Dead Heat (1988)
What’s It About: It’s about Joe Piscopo being a star, dammit!
Right away you realize why Joe Piscopo didn’t have a bigger movie career: His acting ability.
We start with two S&M gimps robbing a jewelry store. The cops fill the crooks with bullets but they don’t go down. Ok so they’re invincible, but then why bother with a shoot out with the cops?
Our heroes, Doug (Sir Piscopo) and Roger (Treat Williams, who I can’t decide is underrated or not) show up to the scene. They’re the classic wacky cops who get the job done by any means necessary Doug shoots a grenade out of a crook’s hand and it blows him up. Then Roger slams into the other one with a car, which somehow kills a zombie.
They have a cliche captain who yells at them for being wild cards but admits they got the job done. Nobody seems to mind that about 20 cops were killed in that shootout.
Seems there’s been a rash of these robberies. After the coroner, Becky, examines the bodies she points out that the dead crooks have had autopsies before. BUT HOW CAN THAT BE??!
The crooks have a weird drug in their systems for bacterial infections, so Roger and Doug head to Dante Pharmaceuticals (filmed at the beautiful Tillman Water Reclamation Plant, also used in Bio-Dome, Austin Powers and Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey).
It’s during this time you learn that Doug is chock full of quips and one-liners, but none of them are funny, mostly because Joe Piscopo’s delivery is horrible.
Doug breaks into a no admittance room that houses a big machine on which some two-faced pig biker is laying. It wakes up and attacks. Roger is trapped in an animal asphyxiation chamber and dies. By the way, Roger Mortis is his full name. RIGOR MORTIS. Get it???
Becky the coroner shows up and Doug shows her the machine they use to resurrect the dead, so naturally they put Roger on it. He’s fine! And doesn’t remember dying. He actually feels great! Even though he doesn’t have a heartbeat. And he’s ice cold and doesn’t bleed. Nobody really seems all that taken aback.
Unfortunately, Becky tells Roger that he’s going to decay into a stew in 10-12 hours. He vows to find out who did this to him so they leave, even though the person who did this to him would obviously be in that building.
They find the PR woman, Randi, who showed them around the building before and demand that she give them some answers. But first, Roger slaps on some lipstick to not look so dead. But if he’s going to be dead-dead in 12 hours, who cares?
They go to Randi’s place and start to watch a video of Vincent Price on his deathbed but two zombies bust in and start shooting. If these guys are only going to live 12 hours, why do they care about things like killing Roger and Doug or robbing jewelry stores? Anyway, after they shoot Roger a few times, Doug and Roger kill them… again.
Roger’s falling apart. He looks in a bathroom mirror, opens it, then closes it again and there’s a scary zombie staring back! I did not see that coming!
They go to a Chinese butcher where some of the chemicals from the pharmaceutical company were delivered (it gets a little convoluted from here on out), and grandfather from Gremlins hits a switch that makes the lamp overhead shoot down lightning just like the machine at the pharmaceutical company, and all of the meat comes to life. A dead pig attacks Joe Piscopo, which is a fitting metaphor for his career. Dead chickens attack Randi and a liver attacks Roger. Then a giant dead cow attacks Roger. This scene is pretty awesome and original. Finally, they just get the bright idea to shoot the machine, and all the dead animals go back to dead. Then, they eat.
They find a list in the Chinaman’s back room of people who recently died, and all the people on the death list were rich. It doesn’t really matter.
Meanwhile, Roger’s starting to freak about being dead and all. I guess I don’t blame him. I’d rather be in the ground than hang around Doug for 12 more hours.
Let’s check my notes: “I want Doug to die. That is what I want.”
The dad from A Christmas Story (named McNabb in this), who I think is supposed to be the head coroner, is clearly in on the resurrection thing, and he’s probably the one who killed Roger.
YES!!! Doug is dead! Hanging upside down drowned in a fish tank. Probably the way Joe Piscopo will actually go.
Turns out Randi is walking dead too, but she was kept going by the company. Of course right after she confesses this to Roger she rots away rapidly. Roger does not care for this.
Roger figures out via a clue that Vincent Price left in a mausoleum that McNabb is the bad guy. He’s been burying rich dudes alive after taking their money… or something along those lines. And he resurrected the goons to rob jewelry stores. Fantastic plan.
Roger goes to McNabb’s office to confront him, but Gremlins Grandpa shows up with some Chinazombies. McNabb locks Roger in a soundproof van with Becky’s body and waits for him to rot. Well, time for one last fling Becky…
But instead Roger kicks the van into neutral. Fortunately, the morgue is located at the top of a dry ski slope. Roger has a blast as it crashes into some cars and explodes. He’s put in a body bag but gets out and takes off after confiscating Officer Shane Black’s gun!
So Roger goes back to the pharmaceutical building to kick some ass. Looks like Vincent Price is still alive or undead or something, and he and McNabb plan to sell use of the resurrection machine to rich people so they can live forever. Fantastic plan. No one would ever catch on to that.
Great, Doug is back. Somehow, he looks the same, even though he looked totally different when he drowned in the fish tank.. But he’s been brain dead too long and is supposed to be obedient, which explains the goons from before. But Roger reminds Doug of the good times and he comes back to his senses. It’s a little fruity, but hey. Then McNabb shoots himself instead of being killed by Roger and Doug, or instead of talking to Doug. Roger and Doug want to resurrect him to teach him a lesson, but they resurrect him too much I guess and he explodes. Then, despite Vincent Price’s pleading, they blow up the machine. Because f*ck Vincent Price. Then Roger and Doug walk off into a foggy light, which I have to believe is a trap of some sort. As Roger eloquently states, “This could be the end of a beautiful friendship.” I take this to mean that if there’s an afterlife, he doesn’t want to talk to Doug there ever.
Is It Actually Scary: Maybe if you’re a vegetarian the zombie butcher shop may be unsettling.
Scariest Moment: The first time you see Joe Piscopo’s mullet.
How Much Gore: Quite a bit. Some of it is pretty over the top, like when the girl melts away or when Roger’s face is burned up, and there are a lot of gunshot wounds and Joe Piscopo.
Dumbest Moment: As I mentioned above, why Roger felt that he had to “track down” those responsible for his death when clearly they were in the building where he died.
Any Nudity: Melting-face girl in a towel is as close as you get, so if you have some kind of melting face fetish you may like it. Also check out the recent work of Lara Flynn Boyle.
Overall: Dead Heat is a Halloween treat! This was actually a pretty fun movie with an original premise. It definitely could have been executed better and the plot was as sloppy as a zombie pig, and it could have done with a bigger budget and 100% less Joe Piscopo, but it’s enjoyable camp and you’ll have a good time. If only they had cast Bobcat Goldthwait as Doug, it would have been less annoying.Score: 7 zombie pig bikers (out of 10)