died. He’s not exactly one for comfort though as he tells her, “It’s going to be a long time before anyone figures this one out.” Thanks Jeff. Bizarrely enough there’s a scene where one of the zombies is hiding inside a washing machine (It’s America so it’s one of those stand up ones), even more bizarrely they stuff a woman in it and laugh. Well they’re dead and all that, so we can’t really cast aspersions on their sense of humour.
I like The Video Dead with some major caveats. One is that some of the acting is entirely questionable. Jeff in particular isn’t the best, which is unfortunate as we spend most of the movie with him. Thankfully Zoe fairs better, though a check of IMDB reveals that this is the actress’ only credit. Usually there’s some TV work or something but nope, The Video Dead is her only claim to ‘fame’. My other issue is that some of the camera work is porn-level at best (Insert “How would you know?). The camera is framed too close to the actors, and it feels as though they’re saying their lines in complete isolation. And there’s the return of the dreaded ADR.
Other than that though, The Video Dead overcomes these issues to make its mark. I wouldn’t say it was traditionally good as such, but it is memorable.