And here's a zombie tale that will give you the creeps.
Year of Release: 1987
Running Time: 83 minutes (1:23)
Director: Jack Bravman
Adam West ... Capt. Tom Churchman
Frank Dietz ... Frank Sorrell
Shawn Levy ... Jim Batten
Alan Fisler ... Bob
Tia Carrere ... Amy
Hamish McEwan ... Peter
Manon E. Turbide ... Susie
Manuska Rigaud ... Molly Mokembe
Jon Mikl Thor ... Tony Washington
Peewee Piemonte ... Zombie Tony (uncredited)
Tony Washington foils a robbery at a local grocery store only to be run over and killed by a group of savage suburban teens. But the horror has only just begun, for in the darkest recesses of Tony's backyard, a voodoo ceremony takes place which resurrects Tony into a superhuman zombie avenger. One by one, Tony's ruthless killers are graphically and brutally murdered as the undead Tony takes his gory revenge! The stage is set for a bone-chilling climax as the authorities finally come face to face with the dead rising from the grave.
Zombie Nightmare, remindin' us that in places like Quebec, it's possible to own a tennis outfit an still be considered part of a "bad crowd." For cryin' out loud there're schools in America where the Chess Club could take these punks, what a joke.
I ain't in no mood for jokes though, not today - cause on Sunday, April the 15th at 7:28pm, the unthinkable happened, an I dunno if I'll ever be the same. After 37 years... loyal, excellent years, death finally took 'er from me. I still remember the day she came into my life - she was absolutely breathtaking: the curves, those smooth, sensual digits, an talk about a set of knobs... but she's gone now. My 1981 25" Quasar TV set left me, just like that. The death of a family member can really hit a guy hard an take you by surprise. I guess sometimes we take things for granted an assume they'll always be there - then, next thing you know, a puff of smoke rises up out of 'em an they're history. Course you do everything you can to keep 'em with ya - like drive 80mph to the TV repair shop, trip over the threshold, crack a rib on the dearly departed's sturdy wood frame - but in the end the guy hasta tell ya he can't find a suitable circuit board donor cause she's just too old. That's pretty much hittin' rock bottom, an not everybody can handle it with the grace an dignity with which I carry myself, an I'd just like to say that that anyone who tells ya I spent a minute over four hours weepin' in the street poundin' my fists against the water meter cap is a damn liar. Picked up $17 in change from some kindly samaritans, but at the end of the day I had to face the facts: she was gone, an there wasn't a thing I could do to bring 'er back. So, reluctantly, I peeled my Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling an Nintendo Power stickers off 'er, said my final goodbyes, an buried 'er out back between the septic tank an that ole raccoon we used to feed when I was a kid until he got up inside Dad's Willys Wagon, chewed through the radiator hose, an swallowed a pint of anti-freeze.
I mourned for three days before the lack of a TV finally got me off my ass an over to Sparky's Electronics Emporium an... I dunno when the heck this happened, but all the damn TVs in there were rectangular. I mean, it's nice that a 35" set don't weight 325lbs an cause spinal meningitis loadin' it into the car anymore, but not only did this stupid thing have a debilitatin' delay between it an the Nintendo controller (Ninja Gaiden's unplayable on it), but it turns out the pila crap's also incompatible with the Zapper gun an has no place to attach the metal forks from my Atari. Spent my entire tax return on that thing an its useless as tits on a hog, so I ended up drivin' over to Lunk's Trunks of Fantastic Junk an that's when I first laid eyes on it - a mint condition 1983 RCA ColorTrak with its original swivel stand. Poor thing was buried under a pile of 1977 World Book encyclopedias and an old Buffalo Bills Helmet desk lamp. Course, when I asked Lunk about it he got this look on his face like he'd just figured out how to unscramble the Spice Channel an said he couldn't possibly let it go for less than $30, an obviously I was broke from buyin' the Toilet-Tron 2000 or whatever it was, so I just traded 'im even for my new one an the Buffalo Bills lamp. Still feel a little guilty watchin' stuff on the ColorTrak, but I think my old girl'd want me to move on an see other TVs. Sides, she's prolly up there in Heaven showin' The Evil Dead to a buncha poor saps who died in The Civil War an bringin' joy to a whole new generation of movie fans, an anyway, I'm sure she'll be waitin' for me when I finally go.
It ain't easy movin' on, but sinkin' into a deep depression in the midst of my tribute to the 10 greatest Mystery Science Theater 3000 movies just ain't gonna fly, an equally important - the ColorTrak was all dolled up an ready for 'er maiden voyage, so I stuffed Zombie Nightmare in the VCR an together we set sail for Canadian fail. Same basic plot as Pumpkinhead, only without Lance Henriksen, Stan Winston, a budget, or a prayer - but what the flick lacks in coherency it more than makes up for in zombies with baseball bats, so humor me for a moment an I'll prove to ya that all the people sayin' mean things about it on the IMDB deserve to be haunted by the ghost of Adam West. Go ahead, I dare ya to take one look at these trivial tidbits an just *try* denyin' this flick its rightful place among the greatest achievements ever made by a French Canadian pornographer. First, a head of lush, heavy metal hair may seem cool when you're young, but the sad reality is you can't even land a job as a zombie without cuttin' it first. Second, an unintended consequence of dependin' upon carrier moose for news from the outside world is the survival of disco clear into the year 1987. An third, dead men tell no tales - but some tread water in the jacuzzi.
I don't wanna go destroyin' the flick's mystique or anything, but I've gotta ask - just how fearsome can a group of teenagers who meet an hang out at the Twist & Creme ice cream shop possibly be? I'm not tryin' to "dis" anybody, but doesn't suckin' on an Otter Pop while conductin' gang business do pretty serious damage to one's street cred? Seriously, how intimidating is it to be challenged to a rumble at the dumpster behind the Mr. Softee by some privileged suburban punk drivin' a Camaro?
"Bring your Hot Topic ornamental fantasy dagger and we'll settle this like men!" - yeah, that *might* scare a middle-aged insurance adjuster from Topeka, but try that on somebody who's stolen the jacket off a dead body an see where it gets ya. These kids make the gangs from West Side Story look like the cast of 187, it's pitiful. Can you imagine these wannabes tryin' this macho crap someplace without picket fences an miles of Maple tree-lined streets? I can't. These're Greenwich, Connecticut thugs - the kind that pound math dorks an force 'em to wire extortion money to their bank accounts to prevent further beatings. Actually it's worse than that - they're CANADIAN, so they're probably apologizin' non-stop as they menace society in the most polite way possible. Bottom line - if you're gonna go all-in on the tough kid gimmick, maybe don't dress 'em up like their ex-cheerleader mamas turned trophy wives just dropped 'em off at the arcade with a $20 bill before speedin' off to the masseuse so they'll be good an limber for the evening key party, okay?
The movie begins with this black girl who's got jaws like The Great Khali watchin' little league practice an bein' followed home by a coupla clean-cut all-American boys who try rapin' 'er in the middle of some some old codger's lawn after she refuses to move to the back of the sidewalk. Unfortunately for them, the little league coach happens by an proceeds to beat the white privilege out of 'em until he finally gets so P.O.'d that he hasta plant one of 'em with the Death Valley Driver (although the execution was a lot more F-U than DVD), allowin' the other kid to shiv 'im with a switchblade before fleein' like their daddies just came home drunk an grabbed the whoopin' stick outta the closet. Then we jump forward about 30 years to the present where the deceased coach's little boy's taken up the ole Mickey Mantle an grown into a headbangin' steroid monkey who can bash a fastball into the next zip code like Conan the Ballbarian - which he does, winning the game for his team and the hearts of countless middle-aged women in sexless marriages. Meanwhile, at a night club for rhythmically challenged accountants, a pack of trust fund teens're hasslin' the patrons until this bouncer who looks like he can bench press a Rolls Royce Phantom invites 'em to tour the scenic back alleyway, even though he'd rather ring all the crap outta their hair to fill the kiddie pool they got set up for the night's hot oil wrestling bout. But while that's goin' on, Alice Cooperstown is over at the corner grocery store grabbin' dinner for his mama, when these two chunkheads from Sasquatchewan come in an try robbin' the Italian shop owner who talks like the chefs from Lady and the Tramp. This ain't gonna work for ole Haircules cause he's gotta get home to soak his locks before he develops permanent battin' helmet head, so he muscles the two thugs outta the store before any harm can come to the beef jerky canister an proceeds to walk on home, only outta nowhere come the affluent truants in their Porsche an next thing you know he's Louisville Buggered. Let that be a lesson to ya - you can call your shot or you can signal bunt, but never crowd the plate when it's attached to the bumper of a German sports car. So anyway, upon finding The Incredible Hunk layin' face down in the street, the shop owner figures the only logical course of action is to spatula 'im up an go dump 'im in his mama's lawn before hot dog sales take a dive, an when mama realizes there's about to be one more angel in the outfield she pretty much loses it an calls in a favor from the black girl (Molly) 'er dead husband rescued at the beginnin' of the movie.
Why her? Well, it seems the gal graduated with honors from Voodoo U an strapped a Tina Turner wig with Bride of Frankenstein streaks to 'er head in the meantime, an mama wants 'er to get revenge on the well-to-douchebag teenagers that killed 'er boy with dat voodoo dat she do. So Molly paints 'er face up like the guys from KISS an stutters out a buncha magic words like Miss Cleo wearin' a pair of frozen underpants an presto! - one zombie cleanup hitter ready for vengeance. I heard they were gonna make the zombie British, but the test audience just couldn't take the zombie seriously runnin' around killin' people with a polo mallet. The next mornin', the head poseur (Jim) comes downstairs from his bedroom an slaps a Budweiser on his throbbin' head until his mom starts bitchin' 'im out for comin' home so late an for lookin' like the love child of Joey Lawrence an that kid who played Lucas in The Wizard an threatens to take 'im on one of those Jenny Jones teenage boot camp shows if he don't straighten up. Jim grabs a hand fulla pasta outta the fridge an chucks it at 'er until she's got literal spaghetti straps an leaves 'er pickin' fettuccine out of 'er bra on his way out the door. Then he drives down to the ice cream shop to talk loudly with his accomplices (Peter, Susie, Bob, an Tia Carrere) about their vehicular homicide, but Pete an Susie hafta go work the juice counter at the health club or somethin' an they end up leavin' while Jim tries unsuccessfully to get the waitress to lick his sno cone. Eventually quittin' time rolls around and Pete an Susie start rootin' around in the jacuzzi, but before either one of 'em's able to do any pube-a divin' Zombie Lasorda shows up, swivels Pete's neck around like a Barn Owl, an deflates Susie's air-head like a Patriots game ball. Apparently these guys really make an example outta you when ya let your membership lapse. Then a detective (Frank) shows up to investigate an listens to the diagnosis of this coroner who talks like Humphrey Bogart an basically determines there's one big, P.O.'d Canuck out there who's taken it upon himself to right all the wrongs brought into this world by disengaged Reaganite parents. Frank wants to get Vince McMahon on the phone to confirm the whereabouts of Dino Bravo, but that don't pan out he hasta go crawlin' to Adam West (the chief) an tell 'im his only clues're jack an shit, at which point Adam tells 'im that if any more attractive, middle-class advantaged teenagers turn up dead his ass is under the grass at Olympic Stadium.
Elsewhere, Jim's staked out at the ice cream shop waitin' for the waitress to get off work so he can try temptin' 'er with his creamy confections, only she's one of them liberated women with a #MeTude, an so Jim throws 'er down on a bag of expired waffle cones beside the dumpster an starts tryin' to stick his soft serve into 'er dippin' slot. Bad idea, cause along comes Zommyboy who goes all Vlad Guerrero the Impaler on 'im an rams his bat through Jim's gut bucket. Needless to say, Tia Carrere is just a teensy bit on edge on account of all 'er friends goin' to the big food court in the sky, so she calls up Bob an tells 'im in no uncertain terms that they're next until Bob promises to come over an console 'er female hysteria. Yeesh. Women, am I right? All your accomplice friends die under violent circumstances an they go to pieces on ya. Meanwhile, Adam calls Frank into his office to tell 'im he's picked up the guy from the Skate or Die stage select screen for the murders on the basis that he can throw half a dozen cops around the station like meatballs in a cafeteria food fight. Frank's still skeptical, so he heads home an examines some of the director's production stills an notices Molly in the crowd at multiple murder scenes an figures that's proof enough to wake Adam up at Ass 'O Clock in the mornin' to present his evidence. Cept while Frank's tellin' 'im about Molly, Adam goes flashin' back to the openin' rape attempt when he hears 'er name an starts sweatin' like the supportin' cast of Roseanne when asked about Ms. Barr's Twitter feed, an Adam tells Frank it's just a coincidence an that anything she tells 'im's a damn dirty lie an plus she's way below his standards. Once Frank clears outta there Adam calls up his childhood accomplice (who just happens to be Jim's Dad) an tells 'im to come down to the station so they can settle Molly's hashish - unfortunately Brawn Mattingly's waitin' right outside the guy's house, an when he steps out he gets turned into a $1000 Home Owner's Association violation. While that's goin' on, Bob an Tia've decided to knock over Jim's uncle's auto shop to get enough scratch to beat their raps an escape dirt naps, but when they show up an start tryin' to locate the register, in walks Dead McGriff who tears 'em down an parts 'em out. Frank's not far behind an follows the zombie as it shambles outta the garage, shortly after which Adam follows Molly up to the building an immediately arrests 'er for excessive use of a bad accent an takes off after Frank an Cal R.I.P.ken. Think this's about as far's I oughta go, but this flick's only got room for one Batman an Adam's just about had it with the Gooeyville Slugger rootin' around in his dirty laundry, so you might wanna check out the endin' if you're gettin' tired of countin' the divots in the ceiling tile.
They just don't write movies like this one anymore, do they? The story's actually pretty decent, as you no doubt realize if you've seen Pumpkinhead or Pumpkinhead II which have the same plot. Zombie Nightmare really didn't have to be as inept as it is, and it's not hard to see just where things started goin' sideways. Originally John Fasano was hired to write the script *and* direct the movie by the credited director, Jack Bravman, but Bravman asked if it'd be okay if the pair co-directed since Bravman figured he'd probably never get another chance to direct a legit movie (his career up to that point consisted entirely of porno films). Fasano agrees - it's early in his career, he's just happy to be making a movie at all, so no big loss. Well, not only does Fasano ultimately not get credit for directing (he claims Bravman only directed when Adam West and Tia Carrere were on set, though that's a little odd since Carrere was nobody at the time), but when it's all said and done he doesn't even get an assistant director credit. Furthermore, if you watch this thing to the very end you'll notice that the editing goes completely to hell immediately after Tia Carrere calls up Alan Fisler, and there's a reason for that, which I'll get to in a minute, but here's what happens - once Carrere gets off the phone in the middle of the day, they cut to Frank Dietz and Adam West at the police station in the evening, after which Dietz goes home to research the case some more and then wakes West up in the middle of the night to tell him of his findings. The next scene is Fisler arriving at Carrere's house to pick her up in the afternoon. Now, one would think that without the aid of a dedicated editor (the assistant cameraman actually did the editing - the only editing he would ever do, incidentally), you'd *want* the guy who wrote the screenplay to cut the flick, but instead of letting Fasano do it, Bravman calls him from Canada after someone else had already gone to work editing and asked Fasano to mail him a script so they'll have a better idea what they're doing. Fasano then offers to do it for *free*, but even then Bravman's too cheap to spring for a hotel room to let him edit the movie. This would be pathetic enough if Bravman had done it on a movie that was actually going to be successful, but pulling that kinda crap on a low budget Horror flick? Good grief, I have no words. But the funniest story I've read involving the production involves Fasano hiring Superstar Billy Graham to play the little league coach and then again as that character's zombie at the climax (not that you'd know that the additional zombie at the end was actually supposed to be that character from watching the movie). Well, *everyone* completely forgot about Graham and he apparently sat at the airport for 12 hours waiting to be picked up before eventually giving up and flying back to the states. Whoops.
Anyhow, *somewhere* in this disaster are the pieces necessary to make something approaching passable status, so let's dig through its gut bucket and see how much is salvageable. The plot, as previously mentioned, is pretty decent and fairly original, particularly given how the monster is technically the hero. But, as I also mentioned, the editing takes a good premise and completely butt-fumbles it, leaving a disjointed mess that should be obvious to even a non-professional. The premise worked just fine in subsequent films like Pumpkinhead, and I Know What You Did Last Summer, but then those movies had their scenes in the proper sequence, so yeah, it's a *huge* unforced error. They also kinda mashed up the whole voodoo/Romero zombie mythology and made their voodoo zombie shamble and rot like a Night of the Living Dead zombie, but that's the least of their problems. The acting isn't as bad as you might expect for a Mystery Science Theater experiment, but most of the cast is south of passable. All the teenagers, including Tia Carrere (though she's probably the best, and it was her first movie) are bland, awkward, and in some cases both (Alan Fisler's "sleazy women" proposition is a good example), and that's before you factor in that they're supposed to be some kinda menace to polite society. None of the characters have enough depth for the juvenile delinquent angle to work, and that really takes the wind out of the sails as far as getting the audience invested in seeing them earn their comeuppance. Particularly amusing is Shawn Levy pretending to stab the POV monster over and over with an empty hand, and the fight choreography in the convenience store. Most of the adults are generally passable, with Dietz and West putting in the two best performances among characters with substance, although the gal playing Jim's fed-up shrew of a mother, and the guy playing the wisecracking "seen it all before" coroner are both pretty good too. West gets some pretty funny one-liners too, like: "You may have noticed that James is a terrifyingly strong dude," and "Maybe James has a great batting average," when asked by Dietz how anyone could possibly impale a person on a baseball bat. That said, you'll note that I claimed only *most* of the adults are passable, and the reason for that exception is Manuska Rigaud who goes completely over the top and utterly off the rails in her portrayal of Molly the voodoo chick. This is not the same flavor of insanity Deborah Reed offers up in Troll 2 either, where it seemed like she was aware of how ridiculous the movie was and was actively trying to upstaging its insanity just for the hell of it. This is the performance of somebody *really* trying to do a good job while overacting to beat the band, and it's a little tough to watch without actively cringing.
Here's who matters and why: (less Adam West and Tia Carrere) Jon Mikl Thor (Rock 'n Roll Nightmare), Frank Dietz (Tales of Halloween, The Jitters, Rock 'n Roll Nightmare, Black Roses), Linda Singer (Frogtown II, Whispers), John Fasano (The Jitters, Black Roses, Rock 'N Roll Nightmare), Jesse D'Angelo (The Jitters, Black Roses, Rock 'n Roll Nightmare, Blood Sisters), Manon E. Turbide (Mind Benders), Shawn Levy (The Kiss 1988, The Vindicator), Philip Pretten (Sci Fighters, The Lifeforce Experiment, The Kiss 1988, The Vindicator), Linda Smith (The Hound of the Baskervilles 2000, The Beastmaster), Walter Massey (Whispers, Eternal Evil, Happy Birthday to Me, Agency), Gayle Garfinkle (Of Unknown Origin, and voice acted T'Nuk on Tripping the Rift), James Rae (Minutes Past Midnight), Charles Biddle Sr. (Terror Train), David Gow (Pin), Gaston Perreault (Scanners III), Dean Hagopian (Scanners, Brainscan, The Vindicator, Eternal Evil, Visiting Hours), Tony Bua (The Jitters, Black Roses), Peewee Piemonte (Route 666, Batman Forever, My Demon Lover). Walter Massey would later go on to voice Mr. Haney on the series Arthur, while Shawn Levy eventually decided to get behind the camera and went on to direct the Night at the Museum Trilogy, Cheaper by the Dozen, and several episodes of Stranger Things. But we'll never let him forget about this little gem, now will we?
The special effects are subpar, particularly for a movie with a $180,000 budget. It may not sound like a lot, but to put it in perspective, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was made for roughly half that. The zombie's face is about one step above a Walmart fright mask, they made no effort to attach a wig to the guy who played the zombie to make him at least vaguely resemble Jon Mikl Thor, and they made a slow-motion point of showing the zombie's bat aimed squarely at Manon Turbide's skull before later revealing her virtually unblemished face, so saying the effects are a bit disappointing is putting it mildly. Maybe the effects guys got hosed on their budget, and if so that's not on them because there should have enough cash to make *one* zombie look presentable - but any way you slice it this zombie is pitiful. Beyond that there's a small amount of blood, which has good coloration, but is a bit too thick to run effectively. The shooting locations are hit and miss, with the good ones having been actual locations, and the bad ones encompassing the sets constructed specifically for the movie. So you've got the health spa, night club, drive-in ice cream joint, a coupla residences that were real places and provide a nice slice of '80s (and earlier) architecture - and the police station, restaurant (the restaurant actually *was* the police station, which they tweaked slightly after the station was no longer needed), and cemetery, which are all pretty pitiful. Sets are one area where inadequacy is more understandable when a meager budget is involved, so while these don't hurt the movie as much as the bad special effects, they are lame at times. The soundtrack is probably not the area you'd like people citing as your greatest asset, but the '80s metal certainly breathes some much needed excitement into the movie, particularly Motorhead's classic "Ace of Spades," which plays over the opening credits and makes a good first impression. Of course, some of the credited bands didn't actually exist, and the tunes they're purported to have contributed were actually recorded by Jon Mikl Thor (who also plays the guy that turns zombie) and his band, Thor. So the rock tunes are enjoyable, but the synthesized tracks are a bit repetitive and fail to bring much atmosphere. They're not bad, just a little lifeless. Overall, Zombie Nightmare fails in every technical aspect, but most of these failures strike the tone necessary to make it campy and entertaining, so it's a good choice for a bad movie night. Definitely worth watching for the giggles, but that's about it.