It’s another round of cleaning horror house, looking at five zombie films from my movie collection that span the decade from 1980 – 1989.
ALIEN DEAD (1980)
This is one of the first ever movies by crap horror king Fred Olen Ray, so it’s even crappier than usual! Although the plot has locals around a swamp concerned about alligators and a houseboat that sank after being hit by a meteor, we don’t see any of that. We just watch a bunch of people bantering back and forth with bad hick accents until they are attacked by zombies.
Alien Dead has that classic low budget look in which most of the film takes place in “dark daylight,” which always adds some good atmosphere, as does an effective horror soundtrack. Unfortunately, there is also oddly out of place music used during some zombie attacks, including a bad country song!
The zombies range from bad makeup to awesome makeup, and even some faces that look like masks. There are no graphic scenes in which we see zombies actually biting into victims (just mimicking the act of eating them), but there are some “gore” moments of zombies basically playing with guts for the camera. Also, these zombies pop out of the water now and then and even swim underwater.
Only nostalgia for bad low budget zombies films of the late 1970s and early 1980s would give anyone a reason to watch this. Oh, that and the fact that veteran pretty boy actor Buster Crabbe had the misfortune of making this one of his last film appearances.
BURIAL GROUND (1981)
One of the most infamous Euro-sleaze zombie flicks of the late 70s/early 80s, Burial Ground is also one of my favorites, from the bad English dubbing to the decrepit zombies that are freaky as hell even in broad daylight.
Guests arrive at a mansion, and none of them hesitates in having sex, providing us with immediate nudity. Minutes later, rotting zombies with faces covered in maggots begin crawling out from the ground and chasing everyone through the gardens of the estate.
These creepy gut-munchers look like a cult because they’re all wearing the same drab garments. They also don’t mess around—these fuckers use sharp tools and even machines to turn victims into chopped meat. The blood is glorious bright red, the old mansion setting is eerie, and the hypnotic horror soundtrack sets the perfect atmosphere. Plus, having a bunch of people stuck in a house surrounded by zombies is forever the most effective setup for the genre.
Too bad the dumb broads in this flick can’t seem to get it through their heads that you should stay away from windows when there are zombies right outside (although, their stupidity results in some great gore). The women in Burial Ground also provide a clear example of how far female portrayals have come in horror, because these are old-fashioned damsels in distress—backing themselves into corners and screaming helplessly as zombies approach. It’s embarrassing to watch.
The only female character you think is going to come out strong is one who beats the fuck out of a zombie she finds eating her son. Problem is, this woman is motivated to do so because of her freakishly incestuous relationship with the kid. This dynamic makes for the most unforgettable aspect of the film. The “boy” is actually played by an adult dwarf, which makes things real icky, because he looks like an adult. And then, when he comes back from the dead, mom’s sick love for him is so strong that she finally gives him what he wants in the infamous scene we still talk about today – she lets him breastfeed….
The novelty of this zombie flick is that the main zombie is played by Bill Hinzman…the ORIGINAL zombie from the ORIGINAL Night of the Living Dead. 20 years later, he looks exactly the same: not a day over dead.
It also so happens that Bill wrote and directed FleshEater. He impressively nails how bad 1980s direct-to-video movies are supposed to be. Watching this will totally take you back to the era.
A bunch of kids goes on a hayride on Halloween to party in the woods. Some redneck discovers a weird grave on his land, so he digs it up. Out pops…Zombie Bill! Zombie Bill doesn’t hesitate in attacking any living person he can get his teeth on, and pretty soon, the undead are roaming the woods and our cast is boarded up in a house.
FleshEater has a good old-fashioned 80s horror soundtrack and some great bright red gore, sex scenes, boobs and bush, cheesy 80s kids, and a Halloween party in a barn. Plus, the leading man has a beefy butt of death that looks fantastic in tight 80s jeans.
The zombies may not look much better than the blue faces from Dawn Of The Dead, but the real star is Zombie Bill, and he looks awesomely undead as always. He gets the majority of gut-munching screen time, is hardcore and strong, uses numerous weapons to mutilate victims, and even makes a meal out of a little girl trick or treater. Delicious.
In the final act, there is an unnecessarily long segment of all the locals blowing away the heads of zombies roaming through fields…right before Bill blatantly rips off the Night Of The Living Dead. Even so, it’s just another thing that makes this one 80s trashtastic.
THE DEAD NEXT DOOR (1989)
There’s a very good chance that when you watch the opening scene of this film – a man and his daughter locking themselves in a basement as a big zombie attacks – you’ll think that it has a total Evil Dead vibe. There’s a good reason for that. The Dead Next Door is produced by Sam Raimi.
As 80s b-movie as you could want, the film then cuts to a video store, where a guy renting a horror classic is attacked by zombies. Everything about this film is totally 80s horror camp, from the intentional over-the-top acting to the over-the-top zombies.
It follows an often comic team of government zombie killers – all named after our favorite horror directors and writers – as they go from one infested location to another in their search for a cure to stop the outbreak. As super fun gore and humor follows, the zombie killing team eventually discovers there’s a bigger enemy…a bunch of religious freaks intentionally keeping zombies alive.
Actually, the introduction of the crazy cult is my least favorite part of the film, which is otherwise a series of cheesy good 80s zombie fun. The cast is awesome, there is a kick ass tearing apart of a guy at the end, and a perfectly 80s new wave track plays during the closing credits.
THE DEAD PIT (1989)
The Dead Pit is a trippy late 80s mess—and it does it so well. If Re-Animator and Hellraiser joined forces to deliver a zombie horde climax, The Dead Pit is what you’d get.
In the opening scene, we learn of a crazy doctor that experiments on patients in a mental institution, then dumps their bodies in a pit in the basement.
20 years later, a young woman is admitted to the same hospital for lost memory issues. She has weird premonitions about people in the basement, keeps seeing undead visions of the crazy doctor, has nightmares about being tortured – and stripped – by an evil nurse, and runs around in her underwear a lot…without anyone in the hospital ever telling her she should put on some clothes so she won’t tempt the other crazies.
This movie is such a great 80s disaster, and adding to the fun is a lot of thunder and lightning, dark, creepy halls, neon blue lighting, and fog machines. Plus, there’s a really sexy male patient who befriends the main girl and becomes one of the heroes when the zombies finally come crawling out of the pit.
The main girl spends over an hour being terrorized by the crazy doctor (who now has glowing red eyes) before The Dead Pit at last becomes a classic zombie film, with plenty of gore and a typical convoluted late 80s plot twist concerning the main girl’s purpose.
The only thing that ruined the ending of this one for me a little is the sudden decision that they need a nun to bless a water tower so they can drown the zombies in holy water soup. Seriously, you’re going to bring religion into a zombie film? Ugh. Although, I must say, that holy water sure delivers some good face dissolving action.