Can zombies be endearing? Heck yeah! If you like Bub from Day of the Dead, then you will love Ironhead, Jack, Jimmy D. and The Bride. Sure, they will break into your house and kill you, but at least they don’t eat you alive. These guys will even hang out and have dinner with you, and I mean sitting down for a bowl of chili, before putting on some records and dancing the night away in the basement. The Bride is my favorite one. She likes things that vibrate, like a blender, chainsaw or washing machine. And she looks great in the wig she steals from a victim’s bathroom.
The whole gang climbs out of an old black and white TV at the beginning of the movie, utilizing one of my favorite scares, the TV set that works even when it’s unplugged. The set was supposed to be delivered to an occult research center but somehow got delivered to a suburban neighborhood instead. That’s okay with the video dead but not so great for the owner of the house. Oops!
Well, after the original homeowner’s body is removed, brother and sister Zoe and Jeff move into the house where the TV sits waiting. Then a caricature of a Texan named Mr. Daniels shows up looking for the evil TV and tries to help Jeff and Zoe. How did he come to be such an expert on the video dead? I don’t know!
Jeff doesn’t believe Mr. Daniels’s story about the TV until a hot chick crawls out of the TV only to be sucked back in and killed by a guy (also inside the TV) who calls himself The Garbageman. Why? Because he disposes of human garbage, like our hot chick who is revealed after her death to be a hideous ghoul. This is further evidence of my horror rule that if a hot chick shows up in a place where she cannot logically be, such as crawling out of your TV, she is a demon.
Luckily Mr. Daniels is persistent after being sent away and comes back to help fight the zombies. As it turns out if you’re nice to them they won’t kill you. It’s only when you act scared that they become angry. They want to be alive, and they want you to pretend that they are. Too bad Daniels doesn’t follow his own advice.
What was it about 1987 that made so many of these low-budget but totally enjoyable flicks creep into our lives? This was the year that brought us Berserker, Blood Hook, Blood Lake, The Dark Power, Evil Laugh, Terror Night and Spookies, to name just a few. And as for bigger movies, 1987 was the year we saw Prince of Darkness, Hellraiser, The Serpent and the Rainbow, The Lost Boys and Near Dark. Well, set the time machine to The Video Dead. You will not be sorry.
The only thing I would change about this fun little flick is that I would have liked to see more of The Garbageman. He had one scene and never appeared again, but still stands for me as one of the most WTF horror characters ever. If The Garbageman had showed up in the flesh instead of Daniels we might have had a nice happy ending. Also, I had trouble suspending my disbelief when the Bride killed one of Zoe’s neighbors. See, she spins her headfirst in a washing machine with her legs sticking straight up. Everyone knows a washer won’t do a spin cycle with the lid open.
I don’t know if I believe that The Video Dead was originally intended to be a horror comedy, the way it has been listed everywhere online. I think the director may have taken a page from Tommy Wiseau’s book in listing this as a comedy after the reaction to it was laughter rather than fear. I don’t remember this from the 80s, so I don’t know what context it was presented in when it was new. It does have amusing elements, but I’m not sure if they were intentional. It is more absurd than anything. I do know that when I found it online about ten years ago it was still out of print, and I think I paid more for the VHS than I have ever paid for a tape, somewhere in the neighborhood of $15. It was worth it…just look at that cover! It’s a nice heavy tape, an ex-rental like I prefer to own, and I’m pretty sure it is the original home video version.