Scorpion Releasing // 1986 // 89 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // December 3rd, 2010
Cheap zombie for sale!
Zombie Nightmare is not a good movie, not even slightly good when you get right down to it. It comes off as simply a charmingly cheap z-grade zombie thriller from the mid '80s that has the distinction of being the first role for Tia Carrere (Wayne's World). Oh wait! Adam West, TV's Batman, also shows up for a cameo role as a police chief. West didn't even learn his lines for the scene, and you can watch him read them right off the script that conveniently lays on the desk in front of him throughout his bit. Somehow both Tia and Adam receive top billing when they may actually be on the screen for a total of three minutes combined. Also baffling, for some reason this cheapie indie horror flick gets a tricked out DVD with tons of extras for its release. I guess zombies are hot, and that may save this little known feature that has a soundtrack from the metal gods known as Motorhead. Rock on zombie lovers, rock on.
The plot itself isn't too bad. A young man (Jon Mikl Thor, Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare) is mowed down by a carful of horny teens. His mom takes him not an emergency room but rather to a voodoo priestess who brings him back as an avenging zombie. The zombie creature takes out the teens (including Tia Carrere) one by one, and you'd think that would be it. But no, Zombie Nightmare has one more twist up its sleeve to make use of the Batman actor it paid so dearly for.
The DVD transfer looks great given that the film itself was made for a dollar and ninety-eight cents. Colors are spot on, and it's clear when it has the right footage to work with. Unfortunately some of the scenes are too dark, but that's part of the charm of guerilla indie film making. Night scenes especially have an all-too-grainy look that gives away the low budget origins in spades. There are some moments like the opening credits that look like VHS, but probably because they were originally done straight to video.
What is remarkable is that there are some beefy extras. First up is a "making-of" featurette which includes director John Fasano, actor Frank Dietz, and zombie acting star and bodybuilding legend Jon Mikl Thor all remembering what it was like to film in Canada on the quick shoot. All three also get together for a film commentary -- although, mysteriously, Thor has to be called in by phone to participate. Between these two supplements we learn all the colorful history about fights to get this one made, revisions to the script, and how the writer/director was cheated out of any credit for his creation thanks to Canadian film laws at the time. The story behind the scenes is far more entertaining than the feature itself, and so the DVD becomes more enjoyable once you get past the main event. There is also an audio only phone call discussion with producer Jack Bravman who received some unearned technical credit. All in all it's an outstanding package for a cheapie flick from the '80s.
This is a fun zombie movie that really isn't well remembered and for good reason. It was passionately made, but the indie process meant it was doomed to look cheap and unpolished. It's more a curiosity than anything else; a rock and roll nightmare made in Canada by an unlikely cast and crew. What does make the DVD worth checking out are all the extras and supplemental features that make this one a ton of fun for home viewing because we can appreciate the context of Zombie Nightmare. It would be great to pop in any time you have some frozen pizza, cheap beer, and three or four friends who like to poke fun at bad flicks.
Guilty of being earnest and cheap, Zombie Nightmare is pure z-grade cheese.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Scorpion Releasing
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 1986
MPAA Rating: Rated R