Movie Reviews

I Was A Teenage Zombie: 1980’s Zombie Knight in Shinning Armour

The zombie at the window talking to his friend.

This film is a mild parody film of all the horror movies starring “teenagers” from the 1950s but there is noticeable difference from one and another. For instance, it’s in full colour instead of black and white, “frank” discussions about interacting with a drug dealer for marijuana and eighties music. It also has all the things you would expect from a 1980s horror movie like violence and mayhem.

I originally found this movie on a movie channel late night show but this can be found on the Criterion Collection or just searching for it casually. It is a comedy, therefore, it is lighthearted in the story but it is gory. There’s a lot of bright red paint being splashed around. One of the most memorable aspects of this film is the great soundtrack from The Fleshtones, Los Lobos, The Waitresses and much more. The film is more than 30 years old but is a film that can only be made in the eighties in subject matter not so much on quality since most YouTube skits have a similar quality.

Screen shot of Mussolini

I was a teenage zombie is about a group of teenagers buying marijuana from a scrupulous drug dealer, Mussolini, (that sells them cheap, tainted and sprayed with chemicals. The drug dealer tries to hawk the drugs on unsuspecting high school students who play wise to his game and violent outburst. While defending his friends, one of the teenage boys (Dan) hits him in the head with a baseball bat then the kids threw him into the river. The river is somehow radioactive which turns him into a zombie. A blue (sometimes green) skin zombie that runs amok around town scaring and killing the townspeople. When Mussolini comes back from the dead he attacks some campers. Then Dan ends up dying by the hands of the zombie. With an unhinged drug dealer on the loose Dan’s friends decide to throw there recently deceased friend in the river in hopes that the same effect would happen to Brian. It does and Brian is now a zombie a blue sometimes green with signs of decay zombie. With Dan has their now warrior champion he now has to go against Mussolini.

It’s not the strangest movie out there which is unfortunate but it is one of the cheapest movies I have ever seen. A lot of what makes the film feel very underground is film production quality. It’s also what gives it’s charm.

The characters of the film are the only hint of fifties parody in the film. Not the music the characters’ motivations and how they somewhat dressed the teenagers. No one wears a beanie. The nerd friend was played perfectly by Craig Sabin and his nerve friend who got them all in the mess that they are in by interacting with the drug dealer in the first place. They pretty much have the best quips in the whole entire film.

Screen shot of Dan after becoming a zombie

Dan is mostly a very typical teenager that was a little lively, friendly and social but after he changed into a zombie he’s more deadpan, lifeless and withdrawn. It’s pretty funny on how the personality of a zombie is dead and not walking around grunting and moaning for brains. It’s funny on how has a zombie he had some personality.

The movie was filmed in Brooklyn therefore the backdrop from 1980s suburban New York was a nice addition. Especially, the large brick high school location.

Screen shot of Dan with barely any makeup on

Like I said before the film production was on the cheap side. The makeup in the whole film was the most irritating. It’s blue like Mystique in one scene, it’s green like a pine tree in another scene, it’s like green varnish wash or patchy with a mixture of green and blue in most of the scenes. It’s weird that makeup is not consistent. It would have made the film better. But the special effects with the makeup is not the only problem. Or maybe it was done on purpose and it when over my head since it is a comedy. The gory scenes can look a little creepy because of how it was filmed. The props for the horror scenes are frightening because of how good it looks. They did a good job in that department. It’s when it obviously bad and noticeable are the times it’s really creepy.

The graphic design and font work looked like it was scratched on the screen even though there was no scratching of any kind throughout the whole film by the zombies. Also, it was colourful and fun. The names maybe hard to read for some.

Overall the film is campy. It is a comedy with horror. It was one of the first romantic horror comedies with zombies that is not only watchable years later but enjoyable. There is one scene that can’t be replicated today but is a part of the story.

 This film is 2 out of 5 stars. 
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