Monday, July 5, 2010

Christmas With the Cons

I'm back! Chicago? Conquered. Museums? Explored. Modern art? Mocked. Beer? Imbibed. Hot dogs? Killed. Deep dish pizza? Ruled inferior.

And with that out of the way, let's swing back into what you REALLY came here to learn:

There was a time in my youth where few radical filmic propositions seemed quite as logical as genetic experimentation on death row inmates. Save the lab mice and learn from a real specimen, that’s what made sense.
I also used to want a Yoda tattoo and to name my first child Mabel, so let’s just agree that there’s a whole lot in our pasts we’re not proud of.
John Saxon, however, should take full credit for Zombie Death House, an incredible slice of ‘80s exploitation cheese brimming with the pungent odor of ridiculousness.
Quick Plot:
Vietnam vet Derek Keillor takes a job as chauffeur to oily mob boss Vic Morrettti (Anthony Franciosa), celebrating his employer’s generosity by boinking the violent man’s girlfriend. Naturally, no Italian stallion appreciates being cuckolded so before you can say mozzarella, the loose blonde is drowned and our default protagonist framed.

The film skips ahead past Derek’s trial as he awaits the electric chair. Inconveniently enough, those final few months get spent in a high security prison where Vic’s belly-shirt sporting brother rules the roost with the assistance of a boy toy and crooked corrections staff. As if the end of days weren’t bad enough, Derek soon discovers the inmates are being subjected to mad scientist Colonel Burgess (the multitasking Saxon) who, in typical zombie fashion, is attempting to hone a superrace of genetically altered humans. 

It doesn’t take long for a few test cases to get rowdy, and, in turn, a gaggle of prisoners to get mildly riot-y. Despite the fact that it’s Christmas and the warden is in the house, family in tow, these hardened criminals see little need to actually do much harm. A few blatantly settle down with checkers and steals from the mess hall. Apparently, spending the holidays inside a corrections facility beats ham dinner at the in-laws any day!

To be clear about Zombie Death House, this is a terrible movie. A great terrible movie, but an awful one nonetheless. Zombie afficionados will be salivating for the actual undead action, which arrives around the 45 minute mark following cheap car chases and Oz-ish prison politics. When it hits, it never really...well, hits. There are some shamblers, a few talkers, super-strong ghouls that kill via pushing men’s heads through bars, several arm tears, and more bad dialogue than an after-school special. 

In other words, it’s kind of great.
High Points
Um. In a traditional sense? The very fact that this movie exists?

Low Points
Aside from the illogical zombie science, clumsy actions sequences, poor acting, and inconsistent tone? Um. I would have rather had the kids die.

Lessons Learned
Always stretch before escaping a zombie prison riot; you’ll never know when you’ll be called upon to do an impressive backflip when fleeing an explosion

All females in existence have oversized blond hair

Smart blond scientist females can only retain their brains when wearing lab coats; how else to explain why scientist-turned-reporter Tanya refuses to remove her dangly cover, even though the sleeves can be easily grabbed by reaching zombies
Don’t fuck with a zombie’s Twinkies

You might as well wait until after your night of passion to break of your affair
Though no wise film fan should invest more than ice cream money in Zombie Death House, this is an enjoyable enough time well worth a beer-soaked viewing. Is it classy? Hell no, it’s the kind of movie where characters refer to females as broads and even the smart scientist gets a fantasy boob shot. If you want inappropriate prison humor and the occasional arm ripoff, cue it up on Instant Watch, tear yourself some Polly-O String Cheese, and eat up.


  1. I almost bought this and passed a few months ago. STUPID! This looks great. I will find a copy quickly.


  2. On one hand, I'd say to avoid spending more than $5 on it, but if that's what it takes to hear the Tower Farm take, then I'll sponsor it!

  3. Wow, this was an awful movie, and yes, a great awful movie.
    In particular I liked the dream sequence, which seemed shoehorned into the movie purely as an excuse to get some slo-mo topless action on screen.
    It was like an terrible mob movie mixed with a terrible prison movie, but turned out to be more enjoyable than it really should be.

  4. The dream sequence was rather hilarious. It's almost like they finished the movie then realized they never found a place to show the smart girl's breasts, so they filmed it really quickly and stuck it in wherever they could. The results, of course, are fantastic.

    And yes, bad mob movie + bad prison movie is the same as how two negatives multiplied equals a positive. Good stuff!

  5. I watched about 20-25 mins of this one a few weeks back (It was certainly Saxon as director that drew me in), but it was really late, and I fell asleep before all the zombie action that doesn't happen, happens. I'll finish it up at some point I'm sure. Love me some Sax!

  6. The zombie action is uneven but eventual. Not a great film, but a total watch for CNAMB!

  7. I just picked up a copy of this and will be viewing it ASAP. I have a man crush on Saxon.

  8. How do you find all these movies I've never heard of? I mean, I GREW UP in the 80's...

  9. Yay PoT!

    Ah Kangas. It's a carefully mixed recipe of Netflix Instant Watch, podcast recommendations, video store scouring, general boredom, wizardry, and lots of sacrificed babies.