SEPTEMBER 14, 2010
I think The Video Dead is one of those movies that fellow horror friends recommended to me back in grade school, but I never got around to it. And then I forgot the title even existed, until my good friend Tall F’in Joe (legal birth name) told me that it was on Netflix Instant and said it would make a good HMAD entry. Well he’s a goddamn liar. Not about being on Netflix, because it is (in a surprisingly nice transfer to boot – pretty good for a film that was never released on DVD), but about it being a good HMAD entry. Contrary to the beliefs of some, I actually want to watch good movies more often than not, and this thing sucked.
The biggest problem is that I could never tell if it was supposed to be campy/spoofy fun or not. Only skilled actors can make that distinction clear, and these folks are most certainly not skilled actors. You will not be surprised to learn that Rocky Duvall, who plays the film’s would-be hero, has no other IMDb credits to his name (neither does the broad who plays his sister), since he is hands-down one of the worst and annoying screen presences this side of Jake Lloyd. This whiny bastard, I could never tell if he was supposed to be stupid or if he just couldn’t deliver his lines properly. Either way I couldn’t stand him, which made his surprise death 20 minutes before the movie ended (spoiler) all the more pleasurable.
But that adds to the problem – if this is supposed to be funny, why are they brutally murdering our hero when the movie’s not even over? It’s OK for a closing shot kind of thing, like in the Final Destination movies, but he dies and then we switch to his sister, who has been largely absent from the zombie action. And then she ends up in a mental institution as a result of her “ordeal”, which also isn’t really funny “ha ha”. I mean sure, I laughed, but the movie doesn’t seem to be aimed specifically at assholes.
Another red mark is that the zombies act more like slashers, which doesn’t quite work. At one point our heroes are standing there talking about a dead dog (two dead dog movies in a row, ugh), and the camera pans to reveal a zombie just standing there watching them. What the hell? And no one they bite/kill turns into a zombie, which sort of defeats the purpose if you ask me. Then again they don’t leave them in much of a state to return, twisting off victims’ heads and such. I guess I can give them points for originality or something, but originality alone cannot make a movie good – the idea has to WORK. This one doesn’t.
It’s also painfully boring. Once our idiot hero gets himself caught in a trap armed with a chainsaw (one that an old lady zombie eventually gets and chases him with – easily the best part of the movie), it picks up a bit, but until then he just hangs around doing nothing, unless you count his relationship with a neighbor, who is the least discerning person on the planet. She sees him outside of his house, raking, and immediately introduces herself. Just as quickly he invites her inside for a drink, which she accepts. I was shocked they didn’t just start boning right there in the foyer.
Intercut with this drivel are a series of scenes where the zombies kill folks we’ve never seen before in their own homes. This would have been fine if they were good kills, or if they were adding to their zombie numbers, but no – it’s the same five or six zombies throughout the entire movie (they all came out of a presumably better zombie movie that was playing on TV). I should note that the zombie makeup is actually quite good; it’s inconsistent (one is a Romero green/blue, the others are more like Fulci style “rotters”) but looks better than most indie zombie films. And since it was made before the digital boom, nothing looks too bad, from the image itself (yay film!) to the zombie appearance to the occasional blood/prosthetic effects.
Then again, they SHOULD be good, because there are so few of them to be seen. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by things like The Dead Next Door or Automaton Transfusion, but those films (and others) prove that a low budget doesn’t meant that you can’t have any action. Christ, Night of the Living Dead offers more carnage and they had about 11 cents. People love playing zombies – why are there so few here? Do these people not have any friends? I appreciate the fact that the movie was made and is technically proficient, but this is the type of movie that should never be boring.
Writer/director/producer Robert Scott has never done any of those things for a feature film again (there is something called Ratdog in his directing filmography, but the total lack of any other information on it suggests to me that it is a short film at most and totally non-existent at least). He now works as the 2nd 2nd AD on shows like House and Heroes. For those of you don’t know, this means his biggest job is to supervise PAs (the folks who do all the shit work) and assist with the 2nd AD in making sure actors get from their trailers to the set without killing themselves or getting lost. Which, I think, is a fitting punishment for making The Video Dead.
P.S. “Joshua” is not a good name for a supposed badass zombie killer from Texas. Especially when said badass is repeatedly being called for by a whiny annoyance.
What say you?