The Video Dead (1987)
WRITER: Robert Scott
DIRECTOR: Robert Scott
STARRING: Roxanna Augesen as Zoe Blair
Rocky Duvall as Jeff Blair
Vickie Bastel as April Ellison
Sam David McClelland as Joshua Daniels
Jennifer Miro as The Woman
QUICK CUT: After buying a new house and finding a cursed television in the attack, Zoe and Jeff run afoul of zombies crawling out of the televisoon.
Jeff - The younger of the Blair children, who is cocky, yet dorky. He's more interested in pot and girls than anything else, and he loves horror movies. Oh, you won't when this is over, kid.
Joshua - A man from Texas who was a previous owner of the television and completely botched up the sending of it to a paranormal institute. Now, he's come to the Blairs to fix his mistake.
Zoe - Jeff's sister, a free spirit, and a bit of a new agey type girl. Yet she's not quite open to believe in zombies without some mighty strong evidence.
THE GUTS: Video Dead opens up innocently enough with a Mr. Jordan receiving a harmless delivery of a brand new tv. A brand new tv he did not order. Has anyone ever accepted the delivery of something they didn't order, in real life? I'm sure this doesn't happen after September 11th.
But since he doesn't have to pay for it, and Jordan seems pretty out of it anyways, he accepts the delivery and unboxes his new television. Since he doesn't watch tv, he is less than impressed, however.
That night while writing, Jordan hears the tv turn on, and finds it playing Zombie Blood Nightmare. He mocks it in disgust and turns it off. But as he walks away, the tv turns itself back on.
With frustration, he unplugs the tv and heads to bed. While Jordan sleeps, surprise! The tv comes back on again! This must be how crap shows get such good Neilsen ratings; haunted televisions turning themselves on at 3am.
More ominously than that, one of the zombies in the movie turns towards the screen and looks out like he can actually see through the glass tube. If he COULD see into Jordan's home, he might just stay inside the box.
But no, much like Samara in The Ring, they want out of the tv, but probably for less interesting reasons. So the tv starts sparking and casting electricity all about as so many natural laws are broken.
Not content to just come through on his own, the zombie brings along all his friends so they can throw a zombie jamboree in Jordan's living room.
The next day, the two delivery guys return, having screwed up the order. The tv was supposed to be delivered to an institute for occult research. YA THINK? Although, this does raise the question, since they came to the address and asked for Jordan by name, there must have been something coming to his house? What was it? He said he hadn't ordered anything other than pizza in months.
What was he supposed to get?? How was the order mixed up?!
I MUST KNOW!!
I love that after the delivery guys see Jordan's body sitting there just inside the doorway, they just back away and close the door quickly. And the movie cuts to three months later.
We meet Zoe as she arrives by taxi to Jordan's old house, now her parents, and ANOTHER delivery truck pulling up. At least this one is different this time, and it's for the movers and not haunted televisions.
She starts unpacking, and something shambles ever closer to the house. But surprise! Not a zombie, just her brother Jeff! Kid should get his leg looked at if he's walking so awkwardly...
The movie actually pauses for a bit, since we've had our requisite death, and does some character work with the siblings. They're not on the best of terms, but not outwardly hostile, your typical brother and sister relationship, really. Even if Jeff is none too pleased with his sister majoring in aerobics at the community college.
We actually then drift back towards the plot as a Joshua Daniels arrives to look for his lost crate. It took you three months to get around to this?
Daniels at least bothers with some exposition, and he seems to know the tv is evil, and it needs to be found before more lives are lost.
Once Daniels is chased off for sounding like a crazy person, Jeff hears voices coming from the attic. Voices from that cursed tv, the voice of a woman calling to Jeff specifically, and wanting to make love to him. And this is how so many get sucked into fandoms.
The tv's not on when he gets up there though, so he brings it downstairs. Never once questioning hearing voices wanting to make sweet, sweet love to him.
Jeff starts cleaning up the yard, and meets their new neighbour, April. They talk about animals, and in typical male fashion, Jeff agrees with whatever April says, even if it contradicts what he just said.
The dog sneaks outside, and before his owner notices, he runs into another pair of legs shambling around. Well, it's not Jeff this time so...OH yay, actual zombie! I guess he forgot to crawl back into the tv.
So they spend a few minutes wandering the woods calling to Chocolate...oh, and April drops the bombshell that Jeff is living in a murder house. Oops. I guess that never came up before. Sadly, they never find the dog, as the zombie takes a big bite of Chocolate.
That night, Jeff tunes in Zombie Blood Nightmare and lights up a joint. Oh this is not a tv you wanna get high in front of, I'm sure. But he's unimpressed with the horror movie, much like I am, and turns the channel. He eventually finds the one with the woman who was calling out to him earlier, and she chats Jeff up some more and crawls out herself.
So yeah, the weird tv chick is just about to make love to Jeff when the television's v-chip activates and sends her back inside. She starts laughing at poor Jeff being cockblocked, and is completely unawares when someone comes up behind her and slits her throat I...do I count that as a death?
Anyways, the guy warns Jeff, the typical 'do not tamper in things you don't understand' type of deal. He shows Jeff what the woman really looked like, and says they normally look just like us. Um, no. Did you see the zombies not 20 minutes ago? These are not the aliens from They Live, they're zombies.
Oh, and this guy is called the Garbage Man. Because he disposes of human garbage. But...but I thought the creatures only LOOKED human, but...oh, for Cormans sake, never mind.
Before Trash Can Man disappears into the static, he also gives the handy advice to lock the television up in the basement and block the screen with a mirror. Well, that's that, the movie's done, no more problems!
...Jeff doesn't follow the advice. Instead he just flushes his weed down the crapper.
In a nice twist though, he sees the woman's clothing that was left behind, and actually does as he was told. Sadly, the tv starts barfing fog before he can finish his work. Oh, and we never see Trashy again. That...was a weird plot diversion that really needed some explanation.
Before the hand from the tv can do any real damage, Jeff finds a knife in the toolbox, and hacks it off. He actually manages to tape a mirror over the screen, but that just makes the tv spew blood out of the dials. This thing is in serious need of a factory recall.
Jeff notices that the hand he went all Ash Williams on is following his cue and squirming around, still kinda sorta not really alive. He bags it up, takes it upstairs, and grinds it up in the garbage disposal. That worked better for him than it did for Sarah in Waxwork 2...
The movie remembers Jeff has a sister, and she starts questioning Jeff's weird behaviour. And he does not have sufficiently good answers, so just says he doesn't know what's going on.
Later, April heads off for school, and makes it out the door just in time to miss the mass of zombies coming for her parents. Did they follow the dog's scent, or what?
Rather than actually, I dunno, KILL ANYONE, the zombies just kinda mill about the house, sitting around, playing with cereal, looking at photos, trying on wigs... Worst. Zombie apocalypse. Ever.
The noise eventually wakes up the maid, who comes downstairs to find the zombie horde messing up her kitchen. One of them starts to strangle her, and lifts her up by her neck.
And let me tell you, she keeps yelling for a very, very long time. Several minutes pass while she's choked, and squirming, and yelling. She finally grabs an iron and somehow stabs it into the head of her attacker, but that doesn't stop him. FINALLY, he chokes her dead, and they go up and take care of April's dad as well, but we don't see that.
They do make up for that, at least, when the neighbour also gets a visit from the zombies, and one of them surprises the homeowner by popping out of the washing machine. That's a pretty solid scare, really. Bonus points for sticking the dead body in the machine and turning it on so the legs stick out and spin around!
Since that isn't enough dead bodies, the glorious murder spree continues when the zombie bride finishes off the washing machine woman's husband by making his head do a complete 360. I'll say this, they make up for a slow section by piling on the deaths all at once.
And that's when April comes home. Her scream draws Jeff over for a visit, and he tries to explain why the police probably aren't gonna figure this one out real soon.
Now that we have a hefty body count going on, Joshua Daniels walks back in to try again. This time, Jeff is ready to hear him out. And he calls the creatures the video dead. Hello, movie title! And yes, he is still taken about as seriously as you'd expect.
April wanders off to take a bath, but gets interrupted by a zombie suitor, who carries her off when she passes out. Fortunately, Zoe sees them leaving, and is a bit more inclined to accept Daniels now. He tells the siblings to gather up mirrors and they use them on the doors to keep the creatures at bay while they plan.
Plans which include running away, calling the cops, etc. All of which won't work, since the tv is still in the house. Oh wait, get rid of the tv! Sure, you said it can't be destoyed, but you could at least get it somewhere else? That would save their parents, right? After you take care of the extant zombie problem, sure...
Joshua explains there's only two ways to stop the Video Dead; by trapping them somewhere they cannot escape from, and eventually they'll eat themselves. And since they think they're alive, by attacking them the same way you would the living, and they might be convinced they're All Dead, instead of only Mostly Dead.
So uh...lots of ways to kill them, then? As long as you're convincing, at least.
Error watch! After showing the door covered in mirrors to protect the house, they go to a wide shot of the house, and yep! No mirrors! Oops.
They all grab some sleep since the zombies can't get in, so long as the movie sticks to closeups, but Zoe wakes up to see a zombie munching on a hand. HER hand! Which yes, is just a nightmare.
Joshua and Jeff gather up their weapons, and Zoe gets to stay at home, because I guess that's where womenfolk belong. Daniels at least leaves her the keys to the truck, in case things go horribly wrong.
So the men trek off into the woods to kill all the zombies, which raises my frequent problem with this sort of thing. How do you know when you've got them all? You didn't see them escape the tv, you don't have a head count, they didn't leave a note saying, "Twelve of us have gone off to have a snack". So it's a bit of an open ended quest, isn't it?
I gotta say, Daniels is a bit of a dick. But I like him all the same. He sneaks up on Jeff, and Jeff gives him a hard time for it. Jeff threatens him with 'death and destruction' but Daniels rightly rolls his eyes at it, and constantly calls Jeff 'boy'. And you can figure out what happens when Jeff tells him to stop, until he decides to call Daniels 'cowshit'. Which finally gets them to stop. It's a silly scene, but I like the bonding.
Forunately, a zombie isn't far away, and Jeff takes it out with a few arrows. While it twitches on the ground, he goes and grabs Daniels' bag so they can finish it off. Joshua brings out a chainsaw, and they actually fight over who gets to hack the thing to pieces. Because Jeff's favourite movie is Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Really? Is this the best time for this argument?
Anyways, after Jeff does the deed and cuts the thing in half, they move on to take out the other 20. Again, HOW DO YOU KNOW?
They find a shack in the woods to set up, and Daniels explains he has some bells that go crazy when the dead are around. He actually says he does not know why. Thank you, movie, for making your shit up literally as you're going along.
In the shed, Joshua finds the eviscerated body of April, while Jeff sets things up. Once that's done, Daniels explains they're setting a trap, and Jeff is the bait. Even if he doesn't like that.
Fortunately the movie doesn't drag out our torture for too long while Jeff hangs around. It's not long before the bells start ringing. I guess they're cursed with the spirit of Quasimodo.
But it WAS long enough for Joshua to doze off in the shed, leaving Jeff to have his legs groped at by the video dead. The Texan doesn't even wake up until Jeff turns on the chainsaw. A chainsaw which he quickly drops and has used against him by the zombie bride. Fortunately, Jeff keeps his legs out of reach while Joshua takes them out.
The last one left is the zombie bride, which Daniels chases off with a mirror, rather than kill, hopefully because he was just out of arrows. Which makes Jeff declare they wiped them out. Uh, yeah, except for the one walking away. The one walking away with a chainsaw, no less.
After some stumbling through the woods, they find the chainsaw, but no zombie. But she soon appears behind them with an arrow she stabs into Daniels' back, finishing him off. She then picks up the chainsaw and runs after Jeff with it.
And that little homage is the entire reason this movie was made, wasn't it? WASN'T IT??
Jeff stumbles around until he finds his way back to the shed, where he finally discovers April's body for himself. But he doesn't have time to mourn as Weddingface bursts into the shed. Jeff grabs a handy knife left behind, slices off the zombie's head. Yeah! He did the job! Happy ending time...but then gets a chainsaw through the chest. Damn.
Unfortunately, the zombie Jeff cut in half starts hobbling around and waking up the rest of his pals. Because as long as they don't believe they're dead, then they're not! So yeah, that massacre amounted to nothing more being accomplished than Jeff and Daniels dying horribly. Yay? That is a horrible rule for zombies.
The dead heads all wander back to the house this all started in, where Zoe is finally deciding to run for help. But it's too late, as all the zombies start circling the house.
As the sun goes down, Zoe tries to get out, but sees zombies in the car and all around her. One of them is actually pretty smart, as it uses a long branch to scrape mirrors off the door, without having to look at them.
Zoe remembers what was said about showing fear being what sets the creatures off, so she tries to stay calm and invite her new undead neighbours in for a spot of brains.
This plan...actually works. This is the most unique way to stop zombies, that's for sure. They come in, have some stew, and eventually decide they'd like to dance. So, Zoe leads them down to the basement where she plans to trap them, and they can eat themselves crazy, since they won't be able to get out with the mirror on the door.
Zoe is just about to escape upstairs and shut the door on them after saying she forgot the music, but one of the zombies finds a record down in the basement. They turn to attack, and stupid girl trips over her own feet and manages to fall up the stairs. But that minor inconvenience aside, she does manage to get out and trap them all secure and sound.
It turns out that the time it takes zombies to go crazy and eat each other when trapped is about ten seconds. Good to know. I guess 'no escape from' is a very limited window. Good thing they're all right near the tv, and it handily sucks them up when they're all done.
As a coda, Zoe's parents finally arrive from their trip overseas and find their daughter in a hospital, having gone a bit crazy. No real mention of her brother being dead, mind you. Just kinda not mentioned. You would think they might be upset over all that.
Oh, and they brought their daughter a present too! A tv they brought from home!
The orderly turns the tv on for Zoe, and tunes in Zombie Blood Nightmare, which is the last thing this girl, or I, want to see.
Video: For an infamously shot on video movie, I've seen worse. The colours are crisp, the video is sharp, and things don't get too washed out or underlit. This movie should not look this good, should it?
Audio: A solid sound mix, with mostly clear main dialogue, and nice sounds all around.
Sound Bite: "A TV don't kill nobody! It's what comes out of the tv does the killing!" Joshua Daniels in a moment of rather deep commentary.
1 - Mister Jordan, death by zombie. And apparently lamp. 8:30
2 - Chocolate the dog mistakes a zombie for something to mate with and gets squished.
3 - April's maid gets choked. Very, very slowly choked.
4 - April's dad, killed off camera by the zombies but we hear the screams.
5 - Next door neighbour strangled by a zombie bride in the washing machine.
6 - Her husband bites it when the same zombie twists his head around.
7 - They find April disemboweled in the woods.
8 - The zombie bride returns and kills Joshua with an arrow in the back.
9 - She gets one more kill when her final act is to slice Jeff through the chest with the chainsaw.
Best Corpse: Sob, so many too chose from! Jeff's death is shocking, the maid's is hilariously long, but putting the dead neighbour in the washing machine to spin around is brilliant.
Blood Type - B+: There's quite a bit of blood, especially once things start getting ripped and sliced in half. Plus, there's the bonus of the creature zombie effects being REALLY good. I was very pleased with the gore in this.
Sex Appeal: April and the Mystery Woman are in various states of undress, and Jeff even goes topless for the ladies.
Movie Review: Ow. This one hurts. In a broad sense, there's a coherent plot here. Zombies crawl out of tv, you fight back zombies, you save your home. But the details are all over the place. There are way too many plot cul-de-sacs the movies circles around that go nowhere, most notably the Garbageman. That was an intriguing idea, of a helper, a guide, inside the tv itself that appears...and then goes nowhere, and doesn't do anything Daniels didn't do. The movie makes up some seriously weird rules, but it just barely gets away with them because these are not your normal zombies, until it starts pulling magic bells out of its ass. Still, it's not TOO terribly made in the grand scheme of things, an for Trisk is almost a masterpiece. Three out of five cursed televisions.
Entertainment Value: I was really looking forward to this movie. I found out about it early in building Trisk, but it only recently became available on DVD. I grabbed it immediately and shifted the schedule around a lot to get this in quickly. And boy, was I not disappointed! This movie delivered the cheese in almost exactly the way I wanted. Amazing blood, crazy story, bad acting, and hilarity ensuing. I enjoyed this so damned much It was entertainingly bad, in all the right ways. Well worth the wait. Four out of five cans of chili.