The Video Dead


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" I want him, and his video dead, out of here "

1st March 2013

Some cult movies baffle me and I struggle to understand how certain titles become elevated to such legendary status when they clearly don't deserve it. Video Dead is one such film that continues to have a beloved following to this day that I fail to comprehend. I hated this movie the first time I rented it on VHS and I hated sitting through this rubbish again for this review.

When a supernatural TV set is posted to an unsuspecting household it unleashes a horde of virtual zombies who murder the current occupant. Flash forward 3 months and a couple of teens move into the same building and inherit the same evil idiot box unleashing the zombies yet again.

I can't really fault the silly premise as it's good enough a reason as any to unleash zombies on the world. In fact it's one of the things that drove me to pick this up in the video store in the first place (but mainly it was the rad poster) and fits in perfectly with most 80's fluff. Unfortunately this output is amazingly bland for such and out there concept and really underutilises its potential becoming just another throw away zombie flick.

But if squandered opportunity wasn't enough the thing that really lets this one down is the execution and production values. Usually I try not to mention budgetary constraints and the lack of Hollywood sheen in reviews (aside from making people aware of the type of media they are about to sit through) but when it comes to the Video Dead I feel things are lacking so that the production could make more of a profit of the video rental market .

There were a lot of straight to video releases in the late 80's early 90's and while they indeed have miniscule budgets compared to theatrical releases quite a few managed some brilliant productions (Full moon pictures were quite the marvel). Around the time of these movies there was a phrase used to describe such films, "shot on shiteo" and while I thought that was a little harsh it's more than adequate for this film.

The film looks as if it was shot on a handheld VHS camcorder with no attempt made to control the lighting. While I'm able to commend the first emergence of a zombie from the cursed TV set it appears to be the only scene that had any form of creative flair. Throughout the film the camerawork becomes more and more amateurish from trying to reframe a scene as it's playing out, jump cuts lingering on objects of no consequence and excruciatingly long location pan shots. It gives of the expression of 1 take and done. I am actually really curious to see what this looks like on Blu ray I just can't imagine a HD transfer.

This leads me to the acting and some of the worst line delivery committed to screen. In support of the 1 take and done mentality there are many moments where the actors spew out lines of paragraph like length without taking a breath. While that can be attributed to the fast production cycle the nonsensical things that escape from their mouths really must be heard to be believed - "You don't understand. He likes to chase skunks in the woods, and if he finds them he tries to mate with them. Only skunks don't like to mate with poodles, and then they spray him, and he really gets turned on!" err ok. Now I realise that some who read that will be intrigued but this does not come off in the same amusing way that Troll 2 managed, Video Dead looks and feels like someone's YouTube production.

Now any money that was thrown at this film must have been spent on the zombie makeup, for the time the effects were pretty darn good (at least when kept out of the light). Even with adequate make up things are hardly enhanced as the zombies (They are not the traditional bitey types) sneak stealthily through each of the houses in the suburbs and wipe out the extras poorly (one man literally spins 360 degrees in a loose shirt to simulate a neck breaking).

For every moment of goodwill there are three more negatives to bring the movie back down. A genuinely fun chainsaw attack can be countered with the explanation that the zombies can't hurt you if you don't fear them (someone was watching too much Nightmare on Elm Street),flashing red lights in the place of actual police cars and characters introduced to explain the back-story of the events only to fail to do so (I found this TV at a car boot sale, so what?).

The music was also another poor point on a number of fronts. Horror films tend to make such effective use of sound that generally you take it for granted but I was so aware of its presence here that it distracted from numerous sequences (I really think that was part of the intention). Ignoring the fact that the music was generic filler it was made overly intrusive drowning out dialogue and sound effects. It was also inappropriate at times failing to match the on screen action (rock music for a casual stroll and happy themes for zombie attacks?).

There's also another reason why I focused this review on the production side and that's the fact that the film is amazingly dull. Even with sprinklings of zombie action the first two thirds it moves at a snail's pace (and this is a 90 minute movie) leaving us at the mercy of the inane dialogue, "Daddy's sleeping with the maid isn't it disgusting" appears in the middle of a conversation for no apparent reason.

Wherever I see this film spoken about today it's listed as a comedy horror but I get the feeling this is a new moniker to justify the shambles of a production much in the same way that Troll 2 is a comedy, neither was engineered that way. While the film isn't meant to be taken seriously (stealth zombies from the TV) it's far from a laugh riot. I expect many more people to discover this "gem" and expand its cult status but it will remain one of those things that I just don't understand (Such as TOWIE).


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Movie Details

Movie Poster Here
Director: Robert Scott
Screenplay: Robert Scott
Released:1987
Rating:18
Starring: Michael St. Michaels
Thaddeus A. Golas
Al Millan