Friday, 2 August 2013

Review - Dead Heat (1988 - Dir. Mark Goldblatt)

A little while ago we had our Buddy Movie Season. So the synopsis for Dead Heat sounds suspiciously standard issue. The punnily named straight-laced cop Roger Mortis (Treat Williams - maybe I smell another actor dedicated season coming on...) and his partner cop buddy, the laugh-a-minute Doug Bigelow (Joe Piscopo) are on the trail of some jewel thieves. In an interesting twist on the usual crime drama, the tea leaves are zombies who can take a lot of punishment, gunshot wise. Roger has a coroner friend, Dr Rebecca Smythers (Clare Kirkconnell), who he just so happens to have a thing for. And during their investigation they meet Randi James (Lindsay Frost) - who chose these names? - an attractive business type, who just so happens to take an instant dislike to Doug. Throw into the mix Vincent Price, playing the very rich father of Randi, and I think that in true Avatar fashion you can pretty much predict what's going to happen next.

Doug being the wise-cracking gagster is going to get killed, shot in the line of duty, and brought back as a zombie cop. Roger will get together with his Quincy-like friend and Randi will eventually fall madly in love with Doug, despite his deadness. Oh, and Vincent Price will be the main baddy, responsible for these zombie kleptos.

But none of that actually happens. Interestingly this review follows in the footsteps of, erm... Footsteps in the Fog (nice link) a film jam-packed full of story content. Dead Heat also messes with what is generally expected and I was never quite sure where it was going. It is a light-hearted jovial affair, despite being an 18, but has another darker side to it that reminds me of the films The Hidden and Monolith, (another film starring Lindsay Frost). One example of this is when our hapless heroes are in a Chinese butcher's shop. The animals get reanimated and attack. It's all a bit comedy. But then something else appears that is slightly more disturbing. A great scene.

The excellent Steve Johnson created the effects and pretty impressive they are too. At one point, one of the relatively well preserved zombies starts to visibly melt and the skin round its eye and mouth droops downwards. It's a brilliant effect and I would have to watch it again to figure out how it was done. One minor complaint about the make-up: at the end, one of the characters is in fairly extensive prosthetics and they cease to look like the character they were originally. The eyes don't look anything like the actor's eyes. If you told me a different actor played the part and they just added in the voice later, I'd believe you.

Let's get all of the moans out of the way: characters behaving stupidly always brings me out of horror films. So when I'm shouting for a character to smash a window, or even shoot it, to rescue someone and the character doesn't it seems a bit odd. Especially when it would have given the scene even greater emotional impact and shock value. A missed opportunity.

Gripes aside, this has to be one of the best zombie films that I've watched this year that I haven't seen before. It is very eighties, along with some quality mullets, but it's fun and different from the majority of films in this season. Recommended.

If you like this you could also try:
Monolith, The Hidden, Nightmare City


  1. I felt a little let down, but only because the film could NEVER have lived up to what I had hyped it to be in my head.

    Still such a great movie, and with shockingly good and fun visual effects.

    1. After watching Zombie 108 I needed a bit of fun.