Zombie Nightmare

Voodoo doo-doo. Zombie Nightmare is a train derailment from start to finish.

A tale of un-dead retribution, this one could’ve been far more impactful if its protagonist¬† were black, as originally intended. Instead, the production changed, moved up north, and a piece of Canuxploitation birthed.

And what a change.

In the lead, Jon Mikl Thor, a bodybuilder who could bend steel bars with his teeth (sadly, a talent not on display here) best known for fronting metal sword-and-sandal cheesemongers, Thor (check out their Spinal Tap-like sound on Lightning Strikes Again).

He’s a happy-go-lucky jock slugger (Tony), who in true horror form, gets a prologue that shows a pivotal moment growing up. In this case, he witnesses the knifing death of his father coming to the rescue of a rape victim in a city park.

All grown up (mostly) the muscle-bound home run hitter comes to the aid of a burgled shop-keep with a truly terrible Chef Boyardee Eye-talian accent. Young Tony, like pops, meets his maker as a Good Samaritan: a bunch of what passed for toughs in the 80s, drive over him and flee.

Instead of taking the body to the hospital or calling the cops, the shop-keep drives the deceased straight to Tony’s mom’s…lawn….And at this point, mom contacts a Haitian Voodoo priestess to bring Tony back from the dead, so he can exact revenge.

The rest of Zombie Nightmare is Thor’s unimpressive physical specimen replacement (at least when dressed in workout sweats), hunting down the suburban trash who made him roadkill. Where’d Thor go? Who knows? But like Plan 9, he was “Bela Legosi’d” with a stand-in.

The police, which includes Adam West as a Squinty McGee captain constantly chewing on a stoagie, are completely baffled as the bodies pile up. The MO of the killer is vertebrae snapping, so they surmise that the suspect needs to be a big, strong guy (several references are made to Tony’s massive stature, though he looks like he’s likely just north of 6′ in height. Thor’s doppelganger, smaller still).

Also of note, one of the teen thugs is Tia Carrere that “total babe Cassandra” from Wayne’s World.

Extremely odd, too brightly lit, and with ensemble acting about as bad you can get (even for such a maligned genre), Zombie Nightmare is a curiosity that justifiably made its way onto IMDb’s Bottom 100 List.

*1/2 (out of 5)

[Check out our discussion of Zombie Nightmare!]

New Year’s Evil

A hybrid of New York Ripper, Don’t Answer the Phone! and Black Christmas, New Year’s Evil combines the mouth-breather phone harassment elements of all three, with the time-sensitive release of the latter.

Yet another in a long line of calendar-dependent horror films (Mother’s Day, Hospital Massacre, aka, Be My Valentine, Or Else…, Halloween, Silent Night, Deadly Night) New Year’s Evil also tapped into the nascent New Wave music scene, and unlike some of its ridiculous brethren, actually acquits itself quite well as far as music is concerned. The title track is simply outstanding, with a drop-D tuning riff that could be Jimmy Page, that lilts into operatic Phantom of the Paradise territory.

So what if the film can’t strike the same musical chord, quality-wise.

The plot? Some sicko with mommy issues is hunting down the host of a New Year’s eve special, along with other victims, and killing them according to the stroke of midnight across multiple time-zones. That in of itself is a pretty nifty idea.

But unlike back-end loaded denouements, New Year’s Evil reveals its hand off the bat: we all see the killer (a young-ish looking Bruce Jenner-type). However, we don’t know WHO exactly he is or what his motivations are…

Since this is a Cannon Group production, New Year’s Evil supplies us with scenes that are so tonally off, they’d require a tuning fork. To wit: a bunch of mental patients getting down to the sounds of Shadow, the band ripping through New Year’s Evil, and the inmates all wearing straitjackets!

The kills are fairly pedestrian, but like Black Christmas there’s a pretty substantial plastic bag asphyxiation scene. And like New York Ripper and Don’t Answer the Phone!, the killer disguises his voice as he makes threatening calls.

Ultimately though, you’ll hang up on this one.

** (out of 5)

[Check out our New Year’s Evil podcast discussion!]