Zombie Nightmare (1987)

Since returning from hiatus, I’ve written about a Canadian movie and a movie from 1987.  This week, I cover a 1987 Canadian movie.  Huh…  Funny how things work out.

Zombie Nightmare is one of those flicks that marries heavy metal and horror.  I’ve touched upon this before with Black Roses – which also happens to be a Canadian horror movie.  However, this one has a few very distinct reasons for why I wanted this on the blog.

First, this is a Mystery Science Theater 3000 alum.  It’s a pretty solid episode as well.  Second, our star, Jon Mikl Thor, had this and another movie with “Nightmare” in the title from 1987 that just simply need to be here on B-Movie Enema.  Finally, it was one of the final six movies to be looped on Bizarre TV before the Roku channel’s original owner, Ronda Baffes, passed away.  Bizarre TV was such a huge part of how I was able to get this far with the blog, I feel like I owe it some continued love.

This is a pretty basic little 80 minute movie.  Some punk kids kill a dude at some point in the past.  That guy’s son grows up to be killed by some punk ass kids.  He’s then resurrected as a zombie, gets various hairstyles, and hunts down the ones who killed him.  There’s voodoo, Stephen King level psychopathic teens, Adam West, and a young, super hot Tia Carrere.  Zombie Nightmare!

Alright, the movie just starts up, so there’s no need for me to fluff this any further.  We are shown a voodoo lady doing some sort of ceremony to resurrect Tony (Thor).  Tony wakes up, screams, and then BAM! we go right into some “Ace of Spades” rocking out the credit sequence.

Now, our cold open would seem kind of confusing.  As this is starting the movie with a different take of the resurrection scene shown later in the movie.  So… Why we starting here?  Just to give us some zombie action out of the gate?  Tell me, filmmaker guys – Were you that concerned that your movie couldn’t keep the audience’s attention that you had to kick out the zombie jams right off the top?

Eh, that’s not the only thing that will confuse me in this movie.  Trust me.

So, we actually start by seeing little Tony with his mom watching his dad at baseball practice.  They seem like a pretty great family.  The kid keeps yelling how he’s making the best hits he’s ever seen and everything seems pretty swell.  Cut to a couple greaser kids who are also watching the baseball shenanigans.  The guys see a black girl and ask what she is doing in that part of town.  They follow her and ultimately begin accosting her.  When Tony’s dad steps in, they knife his ass and kill him.

Confusing point #2…  The punks are dressed like they are from the 1950s with smokes rolled up in their t-shirts, and their jeans rolled up.  I would even say that maybe it’s the early 60s.  That would maybe fit as well.

However, as Tony looks on while his dad bleeds out, it crossfades to the present and our big ol’ lunkhead of a lead looks on like a goofus while waiting to come to bat.

Okay, so this is grown up Tony.  After his game, we see him come home to his mom with exciting news that his team won the game.  Okay, so it’s seemingly 1987 now.  Here’s my confusion…  How old is Tony?  Maybe he’s, at best, 20 years older now.  That would mean he’s probably upper 20s still living at home.  That’s lame, but the greasers who tried to rape that black girl earlier looked like 50s dudes.  Like extras from Grease.  I mean, I guess that kinda fits, but Tony doesn’t seem like he should be in late 20s and still living at home.

Ah fuck it.

Jim might be a psycho, but damn that hair! Luxurious!

Tony’s ma tells him that he forgot the groceries which means he’s gotta leave again.  He takes a jacket and his baseball bat, because sure, and leaves again.  Cut to a swingin’ Canadian nightclub where we meet our main bad guys.  First, is the knife-flashing, mullet-wearin’ psycho Jim.  He’s the biggest problem in the whole movie.  He’s hotheaded and kind of a monster.  Fun fact, though, he’s played by Shawn Levy who directed the Night at the Museum films, was an Academy Award nominated producer of Arrival, and an executive producer of Stranger Things.  Good on him!

There’s also Bob (your typical jock like guy) and Amy (Carrere) and Peter (a weasely looking guy) and Susie (a super cute blonde).  They are at this nightclub and just having a good old time…  That is until they are kicked out for being underage.  They strike out into the night in Jim’s dad’s hot ride listening to some heavy metal tunes and swerving all over the place.

Before Jim’s drunken ass runs over Tony, our hero first stops a robbery at the grocery store by just beating the shit out of them.  I mean, you don’t get to use the name Thor in your stage name without being a fucking man about it, amirite?  So, our hero is bad ass and leaves the grocery store only to be run over by Jim and the gang.

Sigh…  That’s life, ain’t it?  You have a big “save the cat” moment and you immediately get run over by an asshole with a beautiful mane of hair.  Life sucks.

Anyway, after being killed by way of vehicular homicide, Tony’s body is brought back to his ma and she asks for someone to bring Molly Mekembe, the local voodoo priestess (???), to her for help.  That’s when we circle all the way back around to the cold open.  Molly was the girl who was nearly raped at the beginning of the movie.  So she’s kind of in debt to the Washington family after Tony’s dad paid with his life to protect her.  She says to Tony’s ma that she can’t bring him back to life as he was, but he can be an instrument of revenge.  Tony’s ma is pretty a-ok with that plan and is never heard from again in the movie.

No, seriously, his mom completely disappears from the movie at this point.  I  mean, you can almost say that Molly Mekembe is more of Tony’s mother in this than his own ma.

Ah fuck it.

Jeez, D.C., you chose well!

So the rest of the kids are kinda weirded out by the fact that they ran a mother fucker down in cold blood, but not Jim.  Jim is like cumming his jeans over how easy it was to kill a guy.  Um…  Guys?  Dontcha think that, I dunno, stick with me here, Jim is a bit of a problem?  Don’t you think it might be a good idea to not hang out with this crazy ass anymore?

Oh whatever… fuck it.

The next day at the local burger/ice cream shop, the five kids are still kinda dealing with killing a guy.  The two couples seem a little better about what they were a part of – especially since the death was not reported in the paper.  Jim, though?  He’s totally cool with it all.  In fact, he is still kinda hard and wants to hit on the super hot Maggie who works at the burger joint.  Maggie is played by Linda Singer.  In real life, Singer ended up graduating magna cum laude from Harvard and became a big time lawyer and the Attorney General for Washington-fucking-D.C. for a time!  Wowzers.

Seriously, what the fuck?  Was this movie like that thing people do when they “just needed the money”?  Did this lose her a couple votes because she was in this piece of shit?  Goddamn.  It would be less embarrassing for her if she was a fucking headlining stripper at some shithole club back then.

Alright, it’s about time to get to some fucking killings.  Peter and Susie go to the Rackets Four to play some indoor tennis, and then for Peter to try a little handball with Susie in the Jacuzzi.  I don’t know what that means.  But I do know Molly sends Zombie Tony after them.  And it’s about time for me to get to my last confusing point…

Jon Mikl Thor did not film all his scenes…?

No, really.  We’ll get to the picture evidence here in just a minute, but allow me to explain my conspiracy theory.  The zombie who shows up here doesn’t look anything like the Zombie Tony that came out of the coffin after Molly Mekembe resurrected him.  That freshly resurrected Zombie Tony did look like Tony when he was still alive.  Later yet, the zombie doesn’t look quite the same as before.  One could say that because this was a cheap D-movie, they didn’t have a great deal of continuity.  Eh, maybe.  You might even be able to say that the makeup didn’t quite work out.  Okay.  That can happen from time to time.  However, it looked pretty good when he first “woke up”.  The big telltale sign for me that Thor got, like, called back to Asgard to fight Loki once more after he, yet again, stole Odin’s throne through trickery, is that his hair doesn’t look right.

Again…  Here’s live Tony:

Freshly resurrected Zombie Tony (a little dark but I think you get the point):

First kill Zombie Tony:

Final kill Zombie Tony:

Rock ‘n Roll Nightmare Thor:

Yikes.

Okay, maybe… maybe… you can say that the makeup didn’t work and they went with something that was a bit more like a mask.  Therefore Thor’s hair had to be tucked in under it.  Maybe you can say that.  Perhaps… just perhaps… you can say the movie was trying for something smart by saying he was deteriorating after each kill (even Molly mentions that).  Later, Adam West says that the zombie loses its energy once it gets its revenge.  So maybe the movie was trying to be smart.  But c’mon…  This movie is dumb as shit so I doubt they were trying to be smart.  I will never believe that Jon Mikl Thor filmed all the zombie scenes.  There’s nothing anywhere (other than his sweat pants and hoodie) that indicates to me that these are the same actors from start to finish.

Alright, let’s get back on track here.

So Peter gets his neck broken by Zombie Tony while Susie gets her skull crushed by his bat.  Now, the police is involved.  Initially, Captain Churchman (Adam West) bakes up a story about a murder suicide.  A younger cop, Frank Sorrell, is a little more keen to actually solve the crime properly despite Churchman pushing him to drop it and move on.  But fuck all that noise because my favorite character of any movie ever shows up.  I think this clip from the MST3K episode will help me explain why.

I give to you the coroner from Zombie Nightmare:

Holy shit that voice is amazing.
Now, Susie and Jim are dead and that’s okay.  They weren’t that great of characters.  Jim is not so bothered by any of it and insists that their deaths have nothing to do with their killing of Tony.  But, if I may be so bold to criticize this 30+ year old movie, the movie makes a terrible mistake.  Jim is the obvious bad guy.  He’s a complete lunatic.  Instead of killing the Tia Carrere character and her boyfriend first, Zombie Tony goes after Jim and catches him trying to rape Maggie after she gets off from the ice cream shop.
Okay.  Good for Zombie Tony to kill Jim when he was trying to rape that girl, but that should have come later.  You could have done so much more with Jim to make that the end villain.  Okay, yeah, I guess there is another bad guy that has to be dealt with later, but fuck…  Bob and Amy are not great characters.  Sure, Amy is Tia Carrere, and the movie knew that she was a) hot as fuck and b) gonna be a star, but she doesn’t do much other than moan and groan of the situation Jim has put them in.
Whatever… fuck it.  Kill Jim just past the halfway point.
Jim’s death does bring about a revelation.  Jim’s dad was one of the guys who tried to rape Molly Mekembe.  Not only that, but his buddy is fucking Adam West!  So now the two timelines are starting to merge into one cohesive narrative.  Bob and Amy try to figure out a way to escape now that they feel pretty certain that Jim’s death signifies that Tony is exacting revenge.  Meanwhile, Churchman discovers that Molly Mekembe is involved with everything when Sorrell does his job and mentions her presence at the crime scenes.
Churchman calls Jim’s dad and they plan to go after Molly.  Zombie Tony tracks down Jim’s dad, and exacts a little revenge for Molly by killing him before chasing down Amy and Bob.  He catches them and kills them while Sorrell looks on.  He realizes that there’s something up with this monster guy and follows him to a cemetery where Churchman arrives with Molly.  Churchman kills her, and is about to kill Sorrell to cover everything up, but Tony’s dad comes out of his grave and pulls Churchman down to Hell (?) as the final act of revenge.
“Just hold tight, Tia, soon you’ll be in Wayne’s World and everything will be great!”

I know that I kinda sped through the last act and a half of the movie, but a lot of the movie moves somewhat slowly and is pretty damn simple in how it plays out.  I couldn’t go into a great deal of detail about it. I guess the only thing left to really talk about is the lovely, lovely Tia Carrere.  This was one of her very first movies.  She’s super super cute in this and is really kind of doing yeoman’s work here as the only one of the “bad” kids who has lasting concern over Tony’s death and seemingly cares about her friends dying – even if she just wants to run away instead of doing the right thing by going to the cops.

I guess in my final autopsy of this movie, it’s clear that this movie sucks shit straight for a turd fondue fountain.  I mean, no duh it sucks, but at least it’s a fun watch.  Yeah, Tony seemed like a good boy that had to basically become a Frankenstein monster type of shambling menace, and voodoo is always a welcome thing in a movie.  Tia Carrere is always great to see in anything as is Adam West.  It turns out that there are several people in this movie that went on to much bigger and better things and that’s fascinating.  It’s also kinda nice to watch a movie featured on MST3K without the edits or commentary.
Even Jon Mikl Thor has a presence (for what little of the movie I believe he was in).  I will be looking at Rock ‘n Roll Nightmare later and he has a much, much bigger role in that.  I guess this hit a critical moment in time in which hard rock/heavy metal would cross paths with lots of hair and horror movies.  It was like all those things were hated on by church organizations so let them all team up and be kindred spirits.  It seems like a match made in heaven, no, hell, but it becomes really really disposable really quickly in the movie.  Whereas Black Roses had lots of cool makeup and had a fun about it as the kids became possessed by demons, Zombie Nightmare zagged when it should have zigged and vice versa.
While I’m on this 80s rock and roll-influenced horror kick, let’s do it again next week.  I’ve been wanting to watch this movie I found on YouTube for a while now, and what better time than the present?  Come back in seven short days for 1980’s Terror on Tour!

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