Top positive review
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"Watch your mouth if you like this job!"
on March 25, 2004
"Over the top" doesn't even begin to describe this film. It's a rare movie that works as a satire of a beloved genre (NIGHT & DAWN OF THE DEAD) and stands more or less alone as a credible horror movie on its own. Unlike something like SCARY MOVIE, which has no pretensions of telling a serious story amidst all the humor, this one is a great zombie movie first, and a gentle parody second.
Set primarily in a medical supply warehouse, a funeral home and a graveyard (how's that for a trifecta of great locations!), we follow the story of what happens when a long hidden government "nerve agent" is released and it turns out it has the power to reanimate the dead. And I don't mean intact corpses. It raises body parts, including, memorably, the remains of a dog that was cut in half (for classroom purposes). The shot of the poor creature, normal on one side and organ's exposed on the other, trying to run, sticks with you. It's disturbing, gross, funny and totally original.
The movie ups the ante with these zombies too. They CAN'T be killed with a shot to the head. In fact, nothing short of totally burning them up in a crematorium does the trick. When warehouse owner Clu Gallagher shows up at the funeral home with a pile of twitching plastic bags, that is a GREAT, grisly moment. Another great touch was having the two characters who breathed in the agent directly (when they were still alive) go straight from being alive to being zombies without all that annoying dieing stuff! The paramedics examine the shivering, but conscious and coherent men, only to discover they have NO heartbeat or blood pressure. Cool idea!
The movie is mostly populated with a bunch of obnoxious teenagers partying at the cemetary. They are the barest caricatures (but funny, because they are caricatures of early '80s teenagers!), and not terribly interesting. The characters we actually care anything about are the older actors. James Karen, as the warehouse manager, is particularly great. His overacting is epic, and yet fits the tone of the film PERFECTLY. It's a comic / horror gem.
The movie features a loud rock score...with some truly terrible songs. And one of the characters, whose name I forget, is a pink haired girl with a death wish, who apparently likes to stip all her clothes off and strut around for hours. So in the midst of all the gore, we also have lengthy full frontal nudity. So if you don't mind your kids seeing crazy zombie violence and brain-eating...you might still shy away from the graphic nudity. I'm not sure the movie could get an "R" anymore these days.
If you haven't seen it, you should probably check out at least NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and DAWN OF THE DEAD first, just so the conventions being poked fun at are fully appreciated. But if you are a fan of those movies, this is the movie for you!
The extras on the DVD are really just a fairly detailed but actually not terribly interesting making-of documentary. I'm sorry, but lovingly telling us about the costume design for this film just doesn't do much for me.