12/28/06

604 Zombie Nightmare

(1986, Horror, color)

Bow down to my nipples!

Rating: **1/2

In a nutshell:

A Voodoo Priestess raises a hit-and-run victim from the dead.

Summary:

What kind of nightmare?A young black woman pauses in a white neighborhood to watch a high school softball practice. The beefy coach hits balls into the fields and shouts encouragement to his team members while his wife and young son shout out their adulation of him from the stands. The woman drifts on and is soon accosted by a pair of knife-wielding greasers. The beefy coach sees the assault and springs to the rescue. He drives off the assailants, receiving a fatal knife-wound in the process.

Years pass, and the beefy coach’s son has grown into a beefy teenager in a revealing tank top. He goes shopping one night at the local convenience store, driving away a pair of would-be robbers. Fresh from his victory, he steps out into the street gets run over by a car full of loaded teenagers. They include a big-haired psycho teen, a snooty teen (with his petit blond girlfriend), and a verbose teen (with his Tia Carrere girlfriend, seen here in her pre-Wayne’s World days). The teens drive on, fearfully discussing the possible consequences of their actions while psycho teen revels in his hit and run prowess.

An Italian grocer flags down some passers-by to help him discern the slain teen’s level of deadness. Rather than call an ambulance or the cops or something, they choose to drag the corpse in front of his mother. Understandably distraught, she summons the exotically named Molly (the young black woman from the opening scene) who has grown up into a young black woman with streaks of white paint in her hair. Molly has become a Voodoo Priestess with an incomprehensibly quivery voice. Somehow her helpers understand her well enough to bring her some face paint, the blood of a live animal, and several truckloads of candles. The slain teen rises from the dead, takes up a baseball bat, and vows inarticulate revenge on his killers.

First he tracks down the snooty teen and his girlfriend, who have stripped down to their athletic support underwear to make love in a hot tub. They die horrible baseball bat-induced deaths. The next one to fall under the sporting implement of vengeance is the big-haired psycho teen, who is impaled upon it while attempting to rape an innocent ice cream diner waitress.

Meanwhile, a fresh-faced detective wanders from crime scene to crime scene with a baffled expression, enduring verbal abuse from a penguin-voiced forensics specialist and his contemptuous police chief. The reprehensible chief (played by the original caped crusader himself, Adam West) issues false information to the press and closes the case by bringing in a random thug who looks like he might have done it. For some reason, the detective fixates on a woman who keeps showing up in the crowds (Molly) and brings her to the attention of the chief. The chief tells him to go home and calls up psycho teen’s dad. Some audio-only flashbacks reveal that the two of them were the knife-wielding greasers from the opening scene.

The zombie teen swings by psycho teen’s dad’s house to avenge his own long-dead father. His prey hits him in the chest with a shotgun blast and then waits patiently with his car door open until the zombie to gets up to kill him. Meanwhile, the verbose teen and Tia Carrere stop by an auto repair garage to steal some cash on their way out of town. Zombie teen shows up to stalk them, followed shortly thereafter by Molly, who in turn has been followed by the fresh-faced detective. While the detective looks on, the zombie finishes off Tia and her verbose boyfriend and shambles off into the night. The detective follows it to a graveyard, where Molly and the police chief soon join them. Police chief explains the plot to that point and then shoots the zombie teen dead(er). It seems that zombies lose their invulnerability once all their killers are dead, something no one bothered to mention until this point in the film. Molly wiggles and does a quivery little chant until police chief permanently silences her with his gun. He’s about to finish off the fresh-faced detective as well when the ground opens up and the long-dead beefy softball coach rises out of his grave to drag his killer down to hell. The fresh-faced detective shrugs and wanders off into the fog.

Introduction:

Tom exercises his right-of-way.Tom and Crow are the secret service, protecting Mike from harm by repeatedly pushing him to the ground. Tom’s head falls off, provoking panic.

Host Segment One:

Tom and Crow lose their enthusiasm for being secret service men when Mike explains the concept of “taking a bullet.” Down in Deep 13, Dr. Forrester and TV’s Frank don face paint and grass skirts to practice voodoo. They send a voodoo kit to Mike and the ‘Bots, who decide to use its powers for good. They hug a doll of Jimmy Carter, do a quick hair combing for Mike’s sloppy high school friend, and give a scalp massage to Cokie Roberts. They tease a Dr. Forrester doll, brushing its nose with a feather, tapping it on the shoulder, and putting its hand in water.

Host Segment Two:

Crow eats chocolates and reads a romance novel until Tom drives by and runs him over.

Host Segment Three:

Tom and Crow relax in the hot tub. They enjoy themselves until Mike comes up between them in scuba gear, displaying a fish he speared with a trident.

Host Segment Four:

Tom and Mike have dressed as Batman and Robin to do a reading of Crow’s Batman script. Crow has forgotten all about it, but gamely does his Riddler impression anyway. Mike starts to tear off his costume in disgust while Tom accidentally slips into an Adam West impression.

Host Segment Five:

The ‘Bots write letters to Adam West, liberally peppered with backhanded compliments and condolences about his post-Batman career. Quoth Crow’s letter, “I’m sending you all my allowance. Please don’t buy beer with it.” Down in Deep 13, Frank has turned Dr. Forrester into a zombie, and can’t figure out how to turn him back.

Stinger:

Molly finishes her chant, and the zombie teen rises up to scream.

Thoughts:

Zombie dude wishes the sheep lady would shut the hell up.This must be one of those “horror” films I’ve heard so much about. I use the term loosely, since hard eighties rock and green rubber masks don’t really scare me as much as the filmmakers seemed to think they would. Maybe I’m just jaded. The only moment of actual horror I experienced happened during the hot tub scene when one of the characters stripped down to sheer bikini briefs. (It wasn’t the petit blond girlfriend.) To add insult to injury he then passed his wet and barely clad batch directly across the screen in close up. It speaks volumes about a film when its only moment of true horror is the result of a botched attempt at titillation.

This episode was originally aired at the end of a Mystery Science Theater 3000 marathon on Thanksgiving Day, 1994. Adam West hosted it with a series of bumpers (prerecorded segments that usually cluster around commercial breaks) wherein he stated that his role as the sleazy police chief required a “cold, hard, desperate Adam West,” and the more he thought about how his agent roped him into making this film, “the more desperate I became.” Though he gets top billing, Mr. West doesn’t actually show up in this film until more than halfway through. He only gets about fifteen minutes of screen time at most, but his performance as a cynical law enforcement bureaucrat, who cares more about closing cases than actually figuring out who did it, is the most convincing acting in the film. Not that he has much to compete with. I think Voodoo Molly is trying for a Jamaican accent, but she sounds more like a cartoon sheep.

I liked the idea of using voodoo for good instead of evil, and the first host segment was well done. The Batman costumes were cool, and Crow does a great Riddler impersonation. Crow’s letter to Adam West was funny as well. The second and third host segments were quite short, suggesting that perhaps they needed more time for the film in this episode. The “running over Crow” sketch was too hurried to include any kind of punchline, but Mike showing up with a fish he speared at the bottom of the hot tub was just the perfect weird moment to make the brief segment worthwhile.

The film segments have some memorable lines, such as Mike’s “Bow down to my nipples,” addressing the pre-zombie teen’s interestingly cut tank top. After the bad teens have run the good teen down, Crow sings, “Dead hunk in the middle of the road.” While the green, shambling zombie lurches across the screen, Tom calls the film, “Ally Sheedy’s Frankenstein.” I get the impression that it was difficult for the SOL crew to keep up the comments in the face of the non-stop screaming eighties hard rock that permeates the film, though there is one funny bit where a song shrieks “Come on, let’s go!” over and over again until they try to comply by leaving the theater. It’s an entertaining episode, but not especially memorable.