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The Video Dead(1987)
A family takes delivery of a new TV set, unaware that it is the gateway by which killer zombies enter the world.
For more about The Video Dead and the The Video Dead Blu-ray release, see the The Video Dead Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on February 12, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Rocky Duvall, Roxanna Augesen
Director: Robert Scott
» See full cast & crew
The Video Dead Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, February 12, 2013
NOTE: 'The Video Dead' is currently only available as part of a bundle from Shout! Factory.
It's what comes out of the TV that does the killing.
Maybe this will help create a more clear picture of what, exactly, The Video Dead has to offer. Imagine back in the 1980s or early 1990s, before DVD and Blu-ray and video on demand and all the other nifty newfangled ways of watching movies. Travel back down memory lane to that mom and pop video shop that certainly stocked the latest and greatest -- movies like The 'Burbs, Lethal Weapon 2, K-9, Tango & Cash, and When Harry Met Sally lined the front shelves and their posters decorated windows and walls -- but also offered some forbidden video fruit in the section dad or grandma warned about staying away from, that Horror movie shelf with creepy boxes from series like Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street, complete with honest-to-goodness artwork, not just photoshopped floating heads, that really set a tone for the movie even before it was taken from the store. But buried a bit deeper, even, than those "mainstream" Horror flicks was stuff like The Video Dead, completely off-limits, brain-rotting, flesh-eating stuff that promised awful nightmares and scarring for life. Well, here it is decades later on Blu-ray, and about the only thing scary about The Video Dead is the acting. It's a nifty Horror movie idea, but the execution usually leaves something wanting.
An acclaimed writer named Henry Jordan (Michael St. Michaels) is awakened early one morning by two delivery men with a package they insist is for him. He hasn't purchased anything, nothing should be coming in, but he's stuck with it anyway. He tears open the wooden crate to reveal a lot of old newspaper and one very beat-up television set. Not only did he not order it, he's not much of a TV watcher. He sets it aside but allows curiosity to get the best of him. He turns on the set to find a fuzzy black-and-white image of zombies moaning and roving about. He tries to cut it off but cannot; pulling the plug from the wall does the trick, but only temporarily. The television returns to life and zombies escape from his set, walking out in full color and size. They kill poor Mr. Jordan. His house is sold and a few months later occupied by young siblings Zoe (Roxanna Augesen) and Jeff (Rocky Duvall) who are awaiting their parents' return from a lengthy overseas trip. Jeff befriends new neighbor April (Vickie Bastel) but also discovers the old television up in the attic, beckoning to him to watch. He discounts the creepy and ultra-realistic images that seem to come out of the television as a marijuana high, but he and his sister and new friend are about to discover that they're up against the living dead in a battle they seemingly cannot win.
Horror films aren't exactly bastions of award-caliber acting. The Video Dead is not different, unless one goes to the opposite end of the spectrum in search of Razzy-worthy performances. The Video Dead's cast does little to help the movie; it has quite the amateurish feel to it, and at best the performances are merely satisfactory. Most times, however, it feels like a high school drama class (not club) slugging through the material for a passing grade and waiting out the semester for the studio art or music appreciation classes to come. The script certainly gives them nothing meaty with which to work; this is an incredibly straightforward picture that wouldn't challenge even a mediocre actor. Nevertheless, the cast ofttimes struggles with basic emotions and simple dialogue delivery. The performances are clunky and haphazard, but then again this is a B-level Zombie flick, not something that cries out for more nuanced and natural performances. Acting aside, the movie is fairly constructed. The direction is unremarkable but effective, the score often incorporates that classic "shriek! shriek! shriek!" Horror motif, and the picture is generally fairly paced. Yet it all comes down to the monsters; without good zombies and kills, a movie of this sort could not survive no matter how strong the peripherals, and on the flip side, great monsters can save an otherwise terrible effort.
Fortunately, The Video Dead does manage some fine zombie makeup and decent kills. There isn't a very diverse collection of zombies -- just a few in total -- but the quality outweighs quantity here. The makeup appears thorough and convincing, nasty with a charred flesh sort of look -- including a blue zombie who must be the Andorian equivalent -- that's really quite gross and visually effective. There are some fun scenes in which the zombies play around with household appliances and others in which they're on both ends of a nasty little chainsaw. The film offers some choice blood and guts moments but doesn't reach quite the level of absolute hardcore gore as some of its genre brethren like Day of the Dead or Zombie. This is more of a straightforward Horror flick, a bit playful around the edges but nowhere near as cartoonish and grossly over-the-top as something like TerrorVision.
The Video Dead Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Video Dead features a fairly strong high definition transfer. The image enjoys a grain overlay; it's a little spiky but consistent and not too terribly heavy. Fine details range from satisfying to excellent. Clothing and facial details are of good, filmic quality. The image is stable, sharp, crisp, and consistent. Surrounding textures are nice, too; a beat up old truck dashboard seen in one shot, old odds and ends around the house, the dusty and dented (and melted?) television set, and leaves and grasses and other vegetations seen in exterior shots all look quite good. Colors are balanced and satisfying, not at all brilliant but not really worn down, either. Blacks are fine and flesh tones never too rosy or, on the other end of the spectrum, ghastly. The print shows a little wear and tear, some minor pops and speckles and scratches but nothing too terribly detrimental to the experience. This is a pretty solid Blu-ray picture from start to finish.
The Video Dead Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Video Dead arrives on Blu-ray with a flat and rather featureless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack. The primary culprit here is dialogue. Shallow, muddled, detached, quiet: name it, it probably applies. It's just strong and clear enough to get listeners through the movie, but clarity is certainly not this track's strong suit. Musical delivery is largely centered and lacking in range; neither general score nor Rock tunes find much stage presence beyond the center, and all music lacks verve. There is fair woodland ambience in chapter eight, noted primarily in quiet, dialogue-free moments, but the effect largely remains property of the front speakers. A few heavier sound effects -- a whirring blender, a spinning chainsaw -- sound rather mushy and indistinct. A dynamic track this is not, but it handles the basics just well enough to get listeners through the film, nothing more and nothing less. Note: 'The Video Dead' was originally released with a monaural soundtrack; the DTS-HD MA 2.0 lossless soundtrack will offer a presentation more faithful to the original.
The Video Dead Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Video Dead's supplemental section is headlined by a pair of audio commentary tracks.
The Video Dead Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Video Dead is a serviceable little Zombie flick. The premise is nothing more than a unique way to get the zombies into the world. That's fine; a little variety can do a lot of good. Unfortunately, the acting is pretty much atrocious and the script almost as bad. The zombies do look rather good, however, and blood and guts fans should enjoy this one well enough. It's not the pinnacle of the zombie film, but it's a fine little addition into the ever-expanding collection. Shout! Factory's Blu-ray release of The Video Dead features solid video and mediocre audio. A nice supplemental section is included. Worth a purchase for Horror buffs.
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