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I Was a Teenage Zombie (1987)

20 October 2005 by Gnoll One Comment

I WAS A TEENAGE ZOMBIE


1987, dir. John Elias Michalakis

90 min, Rated R.
Starring: Michael Rubin, Ignacio F. Iquino, George Seminara, A killer soundtrack.

Review by Gnoll

I don’t claim to be the world’s most respected authority on what constitutes a Zombie, but I think I’m pretty good at knowing when I see one. I will say that if the only thing that seperates a Zombie from its living counterpart is the color of its skin, then I would hesitate to call that thing a Zombie. Unfortunately, the two only alleged Zombies in the film entitled I Was a Teenage Zombie seem to fit that one criteria.

A low-budget little horror-comedy from the 1980’s, I Was a Teenage Zombie is one of those movies that can’t decide if it’s trying to parody a genre or just suck at being part of it. It sometimes feels like it’s something John Waters would do if you castrated him, and other times feels like there’s some guy behind the camera that’s dead fucking serious about this thing.

This is the story of a group of high school boys who decide they want to score a little of the Cannabis Sativa for their school prom. Of course, they refer to it as “Mari-ja-hoobie” or some other preposterous slang term. Apparently, they’re looking to buy a quarter bag for 30 bucks. That wouldn’t seem out of the ordinary in 1987 prices, except that they want to buy a quarter pound for that price. The town appears to be dry, so they wind up desperate to get their hands on some of the wacky weed. They eventually hook up with a sleazy drug dealer named Mussolini (no, really) who sells them some craptacular pot. Well, really, what were they expecting at that price? They decide to extract revenge on the dude, and wind up inadvertently causing his death. Well, a banana peel appears to do him in at first, but they eventually have to finish the job with a baseball bat and toss him into the river, which just happens to be polluted with radioactive waste.

As you can probably expect, Mussolini comes back as a “zombie” and extracts some revenge on his foes. However, he’s still the same old wise-cracking baddie that he was when he was alive, just a little greener. This is precisely why I question the use of the term “zombie” here at all. Of course, our heroes know that the baddie has become a zombie because the local police detected radioactivity coming from the wound of one of his victims. Yeah, because most city police departments use Geiger Counters when they perform a routine autopsy.

Anyway, long story short, Mussolini winds up killing a couple of the teens, including Dan, the movie’s star, and his buddies promptly toss him in to the nuclear river so that the battle of alleged zombies can play out. This is after he rips the tongue out of the motorcycle-riding greaser kid and then rips a girl’s legs off while raping her. Oh, he also pulls the one fat teenager’s face clear off, in what is easily the best visual in the movie.

But when Dan comes back, he doesn’t even realize he’s dead. He talks and cracks jokes with his buddies and still pines for the generic blonde-haired girl who he carries a torch for (and who he apparently did naughty things with at the lake when the cameras went away, as we learn from a goofy flashback sequence.) He’s just a nice shade of green this time around. So, while he may be the one referred to as a “teenage zombie” in the film’s title, he hardly shares any quality with the classical Zombie archetype outside of the whole being dead thing.

And that whole love story thing takes way too long to flesh out after Dan becomes a zombie, and there’s like 30 minutes to kill before he finally clashes with Mussolini. Enough romance, let’s see some killin’!

As a side note, I think it’s amazing how gleaming and white one’s teeth look when put up against a green skin tone. I think more people might do well to use the Incredible Hulk dental plan.

Of course, the movie is plagued with its own identity issues throughout. Not only does it have trouble deciding if it’s a parody or a serious horror flick, it also can’t decide what it’s setting is. The kids all act like they’re right out of a 1950’s horror movie, hanging out at a malt shop and everything. I’m guessing this is part of the whole schtick they’re going for with the title, an obvious homage to dozens of 1950’s “I was a Teenage…” films. But the film clearly takes place in the 1980’s, and although it was apparently released in 1987, it looks like it was filmed several years before then.

The one real treat here is the soundtrack. Of course, as an aficionado of 1980’s new wave music, I’m a bit biased, but it was pretty cool to hear stuff by Los Lobos, The Fleshtones, The Violent Femmes, The Smithereens, Marshall Crenshaw, and others on the soundtrack. I’d actually buy the CD if it were available.

Oh, and I was excited for about 2.3 seconds when I read the opening credits and saw the name “Allen Rickman”, but then quickly realized that the spelling was wrong and that Hans Gruber wasn’t actually in this movie. Drat.

The ultimate result is a messy little movie that only vaguely resembles a zombie movie in the slightest. It might fall under the “so bad it’s good” mantle if you’re in the right mood or have consumed the proper amount of illicit substances, but other than that I’d suggest avoiding it.


Rating: One out of five Brains.

One Comment »

  • home staging businesses in San Diego said:

    I love Zombie films but I never got to see this one. Maybe I’ll just look for it right here on the Internet. Movies like these are hard to find these days on DVD store shelves…thanks for the info, anyway.

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