Despite our fun at Todd Sheets’ expense here at No-Budget Nightmares – GET WELL SOON, TODD! – we’ve been careful to maintain that his influence on low-budget horror film-making has been almost entirely positive. While his early films are rough, they represent an attitude and a confidence that influenced a whole generation of young, no-budget directors working with limited resources. One of these DISCIPLES OF TODD was Todd Jason Cook, who began making shot-on-video horror films in 1992 with EVIL NIGHT, and continued to make movies throughout the 90s – despite a successful pro skateboarding career under the name Todd Falcon. Yes, really.
Well, with Todd making a triumphant return to directing with his upcoming film ZOMBIFIED, it’s time to look back upon his greatest triumph – and the film that ZOMBIFIED appears to be a direct sequel to – 1995’s DEATH METAL ZOMBIES.
Metal-head Brad (Bill DeWild) is a huge fan of the band LIVING CORPSE, and spends his days headbanging with his best friend Tony (Todd Jason Cook) and his girlfriend Angel (Lisa Cook). Brad’s METAL dreams comes true when he wins an exclusive TAPE (yes, a tape) of Living Corpse’s new album, with an exclusive song called “Zombified” that only he’ll be able to hear! Unfortunately, the song in question turns Brad and Tony (along with their friend Kathy) into zombies, controlled by Living Corpse’s lead singer Shengar. He commands them to kill, with Angel having to turn to the bespectacled Tommy (Mike Gebbie) to play the tape backwards and release her friends – and an increasing number of townspeople – from the curse.
Oh, and there’s also a guy going around in a Richard Nixon mask and murdering people for some reason.
Now, DEATH METAL ZOMBIES is a silly film. I mean, with a title like that, you sort of expect it, but what I didn’t expect was how self-aware and playful the film was with the often self-serious DEATH METAL genre. Fueled by a packed soundtrack featuring such metal luminaries as Pungent Stench, Exit 13, Dead World, Brutality, and Dismember, the film could easily have murky and unpleasant, but instead Cook embraces aesthetic of the 80s films of Jon Mikl Thor (ROCK ‘N’ ROLL NIGHTMARE, ZOMBIE NIGHTMARE) and cobbles together a violent, goofy thrill-ride which delivers enough requisite nudity and gore to leave discriminating genre fans smiling. And unlike the Todd Sheets films which came before, the production values are high enough to not scare off those looking for low-budget horror fun.
Of course, it’s hardly perfect. The plot is straight-forward, but the serial killer element doesn’t ever come together, despite a recently filmed coda which shows the Richard Nixon-masked assailant creating an .mp3 from the original “Zombified” tape. Perhaps more confusingly, a number of characters are introduced, only to either be forgotten or randomly killed off. The IMDB trivia suggests that this might be the result of a lengthy production time and some difficulties with cast availability, but the idea to focus on the character of Brad – with his dreams about metal concerts and his love of headbanging – works beautifully in the final product. Lisa Cook as Angel may not have much charisma, but she deserves plenty of credit for delivering lines like, “Then we have time.. And zombies to KILL!” with a straight face.
But Cook makes great use of the resources he has available to him – and even manages to include some effective, gut-munching gore without wallowing in it unpleasantly. The closing credits suggest the influence of Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento, and while there’s little here to suggest their influence, there’s a few attempts to spruce up the visuals with color filters and Cook does some adventurous cross-cutting – particularly in the post-opening credits sequence which introduces the main characters. Perhaps most importantly, he makes great use of music; which is wall-to-wall, but never overwhelms the dialogue or the visuals.
Now this is more like it. Full of invention, and with a fun, intentionally silly plot, DEATH METAL ZOMBIES delivers humor, zombies – and METAL – by the bucket-load. Todd Jason Cook shows off his chops, and creates both an amusing tribute to a much-maligned music genre, as well as a fun horror/comedy that is full of surprises. Plot inconsistencies and sometimes bizarre dialogue just add to the manic fun, and if Cook can re-capture some of this energy in ZOMBIFIED; I think we’re all in for a good time.
Two Nightmares out of Five – SHOCKING SUCCESS
One Nightmare – No-Budget Perfection, Two Nightmares – Shocking Success, Three Nightmares – Shows Potential, Four Nightmares – Not Much Fun, Five Nightmares – Please Kill Me
Join us this week for the latest NO-BUDGET NIGHTMARES Podcast where Daily Grindhouse contributor Moe Porne and I will discuss DEATH METAL ZOMBIES
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