Monday, October 22, 2012

Zombie Low: "Zombie High" (1987)

Virginia Madsen plays a high school student who is awarded a scholarship to a prestigious boarding school originally attended by boys.

Madsen kisses boyfriend James Wilder goodbye, and she moves in with wild roommate Sherilyn Fenn. Fenn and Madsen strip down to their skivvies and have a tickle fight...wait a minute, that's what I wanted to happen, it didn't really happen on film...Madsen begins seeing a young debonair biology teacher (this is so sci-fi), and he makes a clumsy pass at her. Wilder finds out and gets upset. The film takes its time setting up its premise.

Eventually, different student friends of Madsen's wind up, well, different. The senator's rebellious son, who wanted to quit the school, suddenly becomes the star pupil. All the boys start dressing alike and reciting facts from books, without showing any emotion or feelings, kind of like ACLU lawyers.

Madsen finds out that cute bio teach Richard Cox is really into brains. He extracts a chemical from students' noggins, and he and the staff inject themselves with it in order to live for all eternity. Cox himself is one hundred and two years old. The brainwashed students then go out into the world and become successful and get elected to Congress. I think my state's representatives attended this school...

Toward the end, the film makers thrown in a plot device as an afterthought. The students are being controlled by subliminal messages hidden is classical music that is piped in all over the campus. This is used just to get Madsen to do more running, and getting into more danger. While the ending consists of much running and escaping, this film does not live up to its potential.

Despite the sexy dream team of Madsen and Fenn, who have been better in much more, here they are given little to do. Madsen was twenty four when this was made, and does not pass for a high schooler. When she kisses younger James Wilder, I kept thinking "cradle robber" in the back of my mind...okay, actually I was thinking "lucky James Wilder."

The zombies themselves are not much too look at. The students appear a little too pasty, and nothing more. "Zombie High" is really a misnomer, but I do not think "Brainwashed High" has the same affect. People might think it is a documentary. One gaffe has Cox's students dancing very slowly at a school dance, but still able to sprint across the quad after Wilder and Madsen. Lumbering undead like a Romero film, or runners straight out of "Chariots of Fire"?

The film makes no mystery of what is happening behind closed doors in the infirmary, and that is unfortunate. Letting the audience in on the secrets too soon results in a complete lack of suspense.

There are no scary scenes at all. The great production values, great sets, lots of blue light, are all negated because we know exactly what will happen every time a scene begins.

What is left is a very padded ninety one minute film filled with the kind of awful pop music that gave the '80's a bad name. The end credits anthem is some drivel called "Kiss My Butt." If anything, the viewer may wish that on the people responsible for "Zombie High." (*) out of five stars.