What with The Talking Dead on AMC and reanimated corpses popping up in everything from musicals to insurance commercials, it’s hard not to feel a little zombie fatigue. Yet as Children of Fulci and Romero, we love a good undead gut muncher. Zombies are malleable monsters that can be used for tremendous scares and incisive social commentary. Or they can provide belly-busting laughs and numerous cool-ass moments such as in 1987’s The Video Dead.
A crate meant for The Institute for Studies of the Supernatural is accidentally delivered to a reclusive writer. Inside is a rather beat-up looking television set. At night, the TV turns on itself. Playing is a creepy black and white flick entitled Zombie Blood Horror which looks like the original Night as directed by Bruno Mattei. The writer turns the TV off but it repeatedly turns itself on. Soon, the zombies emerge from the TV. When the deliverymen return to reclaim the mistakenly delivered crate, they find the deceased Mr. Jordan instead.
Three months later and two kids move into the house. Their parents are away working abroad, and Zoe and Jeff are tasked with getting the house ready for their return. A man knocks on the door inquiring about the TV and Jeff, your typical 80s snot-nosed rebel without a clue, turns him away. Jeff finds the TV in the attic and plugs it in. Soon, a comely blonde is seducing him from the TV before stepping out and seducing the kid for real. However, Jeff’s (presumably) first attempt at touching female flesh is cut even shorter than it would have lasted where he to actually go through with it, as much to Jeff’s chagrin, the same man slits the blonde’s throat. Turns out he’s “The Garbageman” because he disposes of “human garbage”.
The “Video Dead”, five in total, have left the TV and are wreaking havoc throughout the neighborhood. You have your handyman zombie, your bride zombie, your two salary men zombies and your rockabilly zombie. The makeup effects are fantastic and the zombies look nicely rotted. They’re also extremely funny. One particularly amusing bit involves a housewife attempting to remove a load of laundry from the dryer. She opens the lid and the bride zombie pops out like a demented Jack-in-the-Box. She stuffs the homemaker upside down in the appliance before setting it to spin. Maybe it’s just me, but the thought of an undead corpse waiting inside a dryer for who knows how long like a pre-schooler playing hide and seek in order to give a house-frau a fright provides this reviewer with no end of amusement.
There are so many inspired bits in The Video Dead. Jeff being used as zombie bait and hanging from a tree like a petulant pinata amuses as does the scene when Zoe, who’s told by the Garbageman that she’ll survive if she shows no fear, invites the video dead in and serves them a straight-from-the-can dinner that looks more unpalatable than the usual zombie sustenance of brains and entrails.
Ultimately, The Video Dead is a winner. The film is fast, funny and fresh and the ending is worthy of a good EC comics’ tale. Perhaps if The Walking Dead had half the originality and wit of this low-budget 80s flick, we’d actually be watching the damn thing.
***1/2 (out of four)