September 20, 2012 — I know it seems like we’ve just about exited the current zombie fad that peaked in the 00s, but the truth is, zombies won’t stop being popular. You see, they were never not popular. Take the 1980s. According to this Wikipedia list, which I’m sure isn’t comprehensive at all, that decade averaged 7.5 zombie movies a year. That’s more than one every other month for ten years. This was the decade that gave us all those awesome Italian zombie movies, the decade that gave us the Return of the Living Dead series and The Serpent and the Rainbow. Heck, Romero didn’t even finish the original Living Dead trilogy until 1985.
And while back then the desire for shuffling flesheaters wasn’t so high as to achieve a spot on prime time television like we have today with The Walking Dead, at no time did the most recent zombie spike rise to the level of, well, Dead Heat.
That’s right. We’re using a 1988 film starring Treat Williams and Joe Piscopo to give us some perspective on zombies in pop culture. In the movie, Williams and Piscopo are cops who Don’t Play by the Rules™ and wait just a beat too long to deliver their one-liners in the alternate dimension that was 1980s Los Angeles.
The basic premise is that they’re investigating a series of thefts by virtually indestructible thieves, which they learn are actually resurrected corpses by, well, more or less becoming resurrected corpses themselves. Right, I’m going to be spoiling every bit of this movie by the time I’m done here. But I don’t care about the movie as a movie, per se, as much as I like it as accumulation of crazy parts. And here they are:
Joe Piscopo’s guns aren’t kept in a holster.
Vengeance is zombie Treat Williams.
Vincent Price classes up every movie.
The Resurrection Chamber belongs on the Death Star.
The 1980s weren’t all about sex.
When Treat Williams walks in on a pretty girl in a towel whom he’s been getting to know over the course of the movie, he ends up getting a whole different kind of action than what we expect from what I assumed was a specimen of the “at least I saw boobs” genre of film. She just ends up decaying right in front of him. In fact, there was no sex-type content at all in this film. Just a lot of Piscopo leering. AIDS hit us all pretty hard.
You can’t grab a zombie bull by the horns.
Treat Williams barely fends off a liver and Piscopo fights numerous duck heads with his bulging arms. But then one of the most awesome cinematic creations in special effects history bursts dramatically onto the scene: Headless Zombie Beef Flanks. Make that Zombie Treat Williams action figure a two-pack, please.
Darren McGavin wants a real leg for a lamp.
Joe Piscopo dies like he lived, upside down in a fish tank.
Piscopo is one of the main stars of this blurry firmament of a movie, but he doesn’t even get a death scene. He and his partner nonchalantly split up to cover more ground on their case, and then a couple of edits later we come across his body upside down in a small fish tank like one of those high divers who jump into glasses of water in the old cartoons. Where are your arms now?
Zombies aren’t the only things full of holes.
I’d need a list longer than the closing credits to list all the plot holes, but the largest and most pervasive was that they establish early on that guns don’t take down these zombies…and then they spend the rest of the movie blazing Uzis at them, who in turn fire back with their own machine guns. No biting, no shambling, just massive, impotent firefights.
So, in conclusion, watch this movie.