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The Protagonist of "The Video Dead" Is a (Literal) Fool for Love

India has been an avid fan of all things spooky and scary ever since she can remember.

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“Well, my parents won’t be out of town forever. Why don’t you come over to my place?”

— “The Video Dead," 1987

After discovering a mysterious television set in their attic, siblings Jeff (Rocky Duvall) and Zoe (Roxanna Augesen) are horrified to witness a group of ravenous (and surprisingly well dressed) zombies emerge from their new possession. When my dad saw me watching this movie, he mentioned he’d seen it in theaters while in Boston. According to him, “we knew it was bad, even back then.” (I wouldn’t be surprised if this were the case, but then again, my father doesn’t have the best taste in cinema. Sorry, Dad.)

No Brains Were Used (or Consumed) in the Making of This Movie

“The Video Dead” may be a comedy, but it's difficult to believe that the ridiculous dialogue and impractical scenarios are all deliberately contrived. I mean, there are bad horror movies and then there are BAD horror movies. Guess which category “The Video Dead” falls—or shambles—into? Anyway, regardless of the brains (or lack thereof) behind the film, it’s mindless, nostalgic fun. Just don’t think too hard while watching or you’ll get a headache!

Despite their status as members of the walking dead, Jeff's fiendish foes never eat any brains—and it’s easy to see why. After all, if the zombies were on the hunt for gray matter, they’d be hard pressed to find any in this neighborhood! Still, although none of the characters are very bright, one stands out—not an easy feat in a movie where someone proclaims “They call me the Garbage Man” with a straight face.

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They Say Love Makes Fools of Us All, But . . .

The winner of this dubious honor is Jeff, one of our not-so-heroic protagonists. Although teenage boys are often horny and willing to do dumb things to impress girls, Jeff’s amorous antics take the proverbial cake. It’s almost as though the writer forgot—or perhaps repressed—his own adolescence and as a result, chose a perpetual hard on as Jeff’s defining characteristic.

For example, our horny hero discovers the cursed television when he hears a woman begging him through the screen to make love to her (because he’s such a stud). Still, rather than wondering why the TV is propositioning him Jeff shrugs off the incident. He is similarly unbothered when the seductive stranger appears in his room to continue where she left off, apparently so confident in his sex appeal that he sees nothing suspicious about a woman he’s never met wanting to sleep with him. (To be fair, Jeff does ask how she got into his room, but as soon as the woman removes her nightgown, he’s no longer concerned about minor issues such as breaking and entering.) Of course, like all good things the situation comes to an end when Jeff discovers that his mysterious visitor is a zombie in disguise.

Still, while his liaison with the dead woman was doomed from the start Jeff’s track record with live girls isn't much better. Ever the opportunist, after his encounter with the on-screen hottie Jeff tries to get closer to his neighbor, April (Vickie Bastel). Things are going well until Chocolate—the dog she's caring for—escapes, with April informing Jeff that they need to locate the rogue canine quickly, before he tries to mate with a nearby skunk: “Only skunks don't like to mate with poodles, and then they spray him, and he really gets turned on.” (Thanks for the mental image.)

Of course, poor Chocolate has suffered a worse (though less smelly) fate, as the teenagers soon discover. Finding the animal dead in a clearing, Jeff asserts—with absolutely no evidence—that the poodle has died of a heart attack. When April frets over how Chocolate’s owners will react to his demise, the ever-gallant Jeff proposes a solution: “You were walking the dog . . . and some total jerk threw the ball to the dog, and he accidentally swallowed it. All we have to do is push the ball down the dog's throat. They'll never know the difference.” I mean, come on. Anyone who believes such a blatant lie is—never mind, they fell for it, even though such a scenario is almost as implausible as the idea of Jeff getting lucky. Alas, our young Casanova is destined to die a virgin; he perishes rather ignobly at the hands of a chainsaw-wielding zombie (that's a whole 'nother story).

© 2022 India LaPalme

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