Death Warmed Up (1984)

DECEMBER 18, 2011


Well that was quick. After yesterday's The House That Screamed restored my faith in the Pure Terror set, Death Warmed Up (aka Death Warmed Over) brings it crashing back down to Earth, presenting a pretty lousy movie with an even worse transfer - even some of the Chilling Classics looked better than this! I mean, even a reference quality Blu-ray wouldn't help this damn thing, but come on! At one point I thought a guy was melting only to realize it was just the image itself that was smeared all over the place.

I'll give the movie this much: it's not generic. Every time I thought it was settling down into something that could be traditionally described as a "story" it would switch gears again, so if you're ever bored (and you will be), in 15 minutes it will be a different movie, and maybe that will work better. Let's see, there's a guy under mind control who kills his parents, a very laid-back revenge plot, a mad scientist, zombies, some Mad Max rejects who I assume are working for the bad guy, a hospital that looks like a night club... if dinosaurs showed up somewhere along the way I wouldn't bat an eye.

And I'm not saying that a movie can't have all of these elements, but the problem is that they don't gel together in any meaningful way. It's like they took an entire season's worth of a TV show and jammed it in a blender; character motivations come out of nowhere, there's no sense of tension, and none of the characters are particularly likable, so I had little reason to get involved in this all but completely incoherent narrative. If I had to root for anyone it would be the mad scientist, not only because he looked like Farley Flavors, but because I was never able to discern what exactly he was up to, so I just assumed he was like most mad scientists and at least had a noble idea behind his terrible actions.

Plus he seems to know what he was doing, given the 2-3 gory surgery scenes we see - dude knows his way around a bone saw. Of course, the gore is pretty much the only reason to give this movie a look; not that it's all that great, but it's old school practical stuff that is always nice to watch nowadays, when even a simple blood spurt is often left to a computer to create. And given its New Zealand origin, I wouldn't be surprised if Mr. Peter Jackson caught this thing and was inspired to make Bad Taste (which is superior on every level).

It also has a few stand-alone sequences that are pretty good, such as an exciting motorcycle chase in the tunnels, and the mad race through the overrun hospital in order to find a place to treat an injured pal. But the cream of the crop has to be a bit where one of our protagonists is trapped in a storeroom at the hospital with one of the zombies. She tosses a bunch of different chemicals at him, and finally something ignites and he catches fire. It's a pretty typical scene, and plays out as you'd expect, with the immolated bad guy staggering around a bit before toppling over... but then there's a pretty amazing stinger: she catches fire too! Suddenly she's just as fire-covered as he is, and falls down herself before the entire room explodes. It's a bit unnecessarily mean-spirited, but the movie owed us that sort of levity!

I was also amused by the on-screen text that summed up what seemed like an entire reel's worth of information, which appeared out of nowhere long after the movie had already gotten going, as if they were like "Let's try to get things moving". Oddly, after this text goes away and we watch a few more minutes of the movie, it fades out and brings up a "Now" card - I thought we were already in the present day? If not, then when was that? Also, if you're OK with just putting text up to skip over boring stuff, why don't we see a lot more of them? There's really only like 15 minutes of stuff in the movie that anyone would want to see in full detail.

And before the Cast Police come after me for not mentioning it, the main hero is Michael Hurst, who was on Hercules and Xena, I guess. I only know him from the shockingly dull (and similarly overplotted) Bitch Slap, and I guess he was also in The Tattooist, that boring Jason Behr movie about the killer tattoo. Does the dude just have terrible taste in scripts or what? Seems like an engaging enough actor, but yikes, that is a truly woeful resume.

Oh well. Typically forgettable budget pack fare. I just hope I can find 2-3 good movies on this set by the time I'm done with it (or HMAD). It takes up too much space on the shelf to only be worth keeping for one or two movies.

What say you?


  1. I say you left out Michael Hurst's awesome role in Andromeda. But, come to think of it, it's best left out....

  2. "Typically forgettable"?! well, not if you are 14: that scene where the good doctor fumbles for tumors in that poor fella's brain remains vivid in mine 26 years later! plus all those years I had the impression that doctor was Michael Ironside [!], don't ask me why...

  3. I had to read your review to derive any sort of story from that experience -- oh wait...


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