Friday, April 8, 2011

Dead Heat (1988)

At the moment, I'm reading "Deadman's Road", which is a collection of tales from Joe R. Lansdale about a gun-touting preacher who battles all kinds of supernatural evil. I'm saying this because 1.) It's awesome, and 2.) I've always been interested in movies that try to mix horror with different dramas. Comedy, Action and Science Fiction are the most obvious answers, but Westerns, Period Dramas, Romance and Art House have all mingled together with horror. So what about sub-genres mingling with horror. Well, that's the case with Mark Goldblatt's "Dead Heat", which tried to mix Horror with the buddy cop comedy.

Treat Williams and (ugh) Joe Piscopo are Roger Mortis (gettit?) and Doug Bigelow, two officers who find themselves in a shootout with some guys who won't stay down, even after being shot many a time. Well, Roger is killed in the line of duty, but is brought back by a machine Doug and Dr. Rebecca Smythers (Clare Kirkonnell) find that can ressurrect the dead. Now, Roger and Doug have 12 hours to find out whose behind all of this until Roger is nothing but sludge, and in the process, they find some unlikely help in a girl named Randi James (Lindsay Frost.) Also, what does her father Arthur P. Loudermilk (a wasted Vincent Price) have to do with all of this?

An attempt to mix the likes of "Lethal Weapon" and "48 Hours" with the zombie movie and hints of old school Gothic Horror, "Dead Heat" is the kind of movie that defines cult favorite. Garnering a lot of hype from magazines like Fangoria, the film barely made a ripple in the box office, but found a sizable cult following on VHS from fans craving Horror/Action hybrids with a bit of humor. Sadly, I feel that the comedy is the film's biggest Achilles heel. The two leads aren't particularly funny, with Williams being too bland, and don't even get me started on Piscopo. Every time he opens his mouth, I kept hoping someone or something would shut him up, as his terrible delivery and cringe worthy one liners and jokes made me want to scream. This man's popularity in the 80's will forever be one of life's great mysteries.

That out of the way, there's still several things to like about the movie. The action scenes are all top notch, the direction is fine, and there are a few offbeat moments (a creepy scene involving a body decomposing and an awesome scene involving a butcher shop's cutlery coming to life) to warrant interest. Best of all is the effects by Stephen Johnson, which are incredible, and make every bullet hit, every gory detail and every monstrosity (such as a zombie with three faces) count. Also worthy of mention is an energetic and fun score from Ernest Toost, who also did the music for "Tremors."

If it wasn't for Vincent Price being wasted and Joe Piscopo, "Dead Heat" would come with a hearty recommendation. As it stands though, it's a decent little rental that might satisfy some fans of Horror/Action and Horror/Comedy movies.

Rating: 6/10

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