Saturday, June 2, 2012

Scene In Focus : The Video Dead

zombie film

I had fond memories of Robert Scott's The Video Dead, why? I'm not sure but I think the incredible VHS sleeve above had something to do with it along with the scene that inspired it. Having just watched the movie again via Netflix instant, it's actually pretty terrible, with some truly awful performances and hilariously inane dialogue, if you're in that right frame of mind you may enjoy it's cheap 80's vibe. What saves it from being a total waste of time is it's one genuinely creepy scene mentioned earlier, it's so much better than the rest of the film it feels like it should be in a different film altogether.

zombie film

After mistakenly receiving a mysterious crate, author Henry Jordan (Michael St.Michaels) unpacks it to find an old TV. As he taps away at his typewriter, he hears a funereal dirge coming from the TV and goes to investigate. On the television is the title card for a movie called Zombie Blood Nightmare.

zombie film

zombie film

Henry watches the ambling zombies for a moment before saying "What is this shit?" and turning the screen off. Before he even gets out of the room the screen flickers to back to life (Death?), with the dirge continuing and the mournful zombies aimlessly stumbling, Henry turns it off again only for it to come back on immediately. Cursing at the TV, the author goes to the wall socket and pulls the plug and goes to bed.

zombie film

Impossibly the TV reawakens despite the lack of power, and the same movie is still playing, however the previously aimless walking is replaced by a sense of purpose as one of the zombies turns to face the screen, and begins to move towards it until he touches the screen itself. An electrical buzz goes around the screen and smoke starts to billow out of it, before the TV falls to the floor and the zombie's head slowly emerges into reality from the television...

zombie film

The scene functions as a prologue and is quite competently realised, and has a distinctly different feel to the rest of The Video Dead, being much more serious in tone than the more tongue in cheek attitude of the whole movie. It has the feel of being a short movie in itself that was later expanded to feature length. The scene is genuinely creepy, as the mournful zombie suddenly senses the gateway through the TV into the real world, presumably by the smell of flesh. The zombies in the film use a mixture of poor makeup and masks, the main featured ones having the masks, which look obvious in the colour parts of the film but on the lo-fi, fuzzy black and white TV shots actually look very effective.

zombie film

The two main ideas featured in the scene of the electrical appliances powering themselves and monsters escaping the confines of the TV are not new ideas, but as a movie fan such ideas have always excited me, particularly the idea of creatures coming out of the film world and into ours. The Video Dead arrived in between the similar scenes featured in Lamberto Bava's Demons 2 (which was released the same year, 1987) which features zombies escaping from a TV broadcast and Hideo Nakata's J-Horror trailblazer Ringu from 1998 and it's famous scene of Sadako coming towards and out of the TV set. While The Video Dead scene may not be quite as powerful as the one in Ringu, it's a startlingly effective moment and one that deserved to be part of a better film.

zombie film


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