Death Warmed Over
I'll get you, I'll get you all...
Year of Release: 1984
Also Known As: Death Warmed Up, Robot Maniac
Genre: Horror/Science Fiction
Rated: Not Rated
Running Time: 81 minutes (1:21)
Director: David Blyth
Michael Hurst ... Michael Tucker
Margaret Umbers ... Sandy
William Upjohn ... Lucas
Norelle Scott ... Jeannie
David Letch ... Spider
Geoff Snell ... Jannings
Gary Day ... Dr. Archer Howell
A deranged scientist is on a remote island working on his experimental brain procedures on human test subjects. Unfortunately, many of the patients suffer side effects from the procedure that transforms them into murderous zombies. Arriving on the island is a group of youths that include the son of the scientist's chief rival. Years before the mad doctor had hypnotized the youth and had him murder his own father, so the young man has come to track down the scientist and make him pay.
Death Warmed Over, remindin' us that there's no reason why you can't initiate a plan to get revenge against he man who brainwashed you into blowin' away your parents with a pump action 12 gauge, AND enjoy a much deserved vacation at the same time. This may sound a little far-fetched at first, but just look at what the revenge business did to Inigo Montoya after 20 years of never stoppin' to smell the roses. Why's vengeance always gotta be so serious anyway? Some of these guys really need to lighten up a little, maybe park their hind end in an inflatable pool floatie awhile an take a personal day, or go to the carnival an win a nice plush toy to help lower their stress levels a bit. It's easy to get swept up in somethin' to the point that it begins to completely dominate your entire life, an once that happens you're pretty well a slave to it. Oh, lovely, now I've rambled for so long that I'ma hafta push back my Twilight Zone marathon. Well that's just PERFECT.
But speakin' of people who're no fun at parties, I guess you all heard about what happened at Mack's Stacks of Manly Snacks Tuesday evenin', an normally I wouldn't give a rip about it, cept that B.J. Wilder got suspended without tips for three days after she hadda pull Elizabeth "the wood chipper" Jablonski offa me after a friendly political debate got a little outta hand. It all started last week when Skunky Hernandez started tellin' me about how a bunch of his cousins workin' the potato fields over in Snoochflunk, Idaho, got deported back to Chihuahua an now the sun-dried potato that's in charge of the operation won't be comin' to town to hock spuds this year. I thought this was kinda unfair, bein' that Skunky's cousins're whiter'n the Republican votin' block in the Texas panhandle an're originally from Fargo, but we'll put that aside for the moment. Best as I can tell (cause when Skunky gets P.O.'d he starts rantin' in Spanish an I get lost quicker'n a pair of panties at an orgy), since it's been determined that no American'll do this kinda job, it means that anyone doin' 'em must be illegal, an so La Migra's been roundin' up anybody they catch pickin' so much as a wild asparagus an dumpin' 'em at the border even if they can produce photo identification an name every U.S. president in chronological order. So when I casually mentioned to B.J. that the reason I smelled like a tunafish sammich that got left on the dashboard for about two weeks was cause I'd been runnin' bluegills through my snow blower to use for fertilizer for my own spud garden an why I was havin' to do this, suffice to say the conversation didn't exactly go unnoticed. Before I'd even finished my explanation, Abel Pankins was already snickerin' an proceeded to stand up an declare that it "served those -------- right for sneakin' up here to begin with." I ain't gonna repeat what Abel said, but let's just say he was makin' unsubstantiated claims regardin' the hydration levels of these workers' lumbar region. So I turned to face 'im an kinda chuckled a little before replyin' with: "yeah, big government ain't so bad when they're doin' what you want 'em to are they?" Course, Abel'd been one of the first in line for that cinder block party the church threw over at Skunky's hydrochronic shed a few weeks back, so he figured out what I was gettin' at a lot quicker'n usual an started insinuatin' that Obama an I play golf on a regular basis (least I think that's what I heard, the rage froth was flyin' like Bruce Lee's fists by that point an I was tryin' to keep my head turned away as much as possible to avoid gettin' hosed down by the torrential downpour), an pretty quick there was a small crowd around me questionin' my patriotism. Last thing I remember was B.J. yankin' a handfulla hair outta Liz Jablonski to get 'er offa me, an then swingin' 'er souvenir high overhead like an irate Leatherface challengin' Liz to try anymore rough stuff durin' her shift. B.J.'s what you might call frightening when she gets P.O.'d like that, an after she'd turned Liz's ponytail into a rattail that pretty well ended the discussion an anybody's desire to continue it outside. One of these days I'ma learn to keep my fool trap shut.
But that's not why we're here. We're here to discuss Kiwi splatter films, an this was the first in what hadda be a series of fifteen, maybe twenty movies to blaze that particular trail. Before Peter Jackson was dressin' up New Zealanders to look like intergalactic bowls of mashed potatoes, David Blyth was gettin' it done with Kiwi hobos an real skanky lookin' dudes with Moe Howard's haircut. So in honor of what hasta be the greatest movie ever put to film to feature Michael Hurst gettin' thrown in a padded chamber wearin' nothin' but a straitjacket an a sumo diaper, I'd like to quickly run down a few of the things I learned about New Zealand via David Blyth's magnum opus. First, when you found your own medical institution on a mostly uninhabited island, you have complete creative control over the design of the nurse's uniforms. This can lead to a bit of a distraction durin' medical procedures, but it definitely serves as a great advertising tool to promote your surgical skills. I suppose you could achieve the same cleavage enhancin' garb by growin' up to be Roger Corman, but let's face it; not all of us are cut out to be Roger Corman. Second, surgical masks are intended only to keep your facial hair from fallin' into peoples' gut buckets. So if you happen to be female an assistin' with an operation, you can just wear the netted kind. Unless you've got a face like any of the Tankersley girls. An third, as long as you get yourself a Billy Idol haircut an show off your guns, gettin' a foxy lady straight outta the psych ward is pretty much effortless.
Always fun to experience another culture, ain't it? But there was somethin' about this one that made me shake my head in disbelief a little bit, an that's what happens after these two doctors try to calmly an rationally discuss the pros an cons of turnin' the entire nation of New Zealand into leather-clad zombie Uruk-hai, an one ends up gettin' so P.O.'d at the other's negativity that he hasta use the Bushwhacker Battering Ram on 'im. Now, I don't want anybody to think I'm a square or nothin', but there really is a time an place for police involvement that won't getcha immediately branded a narc. You don't just gotta take the upcomin' zombie apocalypse layin' on the floor of your research lab clutchin' at your mangoes after a Kiwi beat down cause you're afraid of bein' excommunicated from the hep cat scene. We've all gotten so afraid of the societal backlash of bein' labeled tattletales that we'd rather let the whole goll durn world turn into an episode of The Walking Dead than face the wrath of the rebels with slack jaws who hang around the mall food court tryin' to scare old ladies all day. I mean, this ain't some minor dispute between you an your neighbor where there's a little gunfire exchanged an a coupla minor flesh wounds, we're talkin' about havin' Night of the Living Dead go from bein' a drive-in classic to an instructional survival guide. Sides, a little social ostricizin's good for you every now an then. Reminds you how little the scorn of the moral majority actually impacts your life once you stop givin' a flip. So for cripes sake, if there's about to be a zombie outbreak, please call the CDC or CNN or somebody so the rest of us won't end up tryin' to break into malls to eat Ken Foree's brains.
The movie begins with this sweaty dork (Mike) runnin' all over Middle Earth, til he eventually goes into the hospital where his dad works to warn 'im about the hobbits massin' on the border an threatenin' to overrun 'em an steal all their jobs like an Arizona minuteman that's been out in the sun too long. Only when the kid finds his dad he's in the middle of an ethical filibuster against this other scientist (Archer) with a Donald Trump sized god complex, and Archer ends up gettin' so mad that he hasta throw Dad on the floor like a peanut shell at a Logan's Roadhouse. Then Mike bolts for the door like a male prostitute at Nancy Pelosi's house, but ends up gettin' caught by Archer an told to go take a shower cause he's stinkin' up the joint so bad that his fumes're causin' the chimps in the research lab to backslide on their memorization tests. Only while Mike's latherin' up, Archer's takin' a peek at Mike's proud, firm buttocks an ends up sneakin' up behind Mike an givin' 'im a butt injection. That came out wrong. We're talkin' penicillin shot, not a penisillan shot. Then Archer ties up Mike in a room where he blindfolds 'im with French-cut underpants, an the next thing we see they're in Archer's car with Mike lookin' like he's had about 17 Irish Car Bombs an gotten Alice Cooper to do his eyeshadow. Meanwhile, Mike's parents're watchin' a TV interview with Archer, til Dad gets so P.O.'d about the station preemptin' Masterpiece Theatre that Mom hasta stuff 'er boob in his mouth before the neighbors call the cops an have 'im arrested for disturbin' the peace. But about that time, Archer drops Mike off at home with a 12 gauge pump action an Mike ends up goin' upstairs an fillin' everybody with the kinda sucking chest wounds that don't heal up in a coupla days. Then we see Mike gettin' tossed into a padded room wearin' nothin' but a straitjacket an a sumo diaper, before goin' completely apeshit when Archer mashes his smug face up against the window. Archer's always got this look on his face like he just managed to sink exactly $20 worth of gas into his tank with only one clench of the pump handle. Seven years later, Archer's made like Dr. Moreau an scuttled his operation off to a private island, where he bores holes into people's skulls with power drills til they look like wiffle balls, an then stuffs wads of Laffy Taffy inside cause Wonka was the only guy crazy enough to give 'im a research grant. Elsewhere, Mike's been released from the cracked house an now he's twice as mad cause the orderlies gave 'im a makeover an turned 'im into Billy Idol. But Billy's put together a crack team of mates (Sandy, Lucas, an Jeannie) who know how to party, an're stupid enough to help 'im raid Archer's compound so they can hold 'im down an make 'im eat Vegemite til he barfs.
So Billy an his crew board a ferry bound for Auckatraz, only Archer's got these two creeps who look like they skidded on their heads for 200 yards after crashin' their bikes in The Road Warrior hangin' out on the boat watchin' Lucas an Jeannie mash crotches. But while those two're gettin' it on like baboons in the primate house on "kids get in free" day at the zoo, Sandy's tellin' Billy about how she thinks his revenge plan's too dangerous, an he hasta give 'er this "I've seen things" look since she seems to've forgotten he hadda spend seven years sharin' a cell with Hannibal Lecter an he ain't exactly gotten over it yet. Then this hunchbacked hippy with hair like a muskox touchin' a Van de Graaff generator hasta head into the captain's quarters an burp up a coupla tubs of cottage cheese til the place looks like a curdled goat exploded in there, an while that's goin' on Lucas starts takin' a leak on the creepolas' car cause he apparently got his schlonker all full up with Jeannie's girl juice. Course, when the Kiwis spot the wee wee they're P.O.'d an start beatin' whatever bodily secretions Lucas ain't yet expelled out of 'im, til Billy shows up to peel the two scabs off an gives 'em a serious shock to the digestive system. Then the boat finally makes landfall an the kids tear off down the road, cept after awhile the two geeks from the Blunderdome catch up an try runnin' 'em off the road with this old Dodge that's got a cattle guard welded to the grille, an end up missin' cause the steerin' wheel's on the wrong side of the car. Meanwhile, Archer's down at the 7-Eleven buyin' some beef jerky from Saddam Hussein, but about that time his beeper goes off an he hasta rush back to the hospital cause the hunchbacked hippy from the boat needs some serious body an fender work done, an ends up havin' his head explode like a tire bubble before Archer can chop his top an install a new pressure valve. Elsewhere, the kids've wandered down into an old tunnel to see if there really is a light at the end of it or if that's just somethin' disingenuous people say after a near death experience to score a guest appearance on The Jim and Tammy Show. Then the guys an girls get separated an the body of the hippy with the explosive bedhead drops down in front of the girls an makes 'em hose down their knickers, an by the time the guys're able to locate 'em the Star Trek Red Alert noise goes off an everybody from here to Canberra knows they're sneakin' around down there. Only that ain't the half of it, cause now they've got the Christchurch chapter of the Hell's Angels tryin' to run 'em down in the tunnels, an Lucas hasta prop up this chunka rebar an shove a steel rod into the spokes of the guy who looks like Peter Jackson's grizzled alcoholic uncle so he'll go soarin' through the air like one of The Flying Wallendas onto the spike.
Eventually they manage to escape the Skynyrd box an get back to their ride, only Jeannie's gotten 'er head cracked open an the wound's threatenin' to let all the air leak outta there, resultin' in serious risk of death or evolution into a brunette. Back in the tunnel, the scab with the Moe Howard haircut (Spider) drags his buddy's corpse back to Archer, cept Archer's got an appointment to play golf with Bob Hope, an even if he didn't he can't read his own notes from the last surgery to figure out how to fix the guy, so he has one of his orderlies shock Spider with this shoulder-mounted Hot-Shot so he'll bugger off. Spider's P.O.'d, so he decides to sneak over to the Herbert West ward an release all the inmates with the deep brain zombosis an load 'em up in his gloppy jalopy to avenge Brawny Rotten. While that's goin' on, the kids make their way to a pub an figure they've got no choice but to call the hospital to see about gettin' Jeannie's brain fissures sealed up, cept about that time Spider shows up with his blinding roo-shooter halogen high-beams on an orders his grody toadies to kill everybody in the pub when the barkeep refuses to run 'em a tab. So the zombies start bustin' out windows like a San Francisco earthquake, til the bartender fails to recognize that this particular barroom brawl's a little more raucous than the standard riot that occurs every year when New Zealand's inevitably eliminated from the FIFA championship an ends up gettin' shivved like a prison snitch when he tries breakin' it up. Then the cast of E.R. shows up an tasers all the zombies like minorities at a pool party, an pitches the kids into the back of an ambulance so they can run tests on 'em an make sure they didn't infect their zombies with the Kiwi clap while en route to Archer's abattoir. Unfortunately, by the time the two rigs make it back to the hospital, the zombies're mad as hell about the orderlies' refusal to stop at the rest area an they end up doin' a whole lotta deconstructive surgery on their faces, while Billy sets up his friends in the hospital waitin' room with the February 1969 issue of Better Homes and Gardens while he goes to find Archer. But after awhile Jeannie's whinin' starts gratin' Lucas' brain into shredded Gouda an he hasta lock 'er up so he can try rereadin' the section about wood paneling goin' outta style without distraction, only he accidentally locks 'er up with a zombie in the chemical locker an she ends up settin' it on fire an blowin' the place up like a whale carcass in Florence, Oregon. Then one of the orderlies clubs Billy like a seal in Saskatchewan an drags 'im to Archer's operatin' room so he can make like a James Bond villain an divulge all the details of his diabolical plot to increase the key demographic of reality television an make millions in advertisin' revenues, or somethin' like that, I didn't really understand that part. Cutting off here, but if you're one of those compulsive types that just hasta know how it ends, it's in the public domain, an can be viewed via the following link:
Alrighty, well, Death Warmed Over was the very first Kiwi splatter film ever made, and even though it's no match for Peter Jackson's Bad Taste or Dead Alive, it's still pretty weird. I just can't get over the fact that this guy's had seven long years in the nut hut to plan his revenge against this doctor that got him landed in the Serta testing facility for slobberin' cuckoo clocks, but he also wants to get back to bein' a normal person and take a nice vacation with his friends at the same time. And not only that, but at least two of his three friends are all fully aware of the plan and heartily endorse it, which is nothing short of hilarious. I mean, I don't wanna tell people how to make their movies, but wouldn't it have made a little more sense if the guy sated his bloodthirst FIRST, and then maybe went back to his hotel on the mainland and picked up his friends for a well deserved holiday? Then you've got the ending which makes no bones about the fact that they were gunnin' for a sequel, but they leave the door open so wide that the entire movie goes pretty well unresolved. I realize that since I can't actually explain what I'm talking about that it has very little power to persuade or dissuade you from seeing it, but generally, if you wanna leave the door open for a sequel you do it with a little subtlety. This is about as subtle as a flasher who forgot his trenchcoat at the bus station, and with an 81 minute running time the movie's over so fast that you're stuck watching the credits tryin' to figure out what the hell just happened. Something else that's kinda different about it, is that when they make that seven year transition into the future, the segue is just a coupla lines of text underneath a still shot of Archer's new hospital facility. Kinda unusual to have that sort of thing explained through text rather than dialog between characters, but I suppose it works alright and certainly helps to cut costs by removing any scenes of Michael Hurst's asylum time or his parole hearing. Still, aside from the budgetary problems, and the few lapses in reality I mentioned during the educational portion of the review, you can see that these guys weren't just a buncha pitiful film students tryin' to finish the cinematic equivalent of a midterm paper. There really are a few brief glimpses of suspense and flashes of ingenuity goin' on here, and I think that if they'd had more money and coupla people with a little more experience around to smooth out the rough draft of the script a bit, that this could have been passable. The level of raw talent necessary to get a passing grade is there, they just needed somebody on hand in the technical department to help even it out a bit. Someone outside of the crew's inner circle would have probably helped too, cause if you look at the director/producer/writers (and even the composer), you'll see that this was everyone's third or fourth movie, and that they were all involved with the same few movies prior.
But anyway, let's yank that wad of bubble tape outta this thing's brain and see if it's got enough wherewithal to stand on its own two feet. The plot is a bit on the bullet riddled side. Kinda looks like one of those deer crossin' signs you see out on a dirt road, only you can't tell what it used to say cause it's been blown to hell by a buncha responsible gun owners. And it's not just the little things that I've mentioned before, or the fact that our man in search of vengeance is simultaneously in search of the perfect tan, either. We really never find out why the gonzo neurosurgeon wants this army of Kiwi hobos with irreversible tooth decay, or what is final goal is. Even after he pulls Mike Hurst aside at the end of the movie to explain what he's doing, he doesn't tell us anything that the audience hadn't figured out by the end of the first reel. Maybe his sole motivation is to just be a big shot with an army of paranoid schizophrenics with matted Wookie ass fur for hair, but if the guy's smart enough to get as far as he's gotten, I find it difficult to believe that he doesn't have some sort of end game in mind. So the plot kinda deflates when held up to any scrutiny. The acting is surprisingly good, and probably in a dead heat with the special effects for the best aspect of the movie. It's particularly impressive when you look at it from a purely statistical point of view and consider that New Zealand ain't exactly a bustling metropolis, so just by virtue of the fact that they have such a small population in general, they're going to have a significantly smaller acting pool to draw from. I'd imagine some of these people are Australian as well, but the casting director really did a nice job. Michael Hurst is a little bland at times, but he's great in the asylum freak-out scene, so it seems pretty obvious to me that the direction may have been a bit weak. Gary Day's also enjoyable as the egomaniacal Dr. Archer, but I think my favorite performance was David Letch as the eyebrowless, Moe Howard-haired Spider. Guy's got a great look for a creepy, P.O.'d villain, and even though he's a little over the top at times, I thought he did an excellent job. Here's who matters and why: William Upjohn (Dark City), Gary Day (The Girl from Mars, Stage Fright), Bruno Lawrence (The Quiet Earth, Battletruck), Ian Watkin (Dead Alive, Star Wars: Attack of the Clones), David Weatherley (The Fellowship of the Ring), Nathaniel Lees (30 Days of Night, The Matrix 2 & 3, The Two Towers, The Lost World 2001), Jonathan Hardy (Bloodmoon, Mad Max). Also notably, Michael Hurst played Iolaus on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Jonathan Hardy was Dominar Rygel XVI on Farscape, and William Upjohn was in 135 episodes of the Aussie TV series; Homicide.
The special effects, for the most part, are surprisingly decent. Now I'll admit that the print I watched was put out by Mill Creek, but as far as I can tell there is no decent Region 1 print. The reason I mention that is because things get a little dark at times and that definitely conceals some of the effects, for good or for ill. But the pulsating brains that we're shown on several occasions are pretty good, as are the skull drilling/cutting sequences that come prior. The guts hangin' outta Spider's scruffy buddy after he gets vaulted onto the rebar look good as well, and I don't recall seeing any zombies that looked subpar. There's a pretty obvious swap over from the flaming zombie to a guy in a fireproof suit, and it's all the more obvious when the same thing happens to the Jeannie character, but the only way to really avoid that is to have a bulky character to begin with, which basically eliminates your ability to cast perky young girls. Which'd be sexism, and I won't stand for that. There's also a pretty pitiful stabbing sequence near the end where they focus real hard on a stuffed shirt packed with blood bags, but all in all, the effects are decent. The shooting locations are alright, but don't expect anything on par with the cinematography from The Lord of the Rings, because these guys can't even spell "panoramic" and they're not real big on wide shots in general. The countryside doesn't get much screen time, which is unfortunate, but some of the interiors are pretty nifty. I particularly liked the underground tunnels (once they turned the lights on and you could see anything), and the pub near the end was almost certainly an actual pub, so it looked good too. The interiors of Archer's building, particularly the subterranean portion, didn't make a lick of sense, but do look kinda neat at least. Looked more like Freddy Krueger's house than a hospital basement, and the operating rooms looked like they were thrown together rather hastily and don't exactly seem to be inspired by anything you've seen on Trauma: Life in the E.R. The soundtrack, I liked. It's another synthesized composition because, well, all the cool kids were doing that at the time. But it has a Goblin-esque sound about it that worked pretty well. Not quite so high intensity like many of the Goblin tracks are, but similar in general tone. Some of it also reminded me of Ennio Morricone's soundtrack from The Thing, which is about as big a compliment as you can give when it comes to horror flicks. Equally important is the fact that they didn't overuse it, and that the zanier Goblin-like tracks are used during the sillier moments, while the tense Thing-like tracks are used during the serious scenes. So pretty good work on the soundtrack, and the arrangement of said soundtrack. Overall, the lack of detail in the plot kinda sinks this one, but it does have its moments and is reasonably well executed on a technical level. Not a complete blunder from down under, but I'd only recommend it to zombie completists.