Case Number 07772

FRIGHT PACK: WALKING DEAD

Let Sleeping Corpses Lie
Anchor Bay // 1974 // 93 Minutes // Not Rated
City Of The Dead
Anchor Bay // 1980 // 93 Minutes // Not Rated
Nightmare City
Anchor Bay // 1980 // 92 Minutes // Unrated
House By The Cemetery
Anchor Bay // 1981 // 87 Minutes // Not Rated
Hell Of The Living Dead
Anchor Bay // 1983 // 103 Minutes // Rated R
Dead Heat
Anchor Bay // 1987 // 84 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // October 13th, 2005

The Charge

Theresa: Mary, tell us what you saw in your last vision.
Mary Woodhouse: The city of the dead. The living dead. A cursed city where the gates of hell have been opened.
Peter Bell: Where exactly is this city?
Mary Woodhouse: I don't know where it is. All that I know is that it's called Dunwich.
Peter Bell: Well, I've never heard of it. How do you know? How can you be so sure?
Mary Woodhouse: I read the name on a tombstone.
Theresa: Mr. Bell, if those gates are left open, it could mean the end of humanity. We've got to get them shut again. At midnight on Monday, we go into All Saint's Day. The night of the dead begins. If the portals of hell aren't shut before, no dead body will ever rest in peace. The dead will rise up all over the world and take over the Earth! You must get to Dunwich, Mr. Bell. You must reclose those gates!
(from City of the Living Dead)

Opening Statement

Anchor Bay can't stop shipping out their Fright Packs -- cool packages with six horror movies. Everybody wins with these sets. Anchor Bay gets to clean out some warehouse space, and collectors get six horror movies for the price of one. The latest one I got a chance to take a long look at is Fright Pack: Walking Dead. The set gathers together diverse worldwide talent, such as horror directors Leo Fulci, Bruno Mattei, Umberto Lenzi, and Jorge Grau. If the title doesn't give it away, I will: all the movies are about zombies. The walking dead are hot right now, after the boffo box office of 28 Days and that Dawn of the Dead "reimagining," so why not? Fright Pack: Walking Dead is an international conference on the "life challenged," with a strange focus on European shock directors and a guest appearance by Joe Piscopo (Saturday Night Live). Yes, that's right -- Joe "freaked out on 'roids" Piscopo takes on zombies. You couldn't ask for more. So put on your helmets to protect your brains, and get ready for a festival of corpses that just won't stay put. It's a dead man's party, and you're invited.

Facts of the Case

* City of the Living Dead (1980)
Leo Fulci directs one of his stronger visions, which is known also as The Gates of Hell. A priest hangs himself in a graveyard, and suddenly the "gates of hell" open up. The dead return to haunt the living, and cause major problems in a little town called Dunwich. This strange little hamlet is the place where the "original" Salem witch trials took place (no fair thinking it was actually Salem). A psychic and a reporter team up to see if they can stop the mayhem before all is lost, because someone has to shut the gates before Hell on Earth comes to pass.

* Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974)
Among all the rip-offs of Night of the Living Dead this "little zombie movie that could" is one of the undisputed classics of the genre. A girl heading to Manchester to help institutionalize her junkie sister meets up by accident with an art dealer headed in the same direction. The unwitting pair end up in the middle of a living dead outbreak caused by a new pest control device. Not only are they constantly attacked by zombies, but the local police aren't buying their story of murderous, hungry corpses, and think our heroes are Satan worshippers burning dead bodies for a Black Mass. Can they survive long enough to convince the authorities that the dead walk among us?

* Dead Heat (1987)
In the time-honored tradition of "odd couple buddy cop comedies" comes Dead Heat. It's pretty much the familiar trappings with one twist -- one of the cops is dead, yet he's still on the job. Treat Williams teams up with Joe Piscopo to figure out why LA criminals are now impervious to gunfire. They stumble across a consumer goods company that has moved from beauty cream to resurrection. Williams dies while investigating, but Piscopo and his girlfriend bring him "back to life" by using the company's reanimation machine. Now the pair have twenty-four hours to find out what's happening before Williams has to rest in peace.

* House by the Cemetery (1981)
Another film from Lucio Fulci, House by the Cemetery features a family moving out of their crowded New York apartment into a house in the New England countryside. Unfortunately for them, the previous resident was a deranged doctor whose experiments have left a legacy of blood and mayhem. Something's in the basement, and no fair guessing it isn't your usual pest problem.

* Hell of the Living Dead (1983)
A chemical plant accident unleashes a deadly virus on an island in New Guinea. An elite SWAT team is dispatched to help clean up the mess, but they get more than they bargain for. Not only is the island suddenly full of flesh-eating zombies, but there is also a beautiful female reporter who has decided to practice some nearly nude anthropology experiments. Spanish horror director Bruno Mattei even throws in some cross-dressing before the commandos set out to save the world from zombies. If Ed Wood had made an undead opus, it would probably resemble this one.

* Nightmare City (1980)
Umberto Lenzi Cannibal Ferox) shows up to direct the harrowing tale of a radioactive spill from a cargo plane that transforms thousands of city dwellers into flesh craving maniacs. Tired of slow moving zombies? This merry band can move like Carl Lewis going for the gold at the Olympics. It's campy fun with some spry urban living dead.

The Evidence

You've got to be a real glutton for gore to sit through six movies that feature the dead feasting on the living's supple flesh. You've also got to be slightly insane, partly masochistic, and one dark twisted "mofo." Thankfully, I am all of the above. Fright Pack: Walking Dead is one of Anchor Bay's strongest packages in this series. Part of that is because zombie movies are easy to pin down, and they follow certain subgenre rules about what's going to happen. Characters will fight their way through endless streams of rotting corpses after their flesh, only to end up cornered for one final standoff. And then they probably won't live, and the last shot will be our hero lurching towards the camera with some entrails hanging from their lips. No matter, because fans pretty much root for the zombies to win in every scenario. Things just get more lively when somebody dies.

City of the Living Dead

This one seems more like a ghost story where the ghosts just happen to be "zombie"-fied. Kinda like The Fog, only a hell of a lot more gory, and it makes even less sense. Despite a messy narrative and a "go nowhere" ending, the style and atmosphere make up for any shortcomings. This is a movie that knows how to evoke a malicious mood and paint some disturbing scenes. Fulci delivers a woman who literally pukes her guts out, and gives us a Fulci trademark shot where someone's head ends up on the wrong end of a drill bit. There's a nice sequence of a woman buried alive that makes a similar sequence in Kill Bill Volume 2 look anemic. I can't tell you exactly why, but this one works. It's a good reason to get the set.

Let Sleeping Corpses Lie

Director Jorge Grau was told by his production company to "go out and remake Night of the Living Dead in color." Thankfully he did more than that. Let Sleeping Corpses Lie is a murder mystery that turns into a very nice zombie flick in the last half. It has fleshed-out characters, a coherent plot, and an ending that makes sense. It's the best made film out of this whole bunch. But don't think Grau skimps on the gore just because he cranked out a coherent story. He delivers many memorable scenes, including an infamous one where a hospital receptionist loses an entire breast to a gang of the hungry undead. The stand-alone version of the disc is out of print, so here's your best reason to pick up Fright Pack: Walking Dead.

Dead Heat

It's the "odd man out" of the collection, being an '80s buddy cop comedy, but it has some cool moments. We get great horror icon supporting actors like Darren McGavin (Kolchak: The Night Stalker) and Vincent Price (House on Haunted Hill), and a chance to see Joe Piscopo and Treat Williams take on zombies. The comedy aspect is a little lame, with too many one-liners, and the movie is hopelessly trapped in the '80s in almost every way. It's worth a look for the scene where an entire Chinatown meat shop comes back to life. Zombie ducks and a carved-up side of beef attack -- it's one of the most unusual sequences you're likely to ever see in a zombie movie. It's also the best-loaded disc in the set, with the full Divimax treatment, including commentary, deleted scenes, promos, and a DVD-ROM screenplay.

Nightmare City

Umberto Lenzi doesn't innovate much, but this film has a campy appeal that makes it at least fun to sit through. Don't look for logic, or anything more coherent than mass pandemonium. In this one another boob gets cut off, which seems to make that the official theme of this set. Why are zombies so fascinated with female mammary glands? Guess even after death men are pigs. It also has a somewhat nifty climax in an amusement park, and a really surreal journey into a television station that is scarier than any zombie antics on any movie in the set.

The House by the Cemetery

This is one Fulci film that will test even his most hardened fans' patience, because of its lapses in logic and its plodding pace. There's only one zombie in this film, and the story is not action-packed. Whenever we deal with "the cellar dweller zombie" things go nicely, and the movie has some tension and verve. But everything else in the flick moves at an agonizingly glacial pace, with characters who seem not to care that they are in some kind of mortal danger. A girl does lose her head, and someone else gets their throat ripped out. All in all, not one of Fulci's best, but not his worst. It was okay.

Hell of the Living Dead

In every box set there has to be a stinker, and I think I found it. Even with a charming scene where a girl gets her tongue ripped out and her eyes pushed out, it's just not that good. It's a remake of Dawn of the Dead mixed with Day of the Dead, without any of Romero's style or wit. Even the fact the female lead ends up in a loincloth can't save it. It's hell for anyone who watches it. It did what any truly bad movie does -- bore me into wanting to do housework instead of watching. Oh well.

All of these films are presented as well as they can be, given their age and budgets. Anchor Bay presents each one in anamorphic widescreen, and the most major flaw present in all of them is a wash of grain. Ironically, flesh tones are well represented, and black levels seem to be handled well across the board. Sound treatment is more of mixed bag, but they are all passable. City of the Living Dead and Let Sleeping Corpses Lie get full surround treatments which do nice things when the zombies ambush somebody. The House by the Cemetery and Dead Heat get two-channel stereo mixes that are fine. And the two lesser films -- Hell of the Living Dead and Nightmare City -- get the two-speaker mono booby prize. The House by the Cemetery and City of the Living Dead come with just trailers. Hell of the Living Dead, Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, and Nightmare City have director interviews. Dead Heat has real meaty extras that run the entire gamut.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Well, none of these films are true classics of the genre (although I nominate Let Sleeping Corpses Lie as a strong contender). You get six movies that range from awful to decent, and a pair that rank as solid. They are what you would expect -- zombies chasing after people. After this dirty half dozen you may decide enough is enough, and perhaps you will be cured of your tragic obsession with slow moving cannibal corpses.

Okay, it didn't work for me either.

Closing Statement

Fright Pack: Walking Dead is an uneven collection, but it sure is a hell of a lot of undead fun. It's full of crunchy goodness! Gore hounds and horror enthusiasts will appreciate these uncut versions of the films, which means you get every intestine-sucking second up there on screen. I'm telling you -- if you appreciate European horror or zombie movies in general, this one's (pardon the irony) a "no-brainer."

The Verdict

Guilty of resurrecting six films about the living dead, Fright Pack: Walking Dead is still free to go, because I don't how to sentence corpses to a life term. Anchor Bay is guilty of making my collection of horror titles include obscure finds like these, and swelling my genre library with all these Fright Packs. I wish I could eat the brains of whomever thought this whole thing up, because I love the way their twisted mind works.

Review content copyright © 2005 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice, Let Sleeping Corpses Lie
Video: 90
Audio: 90
Extras: 75
Acting: 88
Story: 94
Judgment: 91

Perp Profile, Let Sleeping Corpses Lie
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)

Subtitles:
* None

Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 1974
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Let Sleeping Corpses Lie
* Interview with Director
* TV Spot
* Radio Spots
* Still and Poster Gallery

Scales of Justice, City Of The Dead
Video: 80
Audio: 85
Extras: 75
Acting: 80
Story: 84
Judgment: 82

Perp Profile, City Of The Dead
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)

Subtitles:
* None

Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 1980
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, City Of The Dead
* Trailer
* Radio Spots
* Talent Bios

Scales of Justice, Nightmare City
Video: 80
Audio: 70
Extras: 75
Acting: 70
Story: 70
Judgment: 75

Perp Profile, Nightmare City
Video Formats:
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)

Subtitles:
* None

Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 1980
MPAA Rating: Unrated

Distinguishing Marks, Nightmare City
* Interview with Director

Scales of Justice, House By The Cemetery
Video: 80
Audio: 80
Extras: 70
Acting: 70
Story: 70
Judgment: 74

Perp Profile, House By The Cemetery
Video Formats:
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

Subtitles:
* None

Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 1981
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, House By The Cemetery
* Trailers
* Still Gallery
* Biographies

Scales of Justice, Hell Of The Living Dead
Video: 75
Audio: 75
Extras: 75
Acting: 60
Story: 40
Judgment: 65

Perp Profile, Hell Of The Living Dead
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)

Subtitles:
* None

Running Time: 103 Minutes
Release Year: 1983
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks, Hell Of The Living Dead
* Interview with Director
* Trailer
* Still Gallery
* Director Bio

Scales of Justice, Dead Heat
Video: 88
Audio: 82
Extras: 92
Acting: 75
Story: 80
Judgment: 89

Perp Profile, Dead Heat
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

Subtitles:
* None

Running Time: 84 Minutes
Release Year: 1987
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks, Dead Heat
* Audio Commentary with Director Mark Goldblatt, Producers David Helpern and Michael Metzer, and Writer Terry Black
* Deleted Scenes
* MIFED Promo
* Electronic Press Kit
* Trailer
* Still Gallery
* Storyboard Art
* DVD-ROM Screenplay

Accomplices
* IMDb: City of the Living Dead
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0081318/combined

* IMDb: Let Sleeping Corpses Lie
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0071431/combined

* IMBD: Nightmare City
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0080931/combined

* IMDb: Hell of the Living Dead
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0082559/combined

* IMDb: House by the Cemetery
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0082966/combined

* IMDb: Dead Heat
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0094961/combined