Zombie Nightmare (1987)
Back of the box...
“Zombie Nightmare is violence and voodoo, terror and suspense, and a revenge that conquers death itself!
Tony Washington foils a robbery at a local grocery store only to be run over and killed by a group of savage suburban teens. But the horror has only begun, for in the darkest recesses of Tony’s backyard, a voodoo ceremony takes place which will unleash a superhuman avenger.
One by one, Tony’s ruthless killers are graphically and brutally murdered as Tony’s supernatural zombie takes its horrible head-count. The stage is set for a showdown between the baffled authorities and the zombie as the dead rise from the grave in a bone-chilling climax!
From beyond the grave comes the ultimate nightmare. . . Zombie Nightmare!”
Director: Jack Bravman
Starring: Adam West, Jon Mikl Thor, Tia Carrere
Watch the Trailer
With a fist-pumping heavy metal soundtrack and gore effects comparable to an elementary school haunted house, Zombie Nightmare is a Z-grade Canuxploitation horror film whose camp charm comes effortlessly...and unintentionally. Bringing together a few tried and true ingredients of the so-bad-it’s-good variety, including a director who used to make porn, a big name actor whose performance screams “I don’t wanna be here”, and a future starlet making her regrettable big screen debut, this undead bad dream is primed for a hilariously bad good time.
Having appeared on our radar during past excursions into the depths of YouTube’s forgotten film filled trenches, we’d always decided to pass on the Canadian revenge film because we couldn’t imagine those kind and forgiving folks doing the genre any justice. That’s a joke, we’re sure they can be very vindictive people. Really, we couldn’t imagine watching a movie from one of our favorite episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 without the Riffs. How could it compare, right? Well, the recent passing of the film’s top billed actor, Adam West, made us want to give it a chance.
Tony Washington watches as his dad is murdered while foiling two teenagers’ attempt to rape a Haitian girl. We then flash forward to find that little Tony Washington has grown up to be none other than bodybuilding beefcake and “Legendary Rock Warrior”, Jon Mikl Thor! Following in his father’s footsteps a little more than mom would have wanted, Tony foils a crime and is then killed by teenage delinquents. Mom is totally over it at this point! She calls up the Haitian girl from the beginning of the movie and, whadaya know, she’s grown up to be a voodoo priestess and can create zombies! Can’t all Haitians? The voodoo priestess brings Tony back and sets him loose to take revenge on the teens responsible for his death.
It’s a standard revenge story which, unfortunately for Zombie Nightmare, leaves it open to some pretty unsurmountable comparisons. As the musclebound monster lumbers after the gang of murderous teens who speed through the streets looking for a good time, we couldn’t help but think about The Toxic Avenger and wonder just how fast Bozo and Slug would beat the shit outta all these twerps. The teens are led by Jim, some Tears for Fears lookin’ kid who’s supposed to be tough, and while everyone else’s names are completely forgettable, one of them is played by Tia Carrere in her feature film debut—a mere five years before her role as bad-ass rocker chick, Cassandra, in Wayne’s World. As investigation into the dead nameless teens gets underway, we’re introduced to Frank, a detective struggling to make sense of the laughable murders. While the medical examiner tells Frank fantastical tales of a killer with superhuman strength, Captain Tom Churchman (Adam West) wants the case closed before the public and the press catch wind of what’s really happening. In an “I don’t give a shit” performance that could only be rivaled by later Cameron Mitchell films, West spends most of the movie seated and often appears to be reading his lines. The guy playing the medical examiner must have his fingers crossed for a Batman series revival because he seems to be delivering his lines as Humphrey Bogart playing the Penguin. Although much of the acting is bad, there are only a few moments where it reaches laugh-out-loud terrible. We assume the woman who played the voodoo priestess got confused and thought she was in an SNL skit and, if that were the case, she totally nailed it because we could hardly stop laughing every time she was on screen.
Another noteworthy element of the film is the soundtrack. Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades” kicks off the opening credits as a list of metal bands closely follows the cast. We’re not gonna pretend to be cool here, other than Motorhead, Girlschool, and Thor, we didn’t recognize a single band name. The music adds a layer of personality to the film that it really needed though and we’re actually a little bummed they didn’t take it further. Most of the teen gang just look like preps, couldn’t they have been 80’s metalheads? Think Heavy Metal Parking Lot with zombie mayhem!
As terrible as the movie is, we still had a great time watching Zombie Nightmare, even without Mike, Servo and Crow crackin’ wise. It was also really nice to see Adam West on screen. From growing up on Batman reruns, to enjoying his appearances on shows like The Simpsons and Batman: The Animated Series, to then having him reclaim a regular part in our lives through his recurring role as Mayor Adam West on Family Guy, he was a fixture of our television watching lives. We know he struggled to find roles after the ‘66 Batman series ended and, judging by his performance, we suspect he was less than enthusiastic about his role in Zombie Nightmare, but we’re happy to see that he emerged from his funk before his death. So watch Zombie Nightmare for a laughably bad good time and to remember an actor who has always been there, in re-runs, voice-over work, and hilariously self-referential guest appearances.