The Video Dead (1987)
What’s it About: Henry Jordan is a cross between Carl Spackler and Walter Matthau. He takes delivery of the world’s crappiest TV set, even though he never ordered a TV and doesn’t know where or who it’s from. Turns out, the TV is a gateway for zombies to come through, hence The Video Dead. The TV was supposed to go to The Institute for the Studies of the Occult. Soooo… the zombies kill him and dress him up like he’s at a kid’s birthday party. And it doesn’t get any better from there. In fact, it gets much, much worse.
Zoe and her brother Jeff move into Henry’s house, although their parents are out of town, which is an odd time to be out of town when you’re moving into a new house. Zoe and Jeff are an interesting pair. In college Zoe majors in aerobics and music video, if that makes sense. I have serious doubts that the filmmakers attended college, or even know how colleges work. As for Jeff, he shouts 86% of his dialogue, no matter if he’s having a quiet dinner or fighting the undead.
A cowboy comes looking for the TV, even though it’s 3 months after Henry was killed. The TV is in the attic of the house. It seduces Jeff (I know…) into bringing it downstairs into his room. Their idiot teenage neighbor, April, comes over with a prized poodle she’s walking for neighbors. She lets the poodle off the leash and it runs out of the house and into the woods and gets eaten by a zombie. How it’s in the woods by not coming out of the TV first isn’t explained. That night, Jeff interacts with the TV and meets The Garbage Man, who “disposes of human garbage,” even though he just kills zombies, which aren’t human. The Garbage Man instructs Jeff to put the TV in the basement and put a “mirrorrrrrrrr” over the front of it. Why he doesn’t instruct Jeff to smash the TV into a thousand pieces is unclear. The zombies still get out of the TV regardless. Or were they already out from when Henry owned the house, and been wandering around the woods for 3 months? Either way, it isn’t explained. Besides, The Garbage Man isn’t seen again.
The zombies head for April’s house, for some reason, and check out the kitchen and all of its plates and appliances. The zombies aren’t mindless, they put on wigs and glasses and trick their victims by doing things like popping out of the washing machine. They seemingly visit every house in the neighborhood during the middle of the day without being noticed.
The cowboy comes back and explains that the video dead hate mirrors because they can’t stand to look at themselves. At this point, I went to refill my Cherry Coke Zero and black rum, because there was about 38 minutes left, and they were going to be tough minutes.
The cowboy gives Jeff and Zoe some nonsensical information about how to get rid of the video dead, something about treating them like they were human and not burying them and not showing fear and trapping them in a place where they can’t get out so they’ll eat themselves and I don’t know I don’t give a crap.
A half hour later, five minutes of the movie have passed. Jeff kills one of the zombies (that’s wandering around in the woods for unexplained reasons) with a bow and arrow set that looks like it’s from a toy store that accepts food stamps. The rest of April’s body now matches her brain: dead. And at this point, I just wanted everyone dead. And even though there are millions of children who needed their wishes to come true more than I did, my wish is fulfilled. Oh wait, Zoe lives somehow, but she’s not in two-thirds of the movie, so it doesn’t really matter. She invites the zombies in for dinner. I’d now like to eat my own head.
Zoe traps the zombies in the basement by telling them there’s a dance party down there. I guess they can’t figure out how to open the door, even though they would have had to open doors earlier in order to get into people’s houses. They eat themselves, and go back into the TV.
Zoe ends up in the hospital, and her parents come back to town and visit her. And they have a surprise! They have the video dead TV brought to the hospital for her to watch. Of course! Because A) they’ve never seen this crappy old TV that’s in the basement before so why not lug it to the hospital, and B) this is the only hospital in the galaxy that doesn’t already have a TV in the room, and has no problem with people bringing in any TV they want. My TV is just very relieved that I didn’t put my head through it.
Is it Actually Scary: Please. Most of the “scary” parts are actually just confusing. It’s unclear whether it’s actually meant to be scary or if it’s more of a comedy/parody. Regardless, it pretty much fails on all of those counts.
Scariest Moment: Stop it.
Gore Level: A good amount. Jeff cuts off a zombie hand and there’s a good amount of blood. A zombie gets an iron in the head. A zombie is cut in half with a chainsaw and there are live rats in its guts. More chainsawings.
Dumbest Moments: Picking a dumbest moment in this movie is like picking the worst grain of sand on the beach, but it’s probably between when a zombie is choking a woman against a wall, her fingernails lightly scrape against the wall and blood spurts out from under her fingers, and when April has visions of her father’s death as she’s brushing her teeth and brushes them so hard her mouth bleeds. Runner-up: Everything else.
Best Part: At the 90-minute mark, the movie ends. Second to that is Jeff getting his leg caught in a bear trap.
Worst Line: Zoe: “That’s every mirror in the house.” Jeff: “Sure IS!”
Nudity: A semi-nude (long hair over the breasts) woman comes out of the TV to make it with Jeff. She’s not a zombie, but does look like a ghoul.
Overall: One of HTHV’s most beloved films, The Aurora Encounter (which we’ll undoubtedly review in the future), was essentially a Make-A-Wish project for the lovable and tragic Mickey Hays, a young boy suffering from progeria. I firmly believe that the actor who plays Jeff was part of some kind of charity program that offered teenagers with severe brain damage the opportunity to act in a motion picture. It’s really the only excuse. Jeff actually sounds a lot like Beetlejuice from The Howard Stern Show. Unsurprisingly, this was Jeff’s only movie, lending even further credence to my charity theory. April is almost as bad as Jeff, but she was actually in 5 other pictures, including a couple of good ones like Bad Lieutenant and The Dead Pool.
Some of the zombie makeup is pretty decent, but then again some of it looks like it was done by an elephant with a drinking problem. These same elephants likely poured a bucket of tar on the script before filming. The movie has dialogue that would make the Pope weep, like, “You sneak up on me like that again do you know what’s going to happen to you? Death and destruction!” and “Get him before he gets you!” and “I always sleep best in the fall!” This movie is the cinematic equivalent of a canker sore.
My Wife’s Observational Quotes: N/A, because she was wisely in the next room using the computer most of the time. But when I went to refill my drink, we had this exchange:
-”What are you doing?” Me: “Suffering for my art.”Score: 1.5 (out of 10)