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DEAD HEAT 1988: Retro Review – Zombie Cops, Skinless Cows, 80’s Gold

Treat Williams and Joe Piscopo in Dead Heat 1988

Most horror fans dig 80’s and 90’s flicks. A time when the special makeup artists and their creatures were the stars of the film. A time when you didn’t grab a movie because of a director or actor but because of who created the effects. Creatures that were hand-designed, sculpted, molded, and painted. A time when movies were shot on film, a budget had to be obtained and an actual film crew had to be hired. This was my “Golden Age’ of film. This is what I remember as MY classics. DEAD HEAT is no exception, this is certainly one of my favorite films of those days.

The story follows two detectives (Treat Williams and Joe Piscopo) as they track down some jewelry thieves. However, the thieves were already dead when they committed the crime. Roger and Doug trace the thieves to a science facility where they discover something isn’t quite right. A gun fight ensues and Roger gets stuck in a euthanasia chamber where he dies. Within the facility Doug and the medical examiner find a machine that brings the dead back to life. So they charge up the old machine and throw Roger into it. Roger comes back to life, though he only has a few hours to live before he becomes a puddle of decomposing sludge. Roger decides to use this time finding his killer.

Again the star of the movie is makeup FX artist, Steve Johnson and his creatures. There is a plethora of creatures in the film. From Zombies, to triple faced thugs, dead animals coming back to life, and my favorite, the headless, skinless, cow. All the effects are very well done. When I re-watched it I was impressed still, with these creatures and their design. There is nothing like a good ol’ practical monster. It’s refreshing to go back and revisit these films, in an age where filmmakers choose CGI blood effects over the Karo syrup and food coloring of the old.

Flex your muscles if you’re dead!

The film is a combination of horror, action, and comedy. Though I was a huge fan of Piscopo’s back then, just from his role in Johnny Dangerously, he did a great job as the comic relief and his bulked up body mass certainly helped conform him into a believable detective.

Directed by Mark Goldblatt, there is nothing really here that stands out as far as direction. Goldblatt was a competent director, able to form logical shots that progressed the storyline and kept the audience interested (I was interested in what the next creature was I’d be introduced to).

Over-all DEAD HEAT is one of those films that most have forgotten about, but for me, it is the height of Steve Johnson’s career, and because of this film I will never forget his name, though he did some amazing work in A Nightmare 4 as well.

This is just one of many films in the era that made me love horror, creatures, and strange films, and put makeup artists on a pedestal for me. I miss those days. If you haven’t seen it, it’s certainly one to check out. Especially if you’re like me and dig some cool, old school makeup goodness!


DEAD HEAT 1988: Retro Review – Zombie Cops, Skinless Cows, 80’s Gold

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Chad Armstrong

President/Co-Owner at LC Films
Chad Armstrong is a writer/producer/director who was born and raised in Long Beach CA. In 2009 he relocated to Alabama where he founded LeglessCorpse, a site dedicated to independent horror films, and soon after created the indie horror distribution company LeglessCorpse Films (currently known as LC Films). Not only is he co-owner of and LC Films he is also President of the newly formed Back Aisle Video label. Chad's most recent feature film is Deimosimine, and currently in development on the feature film Blood Dancers 2: Full Moon.