The Video Dead
Director: Robert Scott
Cast: Michael St. Michaels, Thaddeus Golas, Douglass Bell
Review by Brian M. Sammons
Continuing Scream Factory’s march to take over the world of High-def horror, on Febuary 19th they will be releasing this TV themed two pack of Terrorvision and The Video Dead. Both of these low budget, ’80s horror flicks are solidly in B-movie territory, but both have built up their own cult following, and both have plenty of fun to offer the not-too-serious horrorhead. So without further preamble, let’s flick on the old boob tube and find something to watch.
Terrorvision is probably the more famous flick of the pair, so we’ll begin there. It is certainly the weirdest and campiest. Shot completely on a sound stage and proud of it, the story is about an alien society banishing one of its criminals via teleporter. Unfortunately right at that time the Putterman family is installing their new cheap yet super powered TV satellite dish and that’s where the digitized monster ends up going. Now the pixilated alien is living inside the family’s television, but that doesn’t stop it from popping out when it gets the munchies to eat someone. And pretty much that’s the plot, but it doesn’t even begin to hint at the overall weirdness of this movie and the reason so many people love it so.
From the gooey, dripping, bug-eyed, partially phallic, mushy, muppet-looking alien, to the Technocolor, DayGlo colors of everything on screen, to the Elvira-like TV horror movie hostess with snakes for hair and cleavage for days, this movie is weird with a capital WTF. Just look at the Putterman family. The parents are hip, seventies-era swingers who are oddly honest about that fact in front of their kids. The eldest daughter is a rainbow-haired mix of valley girl and punk rocker and her boyfriend is a stoner, heavy metalhead with the appropriate name of O.D. The young preteen son is meant to be our main protagonist of the movie and as such is by far the most normal member of the family. He’s the one that knows there is a huge slimy alien eating people, but naturally as a kid, no one believes him. Oh, and I can’t forget gung-ho Grandpa who lives in a bomb shelter and runs around in a general’s outfit while toting around a machinegun. Yep, this is pretty much your typical slice of American suburbia circa 1986. So you take that as the base, sprinkle in clips from some ’50s so-bad-they’re-good sci-fi flicks, a heaping helping of more goofy and goopy than gory death scenes, and top it off with an astonishingly awesome theme song (seriously, got to YouTube and type in “Terrorvision song” and be prepared to be amazed) and you end up with one of the cult-iest of cult movies ever made.
The Video Dead is nowhere near as intentionally crazy as the other movie, but that’s not to say that it doesn’t have its own moments of insanity. Made on a far more modest budget, it’s about a strange, decrepit looking black and white television that is delivered to a house one day, despite the person living there never having ordered it, thanks to a mix up between the guy’s house and the Institute for the Studies of the Occult. Uh-huh. The television also has a mirror tied to its front so that the reflective glass faces the TV screen. Hmm, strange. What’s also weird as that the TV has a tendency to turn itself on, even when unplugged, and only seems to play on movie; “Zombie Blood Nightmare.” Yep, before you can say “Ahhhh! Zombies!” the titular undead come out of the possessed TV and eat the man in the house. Cut to three months later and a twenty-something brother and sister team move into the same house to get it ready for their parents who are currently out of the country. They soon find the creepy TV and that means more zombie goodness for all involved.
This movie is great. While I liked Terrorvision, I loved The Video Dead. Maybe it was because of its ultra-low budget charm, or its groan-inducing dialog, or the fact that Terrorvision was purposely made to be campy all the time, while The Video Dead tries to play THINGS straight at least part of the time, and then usually fails spectacularly. It’s the difference between intentional comedy and just finding something accidently hilarious. Me, I usually prefer the latter. TVD also has some wonderfully heartfelt, but woefully amateur acting that usually gives me the giggles, not to mention some hilarious kills that always put a smile on my face. Oh and its educational too, as I learned from it that skunks don’t like to mate with poodles. Good to know.
This new Blu-ray/DVD combo pack double feature has had the video brushed up on both movies, with the look of Terrorvision being the polished looking of the two, although even the shoestring budgeted The Video Dead looks very good, if still a bit grainy. In addition to giving you a two for the price of one deal, this new release does come with some extras worth noting. It has the now standard double-sided cover art, but not the usual Scream Factory slipcase.
As for on the disc extras, let’s first look at Terrorvision. There is an audio commentary with writer/director Ted Nicolaou and two of the actors from the movie; the doomed punker/heavy metal couple played by Diane Franklin and Jon Gries. There is a 34 minute featurette called “Monster on Demand – The Making of Terrorvision” with a whole bunch of people involved with the film in it. A poster and still gallery brings the TV (ha, get it) extras to a close without the inclusions of the ever ubiquitous trailer. Weird.
The goodies you get for the lesser known and probably lesser loved The Video Dead are actually more than the far more cult favorite flick above. There are two audio commentary tracks to be found here. The first is with the writer/director Robert Scott, the editor, and special make up effects man. The second is with two of the actors from the film, the production manager, and the makeup effects assistant. While there is no big retrospective featurette for this movie, there is an interview with the makeup guys called “Pre-Recorded” that runs about twelve minutes. On set outtakes, a behind the scenes still gallery, a poster and press still gallery, and a trailer round out the impressive list of extras for a tiny film that most people have never even heard about.
Both Terrorvision and The Video Dead are worthy of their cult classic status and their Blu-ray debut has been wonderfully done. If you’re a fan of one of these weird movies, then by all means pick up this new Blu-ray/DVD combo and get a bonus weird movie and no extra charge. If you’re a fan of both of these flicks, then consider February 19th your lucky day.